The Twilight Zone of Wonderland
Alice, we're in the Twilight Zone of Wonderland. Whee! John Kerry is disrespectful of our allies! Donald Rumsfeld thinks an election in three-fourths of Iraq is good enough. The No. 1 best seller in our nation is an untrue, vicious and ugly attack on a genuine, bona fide, certified war hero. Despite everything you have seen, read or heard about Iraq, all is tickety-boo over there, and anyone who says different is helping the terrorists.
More than a year after "Mission Accomplished," we have still not restored water or electricity in Iraq back to Saddam Hussein's pitiful standards. The electricity is out between four and 14 hours a day in Baghdad, there is no potable water because of pipe breaks and contamination, the garbage is uncollected and sewage runs in the streets. A year after Congress voted to spend $18.4 billion reconstructing Iraq, only $1 billion has been spent, and most of that has gone to overhead, contractors' profits, security service, insurance and property losses. The jobs have gone largely either to Americans or other foreigners in Iraq, with little benefit to the Iraqis.
This information is not partisan – it comes from Sen. Dick Lugar, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, all respected Republicans. Military leaders on the ground all think we need more troops in there.
Now this is grim, but not necessarily fatal. What is fatal is ignoring the reality and doing nothing to stop the hemorrhaging. We can't win a war by pretending it's going well when it's not. To further suggest that pointing out that it is not going well somehow endangers the troops or encourages the enemy is despicable. The troops and the enemy know how it's going. They're there.
Even more despicable is the suggestion from House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Vice President Cheney and Sen. Orrin Hatch that the terrorists favor Kerry. As Joe Conason has pointed out, George W. Bush is the best recruiting tool the terrorists have.
In Iraq, it is no longer a question of whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. The trends are consistent – bad and getting worse. Our troops were being attacked 40 to 50 times a day in Iraq before the "handover" to the Iraqis. Now they're being attacked 70 to 80 times a day. Some people think the attacks are being stepped up to make Bush look bad. That's exactly what the same people said before the "hand-off" in June, but the trends continued to get worse. The absurd claim that John Kerry is "dissing" our ally the "interim prime minister" Iyad Allawi is worthy of the Alice's White Queen herself. How did Allawi get to be interim prime minister? He started as an enforcer for Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party and was then sent abroad to keep Iraqi students in line. He later worked for the CIA, and was the chosen favorite of the American administration in Baghdad and appointed to his job over the objections of the United Nations and most Iraqis.
Now Bush says he would give the "mission accomplished" speech again. "Absolutely," he said. The only prominent person in the administration who seems to recognize reality is Colin Powell, who says the war is going badly and that it has increased anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.
On Monday, we bombed both Fallujah and the al Sadr section of Baghdad – dozens of civilians reported dead. The scariest statistic I have heard about Iraq is that 41 percent of its people are under 15. What is this teaching them about us?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Republicans in Congress are stacking up a record of election-year folly so gross it staggers even veterans of legislative debacles. First, they let the assault weapons ban lapse, despite the fact that 70 percent of the American people want it kept in place. They had to pass a simple $5 billion corporate-tax plan because we are in violation of tariff laws. This has bogged down in a $150 billion pork-off, while American products are losing billions of dollars in retaliatory sanctions.
Even worse, Congress passed a $145 billion extension of tax cuts. To cover the resulting debt, we are borrowing money from the Bank of China, to be paid off by our children. Showing a fine sense of fiscal restraint, the R's declined to extend minimal credits for millions of children in working-poor families. Instead, they gave another $13 billion in tax cuts to the corporations. Remember when Bush told us cutting corporate taxes would result in a mighty flood of new jobs? But, hey, they're in favor of protecting marriage and against burning the flag, so your life should get dramatically better.
Nomination for worst political come-on of the year so far: The Republican National Committee sent a mailing to West Virginia Republicans that claims banning the Bible is part of the "liberal agenda." It features quite a striking picture of a Bible with the word 'BANNED" across it. No, no, no, fellas. Liberals are the ones who oppose censorship and book burning.