Monday, June 19, 2006

Meanwhile, In The Real World...

"I appreciate you stopping by Mr. Bush, but you could have given me enough warning so I would have had time to get one of those Abu Ghraib hoods on to obscure my face for the cameras"

I came up with a really good headline concerning the debate in the American Episcopal church over the consecration of gay bishops: "An Inconvenient Poof". However, upon reflection I sadly won't be using it as a) I don't really give a fig about schisms in the Episcopal church and b) the arch tone of irony I was reaching for probably wouldn't come across and people might get mad at me. If there is one thing I have learned in my shortish life it is there is no end to any number of peoples' ability not to get the joke. Ho hum.

So onto other things I've been neglecting while obsessed with the World Cup. Last week President Bush made a sneak visit to Iraq, giving Iraqi president Nuri al-Maliki just 5 minutes notice of his impending arrival, and then posing for photo ops with Mr. al-Maliki in front of the assembled international press corps.

Back in the second term of my first year at boarding school, we had one lad in the dorm who had been struggling since the first day of school to fit in with the rest of us. Teenage boys can be very cruel, but after a torrid time of it at first the signs were that this chap would at the very least allowed to quietly integrate into the dorm. Then on the first day of that second term this boy's elderly father showed up, clad in plaid trews and a bobble golf hat. After some painful attempts to pal up to the rest of us he then tried to fit a headboard to his son's bed, banged his head on the wall, and toppled over onto the mattress. The poor lad's fate was sealed from that point on. Was it fair? No. Was a future of ostacism and teenaged cruelty ordained from that point on? Sadly so.

This story came to mind while I was reading this week's Economist. Commenting on Mr. Bush's visit to Mr. al-Maliki, the paper notes:

"But in some ways the president still doesn't get it. Take something that went down well in America—Mr Bush's surprise call this week on the new prime minister of Iraq. Nuri al-Maliki had been building up the elected government's credibility by putting a careful distance between himself and the Americans. The last thing he needs is to look like the superpower's stooge. But he seems to have been given no advance notice of the visit. After Mr Bush was choppered into Baghdad, a bemused Mr Maliki was obliged to stand squirming alongside his beaming visitor, as pictures of president and stooge were flashed unhelpfully to Muslims in Iraq and around the world. It is sometimes bad manners to drop in uninvited"

After reading this tonight, I started wondering about the case of the two members of the 101st Airborne, kidnapped Saturday by insurgents from their checkpoint south of Baghdad. Over 8,000 troops, predator drones, and attack helicopters have been deployed to search for the two men. Leaving aside the impact on military operations of redirecting roughly two brigades from their normal operations to look for these poor soldiers, and as much as I would hope that the US Government would send an equivalent number to look for me if I were ever grabbed by insurgents with a predilection for mistreating then executing hostages, one has to ask what impression this leaves on ordinary Iraqis who when kidnapped in their own country seem to be left to their fate by both the American and Iraqi authorities. Hundreds of Iraqis have been kidnapped for political reasons or ransom since the US invasion; many have been murdered. But no 8,000 troops for them. What a message that sends.

When domestic politics gets dragged into foreign policy there is always a price to pay; I'm hoping against all previous indicators that the crassness of this search is not compounded by multiple kickings-in of wrong doors, scads of mishandlings of the innocent, and the further shrewd use by the insurgents of the US military's ham-fisted tactics as a recruiting tool.

(Updated 8:40am, 6/20: the missing soldiers were found murdered this morning.)

1 comment:

Tillerman said...

OK - so you get yourself airlifted into some foreign country on the far side of the world and you give the head of government ther 5 minutes notice that you would like to have a brief photo-op with him. What would normally be the response?

a) Please see my appointmens secretary. We may have a slot in about 3 monts.

b) George who?

c) Passport and visa please.