Monday, November 21, 2005

November 20, 2005

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
and Other Reasons
Murtha is Right

Yesterday someone who actually matters said it: "get out of Iraq, now." That would be Rep. John Murtha, D-PA.

Over the next few days you will be bombarded with analysis on whether Murtha's proposal is a wise strategic move or a "cut and run" strategy. What you won't read in the paper or hear on the talking head shows is why Murtha's plan is not about Iraq's future at all, but yours, mine, our kids their kids, America's.

There's so much at stake here. Murtha touched on some of what's up for grabs because of Iraq. In his statement he pointed out how this poorly planned and executed war has nearly decimated America's once robust military. But, as serious as that is, it barely scratches the surface. The damage this war has done, is doing and continue doing, cuts to America's very bone.

The damage this war is causing is so immense, so virulent it's like a fast-growing cancer, spreading, chewing away at us, even as we try to ignore that we are getting weaker and weaker. It's as if America is bleeding internally. We don't see it, though if we could it would scare the hell out of us. But we are feeling it. We know. We know something is terribly, terribly wrong.

So what to do? What's the cure? Dr. Murtha has diagnosed the cause, and suggested a cure, but the patient remains largely in denial.

Let's see if we can put this in perspective for those in DC who "want to stay the course," rather than accept Dr. Murtha's cure.

Remember when Republicans used to scream about how federal money was being squandered by Democrats on welfare? They used to drag out those images of so-called "welfare queens" loading groceries bought with food stamps into their shiny new Cadillacs. Remember them?

Well, fellas, say hello to America's new welfare Queen, Iraq. And forget food stamps. This queen gets no bid contracts for smarmy characters (like this scumball,) millions upon millions in bribes to warlords, half-educated (but well-armed) mullahs. Billions of US taxpayer dollars are flooding going to upgrade Iraqi infrastructure while our own infrastructure here at home crumbles. Corruption in Iraq is a way of life.

Once Iraqi oil fueled the process. That's now been replaced (even eclipsed) by US aid. No food stamps or Cadillacs for these welfare queens, (well, actually welfare kings because women don't count) but for them it's Hummers, villas in Europe and fat Swiss bank accounts.

Back home our own federal budget is stretched so thin by the cost of propping up the Iraqis that yesterday members of Congress were reduced to fighting over a measly $5 billion ($50 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.) The cuts were made, of course, largely by trimming social programs, like the $900 million they cut from rural health care, and reductions in Medicare and Pell Grants. (Compassionate conservatism = tax cuts for the rich, programs cuts for the poor. Go ahead, Enterprise Institute, try to tell me that ain't so. Who do I believe? You or my lying eyes?)

Republicans stood firm against repealing a red cent of the Bush tax cuts, or taxing big oil. What they did do though is fiddle with the way energy companies compute their income, resulting in what might trim $4 billion from the $12 billion in tax cuts they awarded them earlier this year. The President immediately threatened a veto over that. (Tax cuts and record earnings for big energy, record home heating costs for the working poor. Go ahead. Try to convince me it ain't so, George, Dick. )

Let's bring this rambling rant back to Rep. Murtha now. He would bring US troops out of Iraq over the next 6 months. Let's do the math.

* Congress just cut $50 billion over ten years.
* That comes to $5 billion in cuts a year.
* Iraq is costing us $5 billion A MONTH.

(So far we have pissed away nearly $221 billion over there – up-to-the-second amount HERE)

With that money, instead of cutting funds we could have:

* Provided health insurance to 131,947,415 kids,
* Could have sent 29 million kids to preschool,
* Could have hired nearly 4 million new teachers,
* Could have funded over 10 million 4-year college scholarships
* Could have built over 2 million new low-income housing units

I won't belabor the point. You get it. We're wasting $5 billion a month in Iraq and cutting $5 billion a year from important social needs here at home. If Murtha's plan were implemented the costs being incurred in Iraq would begin to drop immediately as our troops, and the enormous logistical infrastructure needed to support them, was deployed out of the war zone.

Within six months we would be in a strictly support posture in Iraq, at a fraction of the cost of the current occupation. Instead of the measly $5 billion a year in cuts chest-thumping hypocrites in Congress authorized yesterday, Murtha's withdrawal from Iraq would save us $60 billion a year, or $600 billion over the same 10-years. That money would not only cover the programs they cut yesterday, but would significantly trim the federal budget deficit for the first time since George W. Bush and his Mayberry militia marched into town five years ago.

And that's just the dollar and cents reason for taking Murtha's advice. There's still plenty of other good reasons as well. . Let me list a few and at the same time address the reasons the administration claims we can't withdraw now:

The administration claims our troops "will stand down when the Iraqis stand up:"
I would suggest that Republicans use exactly the same logic they did years ago when they justified cutting welfare programs. They argued then that people on welfare will remain on welfare as long as they can. It's human nature, they said. You have force the issue. There was truth to that then, and it applies in Iraq even more. Iraqis have little incentive to assume all enormous costs and risk of self-defense and self-governance while the richest nation on earth continues pouring money and resources into their country. Iraqis can and will continue living what we consider miserable lives under the occupation. They are used to it. They lived miserable lives under Saddam. They have become maestros of misery and by necessity, masters at making lemonade out of lemons of misery. They are going to make as much lemonade out of our occupation as they can for as long as they can. So, the Bush folks actually have it exactly bass-akwards: The Iraqis will stand up, only when we stand down.

