First, Send Everybody Home


Three hundred-thirteen

dead U.S. troops in the last three months and no Iraqi territory
gained, none held, none pacified. Target-practice for the insurgents
against the surge of American troops, set in motion by Presidential Medal of Freedom
winner M. Paul Bremer when he sent everyone home four years ago. In one
irresponsible and mistaken move, Bremer destroyed a functioning Iraqi
society and opted for chaos.

Bremermedalfreedom
Three hundred-thirteen

dead U.S. troops in the last three months and no Iraqi territory
gained, none held, none pacified. Target-practice for the insurgents
against the surge of American troops, set in motion by Presidential Medal of Freedom
winner M. Paul Bremer when he sent everyone home four years ago. In one
irresponsible and mistaken move, Bremer destroyed a functioning Iraqi
society and opted for chaos.
Taking the Czech Republic as an example of a more sensitive and
sensible transformation (a regime change, if you will) from communism
to democracy, there were lessons aplenty and footprints to be followed.
Examples from Czech statesmanship might have served M. Paul and his
associates, the failed and dishonored Paul Wolfowitz and the failed and dishonored Don Rumsfeld.
The instructor in this case is Vaclav Havel, dissident, writer and first president of the Czech Republic.
Vaclavhavel
Havel knew better than to create and encourage a witch-hunt within
Czech society, opting instead to vet and eliminate the worst of the
ex-communist offenders and keep the rest in place. Czech society needed
someone to run it. Who was that supposed to be, he reasoned, if all the
communists were sent home to idleness and trouble-making? So, the
country became democratic in name over night and democratic in reality
very slowly. It was a learned craft, this self-government and it is
still being learned eighteen years after the ‘velvet revolution.’
But Bremer had no patience for that. He wanted a house-cleaning and,
not having time or inclination to listen to the lessons of history from
tribal-warlord societies, he destroyed the house rather than do the
hard work of nation-building.

  • First, he sent home the army
  • Then the police
  • Followed by the bureaucracy
  • And finally the teachers, street-cleaners, public health officials,
    garbage-men, tax collectors, managers of industry and ice-cream truck
    drivers

Bremerflyinghome
He transacted this foolishness because the army, police, postal
workers, managers of everything that provided civil services to the
Iraqi population and the teachers, university professors, city
officials and on and on,were—big surprise—somehow connected to the
Baath political party. Saddam’s party.
As in Czech society (where to hold any responsible job you had to be
a communist party-member) Iraq required at least nominal Baath Party
membership to advance in that dictatorial society. Most responsible
positions were doled out on that basis. You might not love Saddam, but
you went along to get along.
That reality was lost on M. Paul. Ignoring Vaclav Havel and the
Czech experience, Germany’s reunification, as well as the transitional
governments of Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and
Poland; Bremer simply sent everyone home. He was in a hurry. The boss wanted democracy on the cheap and he wanted it fast.
So, in a country where the middle class was already selling their furniture to eat, he sent everyone who still had a paycheck home to gnaw at a corner of the remaining rug.

  • And turned the streets over to looters
  • And the power-grid and all other civil infrastructure to incompetents
  • And drove the newly poor military (who took home their weapons and
    knew where all the other explosive goodies were hidden) into an
    insurgency of survival that soon became an insurgency of national pride
    and Shiite-Sunni revenge.

Stuff happens. To paraphrase Rumsfeld, it’s not the army you wish you had that you send home, it’s the army you have.
Militaryfuneral
So the disaster in Iraq, for which these 313 sons and fathers,
daughters and mothers gave their lives in the last 90 days, is not the
commonly blamed disaster born of al-Qaeda terrorists.
It
is the gradually revealed disaster born of neocon hubris and
incompetence, where the perpetrators of one catastrophe after another
award themselves medals and hand off blame in whatever way is most
convenient.
Vaclav Havel, who shook George Bush’s hand in Prague last month,
would easily understand the scenario. He lived under similar
incompetence and blame-avoidance for forty years. Until the wheels came
off communism. Not so much because it was a failed philosophy (which of
course it was) but because it was so thoroughly and inherently
incompetent.
The wheels have similarly come off the Bush neocon-inspired
administration, not so much because it had a failed philosophy, but
because it was (and is) overwhelmingly, stupendously, incomprehensively
incompetent.
Small government, low taxes, balanced budgets and democratic
principles are laudable goals. Nothing at all wrong with that part of
the Bush political philosophy. It’s incompetence that has brought us
enormous (as well as unrelentingly bungled) government, record
deficits, tax irresponsibility and a near collapse of democratic
principal both here and abroad. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.
The incompetence of this Republican administration is so deep and
pervasive that it has prominent Republicans running from it as well.
The only entity that has less public approval (by half) than our
president is the Congress. In Washington, it might be good policy to
follow what was disastrous policy in Iraq.
Send everybody home.
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