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A Modest Proposal for the Pentagon

*

As the administration’s Iraq “policy” careens out of control like a car stolen by joy-riding teenagers, critics are confronted with the inevitable retort: “But what would you do? Be constructive!” In truth, this rejoinder is a red herring: people who had no role in creating this mess have no moral “responsibility” for solving it; the authors of the mess have. And to the extent one accepts responsibility for rescuing the situation, one implicitly believes that one actually has a role in governing this erstwhile republic. In reality, the neo-con-artists, Big Oil plutocrats, and “defense” contractors will not release their iron grip on U.S. foreign policy until their avaricious hearts cease to beat.

But in the constructive spirit of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal,” we herewith offer a few eminently constructive suggestions:

1. Clean house at the Pentagon. Show Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al., the door. Disband the Office of Special Plans (or whatever its successor might be named) and send Douglas Feith back to writing position papers for Benyamin Netanyahu. Abolish the Defense Policy Board and banish Newt Gingrich to the rubber chicken circuit and Richard Perle to the Borscht Belt. Revoke the security clearances of all these luminaries so that further damage is limited. Appoint Anthony Zinni (Gen USMC Ret.) as Secretary, and empower him to appoint, free from White House interference, subordinates of professional competence and moral probity. The same conditions would apply to his direction of the officer corps, including the Chairman, JCS.1/ And at the NSC, replace the over-credentialed and underwhelming Condoleeza Rice with a certifiable adult such as Brent Scowcrowft.

2. Rescind the reconstruction contracts of Halliburton, Bechtel and the other corporate welfare clients. The political influence of these ghoulish corporations was a prime mover in provoking the Iraq war in the first place. In Halliburton’s case, its first Iraq oil field contract dates to December 2001, i.e., 15 months before the war [see note 2/], so their collusion in this tragedy is central. In any event, their over-priced, no-bid contracts are mulcting the taxpayer while hardly providing “reconstruction.” Take the money they disgorge and pay able-bodied Iraqi males of military age $15 or $20 per day to wield picks and shovels for true reconstruction. The work might actually be more cost efficient, and in any case would avert the “idle hands are the Devil’s playground” truism.

3. Give GEN Sanchez an ultimatum: “Kill Saddam Hussein by 31 December 2003 or you are commanding a radar site on Adak.” The death of our erstwhile client and bulwark against Iran may not be functionally necessary, but would be a political boon and usufruct to salve the wounds of our national security Illuminati and justify this whole misguided operation to the public (an important consideration as November 2004 looms). And since GEN Sanchez has so often claimed that “we” are closing in on Saddam, he should bear some responsibility for turning words into deeds. It could at least justify a withdrawal from Iraq on the basis that, “there were no WMDs, but we did whack Saddam. Mission accomplished!” And why the deadline of 31 December? –

4. Set a date of 31 December for withdrawal. Since the administration’s initial plan was to occupy Iraq for six months, why should a stay of nine months seem like precipitate flight? It might even reduce U.S. casualties. While the current spin depicts the resistance in Iraq as robotic fanatics who laugh in the face of death, the truth is more complex. There may be some guerrillas who would kill Americans at any hazard, but if U.S. troops were going to leave Iraq in a short time in any case, some resisters might be less inclined to risk their own lives in a pointless exercise. What the United Nations or “our coalition partners” would or would not do thereafter is of secondary importance. As former Senator George Aiken famously said, “declare victory and get out.”

5. Repair the damage to our military personnel. Our troops were obliged to redeem the lies of the American Enterprise Institute, The Weekly Standard, and other plague bacilli, with their time, absence from their families, and their blood. Honorable service in Iraq should net every enlisted person a bonus of $10,000, tax free, above and beyond any other special pays. Junior officers would reap $5,000; field grade officers, $2,500. General and flag officers would receive the thanks of a grateful Nation, suitable for framing. Granted, a gratuity is somewhat crass, but one does not notice many CEOs foregoing performance bonuses even when the share price of their company tanks. And given that millionaires received, on average, $86,000 back from Uncle Sam from the most recent tax cut, this proposal should not be too onerous. One is certain that Halliburton and Lockheed executives would be eager to contribute generously to the General Fund of the Treasury to defray the cost of this thank you to our men and women in uniform.

6. Appoint a special prosecutor. Armed with plenary powers of subpoena, this bulldog would comb the documents of the Defense Department, the White House, the Energy Task Force, and other agencies for any evidence that our elected public officials violated 18 U.S.C. 1001 (making false statements to Congress), 18 U.S.C. 371 (the broad anti-conspiracy statute that would apply in the case of provoking a war), or any other statute or Constitutional provision that may have been violated in prosecuting a pre-emptive war on false pretenses. Faced with prolonged hospitality at Allenwood, some of the Thors and Wotans who rule over us might be induced to practice a refreshing candor, for once.

7. Begin the greatest untangling operation since Watergate. Induce Congress (an admittedly hopeless bunch, whose membership more and more resembles the idiotic Senator Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate) to investigate the connection between the think tanks, their “defense” contractor contributors, public relations firms like Hill & Knowlton or the Benador Group, foreign agents of influence, and the Federal Government. Much as the mid-1930s Nye Committee unveiled the relationships between government boards, munitions trusts, financiers, and British propagandists, such an investigation would reveal how a gullible public was led into the quicksand of the Middle East for the sake of yet another “war to end all wars.”

(1) The incumbent JCS chairman, GEN Richard Meyers, is on record making one of the most astounding statements of any public figure in our Nation’s history: “The goal has never been to get bin Laden.” (interview on “Novak, Hunt & Shields,” CNN, 5 April 2002). The relative obscurity of this statement is astonishing , given that our political class is obsessed with relative trivia such as President Clinton’s “I did not have sex with this woman,” or President George H.W. Bush’s “read my lips.” Chalk it up to 50 years of television and bad government schooling.

(2) See, e.g., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ web site for contract details. Heavy web site traffic may result in the information’s being sanitized. The same information, however, is provided in the following: “Halliburton’s Deals Greater Than Thought,” The Washington Post, 28 August 2003, Page A1.

* WERTHER* is the pen name of a defense analyst based in Northern Virginia. This article originally appeared on the excellent Defense in the National Interest website.

 

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