The administration claims foreign terrorists from Syria and Iran are crossing the borders and causing many of the Iraq's problems.
Assuming that's true, and it's not entirely so, I suggested a solution to that problem, real or not. A solution that would not only expose the truth of it, but get our troops out of danger as well. I suggested we give the Iraqis a few months to get their act together once and for all. We should tell them that on a date certain we would redeploy U.S. troops to secure Iraq's borders. After that, with the exception of air support, American troops would no longer engage in ground operations inside Iraq proper. By sealing the border we would find out very quickly just who is causing all the trouble. We would also find out what kind of country Iraqis really want and who they want running it. Sure, it would be bloody as Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds fight it out for turf, oil, religious and political control. So what? It's bloody now. At least it won't be the blood of US kids. And, once the dust settles we will know exactly who we are going to have to deal with in the years ahead.

The administration claims that leaving Iraq now would turn the country into a base for terrorists.
Again – a big so what. That's right, so what? The place is crawling with terrorists right now. Only the Iraqis can decide what kind of folks they want running things after we leave. Democracy sumocracy. You can drag a jackass to water but.. well, you know. Whatever form of government Iraqis settle upon, I seriously doubt they will choose a terrorocracy. But let's assume the worst. Let's assume that we leave and Iraq becomes the new Afghanistan for terrorists. What then? "

"Terrorists will get all that oil revenue," Republicans parrot. Well, that's an easy problem to fix. We just do what they are doing to us right now, blow up the oil infrastructure and then blow it again when they fix it. That strategy sure has worked well for them. Remember, Iraq's oil was supposed to pay for this war. The terrorists made damn sure that wet dream was never realized. And we can return the favor. In fact it's easier for us to keep Iraq's oil in the ground than it was for them. We can do it from the air. Hell, with Cruise missiles we can do it without even leaving home.

So, we leave and the terrorists take over Iraq. Then what? They have a new base of operation, that's true. But they have little money and all the sand they can eat. I'm not saying that terrorists are no threat to America, I am only saying that terrorists in control of Iraq are no more a threat to America than they are right now. (I still believe Iraqis will not let that happen.)

The administration claims leaving Iraq now will make America less secure.
Quite the opposite. Let's say a terrorist wants to launch an attack on American soil. How might he/she go about it? Well, for starters, take a short vacation to sunny Mexico. Then buy a Cornoa tee shirt, slip on a pair of used sneakers and blend in with the morning "commute" over, under, through or around the US/Mexico border fence. After that, it's a piece of cake.

The sorry truth is that America is already insecure – a security fools paradise. The main reason for that is all the treasure and personnel we've squandered in Iraq. Our borders with Mexico and Canada are wide open. Terrorists can, and likely already have, just strolled across unchallenged. Think about that the next time an airport security guard treats you as though you tick.

Let's stop pretending that somehow what we are doing in Iraq is making us safer here at home. It's not. And it won't. Ever.

The administration claims that we either "fight terrorists over there or we will have to fight them here.
I find this argument particularly repugnant, and let me explain why. I've owned a few fail boats over the years. When you own a salt-water boat you need to protect it's various metal parts from being eaten away by natural electrolysis. The way you do that is to secure a hunk of zinc to a piece of metal below the waterline. Zinc is attracts the electrical charge and, as long as it's there, the electrolysis will eat away at the zinc instead of attacking the other metal parts. They aptly call these little attachments "sacrificial zinc." You have to keep replacing them, but they are cheaper and easier to replace than a drive shaft or prop.

And therein lies the theory behind this administration's "fight them over there or here," argument. US troops are being used (misused) as this administration's solution for domestic terrorism. They are being used to attract terrorists to Iraq, where it's more convenient for the terrorists and wannabe terrorists to shoot and blow up Americans. They are, you might say, "sacrificial kids." Is that how we "support the troops?" By dangling them thousands of miles from home like bait to attract terrorists away from our homeland? Is that why we have and raise kids in America now, to chum for terrorist?

American troops may well need to die in the years ahead to protect America from terrorists. I don't argue with that. But if so, those young lives should be lost only in the defense of American soil, beginning with our own Swiss cheese borders and wide open ports.

I could go on. But it's the weekend and you need to get out and do something more enjoyable and useful than listening to Dr. Doom here. Let me just say, Murtha was right. Murtha IS right. And if we had an ounce of sense we would embrace and implement his plan immediately.

An opportunity to do so is less than two months away. Iraqis go to the polls on December 15 to elect a permanent government. That makes January 1, 2006 the perfect moment to launch the Murtha strategy. Tell the Iraqis that, beginning April 15, 2006, the day Americans pay their taxes, U.S. ground combat troops will be moved to newly created border garrisons. At the same moment announce that the 28,000 US troops added earlier this year to "provide security for Iraqi elections," would be returned to the US immediately. Then every month thereafter another 10,000 US troops would be redeployed out of Iraq.

Then we let the chips (finally) fall where they will and adjust to that new reality accordingly. Because, if we keep doing what we've been doing, we are just gonna keep getting what we've got.

Pizzo, over and out. Have a nice weekend.