Wednesday, September 05, 2007

there is a corner of a foreign field ...

Bush and the White House are calling this surreptitious ducking in unannounced to Iraq a "visit to Anbar Province" -- and the media are going along with it (no big surprise, I suppose).

But the president didn't visit Anbar. He visited Al-Asad Air Base which is not only heavily fortified and home to 10,000 American troops but has a 13-mile perimeter that keeps Iraqis out. For all practical purposes, the president might as well have gone to Germany. He never left the base in the few hours he was there, but that didn't keep him from declaring: "When you stand on the ground here in Anbar and hear from the people who live here, you can see what the future of Iraq can look like."

O rly? The future of Iraq is a heavily fortified American military base?

How special.

And how terrifyingly possible - even probable - given the way things are going now.

Even more disturbing than his statement is the way the media just swallowed and regurgitated it. Above I said he might as well have to Germany - I meant, of course, to a place like Rhein-Main; when you go there, you aren't seeing and hearing Germany, you're seeing and hearing Americans. And when you go to Al-Asad, you're seeing and hearing the same thing: American military personnel. You're not seeing the country that base is in. You have no idea what's going on outside the perimeter fence. And this is even more true when the base is in Iraq, and its perimeter is heavily fortified and locals are strictly controlled. And reporters who have been there know what it's like. Yet no one challenged his claim to "stand on the ground here in Anbar and hear from the people who live here".

No wonder what he "see[s] what the future of Iraq can look like" he sees success - he's looking at a controlled fantasy.

Set aside that we're essentially succeeding - to the degree that we are succeeding - by arming with the very people we went there to overthrow and cooperating with them in fracturing the government we set up; set aside that this "success" is measured in exile and death for tens of thousands whom we don't even count any more (Shiites killed by Shiites, Sunnis killed by Sunnis, anybody killed by an IED, and anybody killed in any way the army can label 'criminal' instead of 'sectarian'); set aside that when Shiite militias succeed in clearing a Sunni sector of Baghdad and thus stop killing people - because there are none left to kill - that's counted as progress; set aside that we are now more worried about having created a situation so destabilizing to the whole area that Iran is gaining credibility and support - set all that aside. Bush sneaked into Iraq, never left an entrenched and well-protected American base, never even went to Baghdad and bought a rug, and left after spending less than a day. And yet, he claims to have been able to see the country and its people and their bright, possible future.

Bush didn't visit Iraq: he visited a little corner of his own mind.

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