Five Feet High and Risin'

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seems to be in no hurry these days, and so far the rain has been gentle.

A year ago, we saw torrential efforts by Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Perle to get everyone on board with an invasion and takeover of Iraq. That was surely a time of urgency, a time where unconfirmed data bits from the odd interview with an even odder contact brought to the Pentagon by the widely discredited Ahmed Chalabi drove our policy on Iraq faster and faster.

Like gerbils on wheels, the Pentagon spun the information. With a little help from Dick Cheney, the American Enterprise Institute, and those special people represented by Benador Associates, an exceptionally fine cloth was woven. We would wage war in Iraq to protect Americans from mushroom clouds, reshape the Middle East, and perfect our military basing strategy for optimal security of oil flows, the petrodollar, and Israel and other client states.

The cloth, so carefully designed, is turning out to be fragile and diaphanous. It is a tapestry designed for static display on a subtly lighted wall, the better to admire the genius of its creators. If this cloth were used as an escape mechanism from, say a window of the third floor E-ring of the Pentagon, Mall side, it might just rip, and rip badly. While the Pentagon isn’t Folsom Prison, one predicts an upcoming ungraceful exit, and the blues for some of its most senior and scary inhabitants.

Last fall, neo-con political appointees spun, raced back and forth to the Vice President’s office, feverishly worked to increase war fever, and to knock down all barriers in their way. And the neo-conservative vision for the Middle East was partially achieved.

They got the Israeli-Palestinian road map to nowhere, as planned and hoped, with four big bases being built or refurbished in Iraq, along with plans for nice new Iraqi oil pipelines to the Haifa refineries. No one got the promised freedom and good works for Iraqis and the blooming of a thousand democratic flowers in the region. Anti-American attacks have increased, and more Americans — soldiers and contractors — are dying from them. And of course, Iraqi oil isn’t coming close to paying for it all.

While the four bases, at the Baghdad airport, in southern Tallil, in the western desert near an old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan, and in the Kurdish north, were denied by Rumsfeld, one must wonder about all the construction we are buying from military basebuilders Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root and Bechtel.

But today, there is no rush. The prisoners in Guantanamo, Rumsfeld says, will stay indefinitely, possibly for the duration of the so-called war on terrorism. Relax, make yourselves comfortable, says he.

No one is in any rush to reveal the information gained by the captured and interrogated faces of the 55 Most Wanted Deck. We have heard nothing from Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz, from Huda Ammash of anthrax fame. In fact, we have heard nothing from any of the 37 "most wanted" who have surrendered or been taken into custody to date.

Likewise, it isn’t urgent to report on the status of WMD experts not on the 55 Most Wanted List — people like "Dr. Germ" Rihab Taha, Jaffar Dhia Jaffar, Hazem Ali, or Mahdi Obeidi. Where are they? What can they tell us about the "imminent threat" posed to America by Saddam’s regime, the "grave and growing danger" of which the President spoke last October? Where are the "stockpiled biological and chemical weapons" and the rebuilt "facilities used to make more of those weapons"? Did we really have "every reason to believe he will use them again"? Maybe Dubya had "every reason" but it is pretty clear that CIA Director Tenet and the entire intelligence community felt otherwise.

The hat is being passed for answers to these questions and more, but it is coming to the back of the congregation still nearly empty.

There is no rush to explain the real causes of pneumonia deaths that have occurred in Iraq, and back home. In 19 cases of pneumonia among deployed soldiers resulting in two deaths, military officials have ruled out "vaccinations against smallpox or anthrax." Col. Bob DeFraites, a top Army medical officer notes that some of the victims had "recently taken up smoking," and "since tobacco smoke damages lungs, it’s a chief suspect."

And why rush on explaining the pneumonia when in fact we have 4,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have been quietly medevac’ed home from Iraq because they became "physically or mentally ill."

There is no urgency to share information on efforts to rebuild the Mosul-Haifa oil pipeline. Patience, patience, and paybacks, too.

Overall, it must be a very relaxing time for the senior civilians at the Pentagon. The lazy days of summer behind them, still not much going on. Pickin’ Time is sure to be upon us all, but for now, no worries.

My first well-loved Johnny Cash song was A Boy Named Sue. We knew all the words, and my brothers and I would belt out that song at the drop of a hat. Momma got tired of it, but we never did. Thank you, Mr. Cash.

Maybe neo-conservatives can relax this fall and spend a little time listening some great American music sung by that great American. Something like Five Feet High and Risin’ sounds just about perfect about now.

When the water stops rising, and then recedes, the rest of us will thank the Lord for His blessings, clean up the mess, and look forward to a far better crop next year. Maybe some of that famous Johnny Cash humility will visit Washington after the flood. We’ve already moved the family and the cattle to higher ground to wait it out.

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