Managing the Rapture

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A key tenet of the end times, very popular within the Bush administration, is you never know when the moment to convert or die will occur. Heck, it could be right in the middle of a drunken stupor, or when you are choking on a pretzel! One must always be ready for the unexpected.

However, if you are an Iraqi or Afghanistani, President Bush and Don Rumsfeld have broken the suspense. The end times for both Afghanistan and Iraq arrived this week.

Please forgive Dubya the swagger, and Don the irascible cockiness. The evildoers have been vanquished by the gods of Washington.

As with all end times, an assessment must be done, in a twinkling as it were. What have we got with this war in Iraq?

Mr. Rumsfeld, who is old enough to know, told U.S. troops in Qatar this week that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq will be held up by historians as a "model conflict."

This statement is certainly worthy of these charter members of the new Churchillian cult. From Churchill’s bust in the Oval office to Churchill’s busts during battles of Norway and Gallipoli, these graybeards with utopian world visions and a corresponding pomposity have everything but Churchill’s genius.

Indeed, Iraq was a model conflict. Let us count the ways.

The odds: A military force with a $300 billion annual budget feeding a globally positioned Air Force, Army and Navy, resting on a multi-billion dollar defense industry and 320 million backs of some of the wealthiest per capita citizens on earth versus a country of 24 million people making under $700 a year, that spent about $1.3 billion annually on defense. In the war between good and evil, we should all be so lucky!

The intelligence: While the Iraqi government might have been guessing as to U.S. intentions, it needn’t have bothered. Between PNAC, AEI and IASPS publications from the late 1990s, to public mantras of Bush and Company, we were coming downtown. Saddam needn’t bother stepping down, regime-changing, or disclosing those hard to find WMDs, and the UN needn’t bother inspecting. We (we are all neo-cons now) said we were taking over, and we did. On the other hand, domestic and international arguments over the disgracefulness of U.S. intelligence on Iraq and terrorism continue — serving a valuable obfuscatory function to this day. Intelligence — huh — what is it good for?

The politics: Bush may not read much history, but he likes the idea of being an historical figure as much as the next guy! Frustrated by his own ignorance and with many friends to pay back, this war to reshape the Middle East and prevent Israel from actually having to address its own disastrous political and economic quagmire was certainly attractive. With the US as a leading debtor nation and with an ever less attractive dollar, ensuring the petrodollar constituency made this just about perfect. Perfection was achieved, of course, with the articulation of an evil icon to help all Americans figure out whether they were for Bush and against terrorism, or alternatively, against Bush and for terrorism. A simple Manichean plan to usher in a better 21st century America for all of us, or at least one more term for the First American International (FAMINTERN).

The media: In bed and out of bed, the TV and radio media worked for the war. The control of language and imagery complete, anyone with qualms about the war was simultaneously ignorant and radical. Stanley Kubrick died in 1999. Pity he wasn’t able to appreciate the success of the state in this round, but who needs another movie when we have…

The show: Saddam Hussein (our man in Baghdad) played the evil bad guy, co-starring with Don “the Dragon” Rumsfeld (“Forced to Fight“) and Dubya Van Damme (“Desert of Destruction”). Certainly Operation Iraqi Freedom provided a more visually compelling sequel, although as with most sequels, we saw most of the good stuff in the trailers before we ever entered the theater. With noticeably fewer yellow ribbons, the hearts of America seemed to be less excited by this version of good versus evil. The money, as with other shows of this type, will be in the post-event marketing, special appearances, and merchandise sales.

The victims: While we did this for the Iraqi people, it was never necessary to understand the cultures and politics that coexist in the Middle East or the problems and challenges faced by the nuclear-defended Israeli state and her neighbors. This lack of domestic awareness is naturally embraced by Washington, even cultivated through hateweek-style activities. Everyone, thumbs up!

The geography: Oil, water and Israel! A triple play of uncommon dimensions, as Ben Franklin once said, if you can keep it. Oh wait, he wasn’t talking about the American empire… never mind.

Indeed, so many aspects of the 2003 invasion of Iraq make this a model of soul-saving, and hopefully election-saving, behavior. Rumsfeld, as usual, is right, and it is very comforting to have his assessment of our righteousness in this critical moment.

Oops, I almost forgot. In addition to an alarming absence of truth in the government assessment of success, there was one other little flaw — two of the Massive Ordnance Air Blasts, or "Mother of All Bombs," arrived in the Iraqi theater too late to be used without creating the appearance that "we were piling on."

To appear as if we were piling it on is definitely in bad taste, and does not contribute to the image of rapturous and seraphic government in Washington. Even I can see that!

Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.

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