Thursday, March 20, 2008

Iraq: The American Surge...Toward Indifference

Once again, the Bush Administration’s Middle East political theater group has taken to the stage. It has struck its well-rehearsed poses and emoted its newest “We will prevail!” proclamations.

However, these latest performances almost could be likened to a Mel Brooks comedy, with various spokespersons singing, in chorus: “It’s springtime for bin Laden and Ahmadinejad!”

First, there was Vice President Cheney in Baghdad—again—for the (100th?) obligatory handshake photo with Nuri al-Maliki, then briefly—albeit bravely--venturing a short distance outside the Green Zone for “private discussions” over a well-guarded meal.

Then, President Bush went to the Pentagon, his own personal Green Zone, and declared that winding down his immensely unpopular war would show “evidence of weakness and lack of resolve.”

And John McCain, the man who would be Bush if elected this fall, met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and declared: “We are now succeeding in Iraq.”

The looming problem for the Administration, of course, is that almost nobody is paying attention to these political skits anymore. The crowd mostly has surged home, numb to any more exhortations and proclamations about “victory” and “staying the course.”

That giant sucking noise the Bush White House now should be hearing is the sound of Americans increasingly growing indifferent toward the war as they hunker down to try to save their households, their jobs, their health insurance, their life savings, their lifestyles and their college funds for their children and grandchildren.

You don’t have to ask: What is the sound of one hand cashing a 401(K) withdrawal check…while the other hand is selling off the family jewels on eBay? It’s now happening all around you, and maybe to you, too.

Yes, Osama bin Laden may be hiding in the hills of Tora Bora; he may be ensconced in an apartment in Islamabad; he may be delivering pizzas in disguise in Cincinnati . (If we knew, maybe we could just sic him with a Hellfire missile and declare victory.)

But bin Laden doesn’t have a bad mortgage or a five-miles-per-$5-a-gallon Hummer. He doesn’t have grown children who no longer can afford to live on their own and have started moving back home or appealing to Dad and Mom for more financial aid. He also doesn’t have neighbors falling into foreclosure on each side of his cave--or condo--and burning down their homes or killing themselves out of desperation.

A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that 71% of Americans now believe spending on the Iraq War is hurting the troubled U.S. economy. The poll also found that only 32 percent of American continue to support the war, while 66 percent now oppose it.

In a CBS News poll taken near the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, 64 percent of respondents answered that the Iraq War has not been worth the cost in blood and treasure. And another CBS News poll has tabulated that three out of four Americans now rate the national economy as at least somewhat bad.

Here is one other painful statistic: The price of oil has more than quadrupled since two particular ex-oilmen took office in 2001.

George Bush and Dick Cheney likely will have their unfocused and unwinnable Global War on Terror for at least a few more months. But most of us will be paying scant attention. We are now engaged in our own desperate battles: for personal economic survival.


No comments: