Democratic Underground

Curiouser and Curiouser All the Time
December 15, 2001
by Michael Shannon

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It is not necessarily in the best interest of a person who is presumptive enough to publicly comment of the goings on of the world to admit that they do not have the slightest idea what is going on. Such an admission can be greatly damaging to whatever credibility and legitimacy said author may have -- or wished they had -- built up among their readership. Still, there are times when the course of events are so befuddling and so incongruous that there is little choice but to admit one's shortcomings.

With that in mind, I will take the highroad escape route and resort to the Socratic method as a means of deflecting my ignorance and pose the following questions.

How is it that the collective wisdom continually seeks to reassure us that in this most trying hour there is comfort to be gained by noting that President Bush has surrounded himself with the best and the brightest of the foreign policy / defense community when it is the very members of this team who played so predominate a role in what is widely considered to be the two worst defense / foreign policy decisions of the previous Bush administration? Decisions that have direct ramifications to the mess we currently find ourselves in.

The decisions in question are two fold. First; the abandonment of Afghanistan upon the withdrawal of the Soviets in the late 80's -- a move which left such a vacuum of stability and order in that God forsaken land that it was almost inevitable that it would become a perfect staging ground and hideout for international thieves and murderers.

The second being the failure to remove Saddam Hussein from power when we had the opportunity and the means to accomplish it. A failure which has caused us to station tens of thousands of troops in and around the Arabian peninsula to insure that he doesn't act up again.

As for the prosecution of the current war there are a couple points that also don't add up. Yes, we have been remarkably successful in bringing enormous firepower to bear on those we believe had a hand in the murder of our brothers and sisters. But with any degree of detached objectivity this doesn't come as any surprise. A military engagement pitting the forces of the Taliban and Al Quaida against the armed forces of the United States is the equivalent of Jean Luc Picard taking on Barney Rubble. The technological wizardry, the world class training -- coupled with the burning desire in the men and women who bring it to life to avenge their dead -- and the near boundless financial resources that support it all made the triumph of our side predestined. Yet, this victory will remain hollow indeed until we get the focus of all this effort to come to the surface.

Before the fires of September 11th had been quelled the people of the United States -- from the President to the cop on the street -- had made Usama bin Laden Public Enemy Number One. And according to what the world has heard from his own mouth it is an enmity that is well placed. So if it is he who was the guiding force behind this worst assault on the lives and property of America in memory why have we put so few of our own troops on the ground to root this soulless bastard out? Why are we placing so much faith in warlords with whom we have little, if any, ties with prior to the eleventh of September. How do we know that one of these guys is not going to take a few million bucks in gold or raw morphine to look the other way while UBL goes over the hill?

We keep hearing that we are tightening the noose around this guy but according to all public announcements coming out of Washington and the Pentagon the United States has less than 2,500 soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan. In a country roughly the size of Texas that means we have one American soldier for every 258 square kilometers. If -- God forbid -- this rat does escape aren't the powers that be leaving themselves dangerously exposed to second guessing and finger pointing?

Returning to the subject of Iraq; here is a real head scratcher. How is it that a nation that we have technically been at war with now for over ten years, a nation whose ruler has long been reviled as a modern day Hitler remains one of our biggest suppliers of crude oil? That's right, of the two dozen some countries that the United States purchases oil from -- right behind our neighbors and friends, Canada and Mexico -- Iraq currently ranks fourth on the list. Now according to the UN sanctioned embargo of Iraq this is a perfectly legal sale. However, is there a person alive who believes that all of the billions of dollars sent to Iraq in exchange for this oil is spent on the food and medicine as it's supposed to be?

On the contrary, the United States government itself is one of the strongest proponents of the belief that some of these funds are being diverted to the development of weapons of mass destruction. Which judging this man by his historical track record may very well be the case. The result of course is that the need to neutralize these weapons has now become the basis of the call to finish what we started ten years ago that so many are now advocating.

If providing our enemy with the means to arm themselves before we decide to go into battle against them makes any sense to you please explain it to me.

On the flip side we have the Russians. A nation which, while once our sworn enemy, is now making every effort to be a constructive and positive member of the international community. But in spite of their efforts there is a tremendous residue of inefficiency and decay as a result of seventy five years of communistic idiocy. It has been apparent from the onset of the collapse of the USSR that Russia would need all the economic help it can get. Not that they are without something to offer in exchange. As a matter of fact they just so happen to have the second largest -- and the potential to discover much more than that -- known oil reserves in the world. It only makes sense that this is a perfect opportunity to support their emerging market economy while at the same time purchasing a commodity that we have to buy anyway. So how much of Russian crude is the US currently importing? If you guessed zero you'd be right.

As for the country who reigns at the top of the list of nations exporting oil to the US, Saudi Arabia, there is no end to the questions one can raise about their methods and motivations. There is one that is particularly galling; how is it that the nation whose very existence depends on the financial and military might of the United States -- and a nation who is the birth place of 15 of the 19 men who murdered our countrymen and women -- has yet to make one single arrest of any possible accomplices to the most deadly assault in our history?

And how about this one. How is it that the very same group of medieval minded, petty tyrants who sent representatives to Houston back in 1997 to meet with the big shots of the American oil-natural gas-pipeline company Unocal to discuss a trans Afghanistan pipeline suddenly became personas non gratis?

I suppose all of this is somewhat to be expected. And by that I don't mean the duplicity of our financial dealings, the ability of our national leadership to hide the sins of the past behind a waving flag or even the cowardice of our alleged friends; after all nobody ever said geopolitics and macroeconomics were clean and easy. And besides the Mideast has long been looked upon by us westerners as a land of intrigue and mystique. Perhaps all this mystery is just its way of living up to its well earned reputation.