Thursday, August 07, 2008

Report from Iraq: If the Iraq Army wants to buy $10.9 billion in weapons, then let's have a fire sale!

(Photos are of the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Al Rasheed including the sewage ponds; a row of Bradley tanks, MRAPs etc. at my COP; my favorite shoes, me and baby Mena and the broken-down sprinkler system at my housing co-op where the board of directors keeps refusing to hold elections just like in Iraq, and the new DMZ for dogs that the soldiers built me to keep detente in the COP)

I'm over here in Iraq, getting a micro-cosmic view of the situation on the ground. But if you want to see the Big Picture, try reading the Iraq Slogger online. "During the last week of July," reported the Slogger, "the Department of Defense notified Congress about the proposed sale of $10.9 billion in U.S. military equipment and support to Iraq through the Foreign Military Sales program." Amazing! That's just amazing.

Here I am in Iraq, totally blown away by the vast numbers of Bradley tanks, Humvees, Strikers, MRAPs, etc. that I see everywhere every day. Thousands of them -- perhaps hundreds of thousands of them -- are over here. And each one of them costs approximately $500,000 each. What will happen to all this equipment when America once again declares "Mission Accomplished" and goes home? Middle East expert Juan Cole just stated that, "The Iraqi newspaper al-Sabah IS saying that there has been a breakthrough in the negotiations between the al-Maliki government and the Bush admin on a status of forces agreement. The US would commit to withdraw most troops by 2010-2011 assuming ground conditions permitted." 2010? That's not too far away.

I'd like to suggest that America might consider holding some sort of flea market, jumble sale, fire sale, yard sale or whatever over here -- and sell all these vehicles to the Iraq Army right now. Why wait until it's too late and the Iraq Army has already run off to Wal-Mart or wherever and bought all their vehicles new?

A friend of mine back in the States just said that he would have described the situation a bit more forcefully. "As for the yard sale, why not take the angle that because Iraq is now loaded -- thanks to us poor schmucks back home who are currently paying over four bucks a gallon for gas and the Iraqis now have so much money that they don't have the banks to hold it all -- they could easily buy up all our used equipment in Iraq. But then why should they? They know our military will leave it behind when they go. Another freebie."

According to the New York Times, "Soaring oil prices will leave the Iraqi government with a cumulative budget surplus of as much as $79 billion by year’s end, according to an American federal oversight agency. But Iraq has spent only a minute fraction of that on reconstruction costs, which are now largely borne by the United States.... Over all, a report from the Government Accountability Office estimates, Iraqi oil revenue from 2005 through the end of this year will amount to at least $156 billion. And in an odd financial twist, a large amount of the surplus money is sitting in an American bank in New York — nearly $10 billion at the end of 2007, with more expected this year, when the accountability office estimates a skyrocketing surplus."

And what else could the Iraqis do with all that money? They could give some of it to the uber-poor families struggling to exist here in the Al-Rasheed district for starters. It's embarrassing that young children should have to come asking ME for money when their very own government has all those bucks in the bank. Geez Louise. No wonder everyone around here is pissed off. First they had to watch Saddam live in splendor and now they gotta watch the people they elected themselves -- mostly Shiites like them -- play that game too.

And what about the Sunnis? The Shia-controlled government over here, according to the Slogger, is pulling the same slight of hand that my housing co-op board is doing back home in Berkeley -- stalling off elections so they can still stay in power. And with that much money at stake, why should the Sunnis be surprised that the Shia in power are stalling the elections? Pissed off, sure. But surprised? I don't think so.

The Shia leadership appears to keep putting off the elections because of their fear of the Sunnis. But it seems to me that the Shia leadership should be even more afraid of their base -- the poverty-stricken Shia such as the ones I saw in the Al Rasheed district. Sooner or later, one would think that this base will begin to put two and two together and start to realize that their Shia leaders are now doing to them the same thing that Saddam did -- not giving them a slice of the Big Oil pie.

But then again, maybe the working-poor Shia won't figure it out.

It sure didn't happen that way in America.

Just look at the way that the working poor and the former middle class in America have been continually and systematically robbed blind and screwed by the corporatists who run this country, including but not limited to Big Oil. It is a very high compliment to the US economy that it has even lasted as long as it has, after all the beatings it's taken from the Bushites, the McBush wannabes, the corporatists, etc. Yet these same American counterparts to the working-poor Shia in Rasheed still keep voting for the "hand that bites them." Go figure.

Here's yet another brilliant analogy on this subject offered up by yours truly, even if written under duress -- in really hot weather, with hardly any sleep, without clean unders or deodorant and while trying to avoid the dreaded squat toilet/bad knees combination and dog bites!

"Letting the corporatists govern America is like having Scrooge McDuck turn his money bin over to the Beagle Boys, and then rejoicing and feeling all grateful when he comes back to find that there are still a few ounces of gold actually left. 'OMG!' he tells himself. 'There's actually a little gold left in my money bin. Look what a good job they've done!' You just keep on thinking that, Scrooge, but the facts still remain. You've just put the Beagle Boys in charge of your vault."

PS: Me and the two dogs who live at the command outpost where I'm currently staying are still having our troubles -- except that now the Dogs of War have escalated their conflict. Now every time they see me, they start to bay like the Hounds of the Baskervilles, roll their flaming red eyes and lung for my shins. This is getting ridiculous. I'm beginning to think like a mailman. They've staged a full-out attack on me ten times already and have even actually bitten me once.

After the first few times that the dogs went after me, I started creeping around the COP like a burglar, sneaking in and out of doors, peeking around corners, tiptoeing here and making mad dashes across open spaces there. But I still couldn't avoid the attacks. So I finally started arming myself with rocks. Me! An animal lover! A freaking pacifist! The last time they came after me I had to throw my water bottle at them and threaten to hit them with my purse.

I gots my adrenalin pumping here, guys.

War is hell.

PPS: I've decided to look at this whole dog-fight thing as a learning experience. As I slink through the halls and cautiously poke my head around the corners of the COP, ever vigilant for the stealthy approach of the enemy, the analogy between what is happening to me here and what is happening to our troops out on the streets is pretty much clear to me -- the hunters and the hunted. I feel like I'm a soldier, being stalked by insurgents.

"No, you're the insurgent," commented one of the soldiers.

"Heck no!" I laughed. "I'm the occupier!"

PPPS: Listening to my hysterical shrieks echoing throughout the entire COP for the last two days has finally motivated someone to tie up the dogs. Aha! Here's my chance. Now we can negotiate. So I dug up some beef jerky out of the storeroom where the potato chips and Gatorade are kept and went out to make deals with the enemy. "If you promise not to bite me, I'll give you beef jerky?" I said, showing up with my own little mini-grant stimulus package in hand. What do you think? Isn't negotiating a lot less painful than "war"?

The two dogs seemed very interested.

There's a moral here someplace.