In the event you haven’t heard, the Obama administration, meaning Obama, is sticking to his promised plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, in a kind of sorta’ way that makes you wonder if he’s pulling everybody’s leg, laughing inside as he waits for us to all get the joke. The New York Times reporters assigned to a recent column on the subject pitch in the question that, with the violence in Iraq ramping up with the election cycle and all, will this "delay the planned American withdrawal?"
It might, if there was a withdrawal planned.
When is a withdrawal not a withdrawal? When you will leave behind "no more than 50,000 American forces", according to someone named "Senior Obama administration officials" who, judging by the number of quotes he plants across the daily papers is a regular Gabby Gus. And, lest the eternally fearful war-hawks shit their feathers in fright at the word "withdrawal" Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. let’s out that, not to worry, regular Rambos will be left in Iraq as "we’re not leaving behind cooks and quartermasters". So Max Boot & Pals can come out from under the covers.
I learned all this while riding the N train into Manhattan, and for now my subway car remains empty but for my New York Times, an old, raging lunatic Chinese man, and I. He’s been keeping me on my toes, position wise, by balling out the name of each subway station at the top of his lungs. From "Bod-Way!" to "Dirty Nine Aben-bu!!!" I’ve been utterly certain of where I was, geographically speaking. He’d become very useful to me, like family almost, as he kept the car nice and empty. Sometimes you need to be alone.
"Dis Is Queenboro Pwaza!" he screamed as the train rushed into the station then quickly turned around in his seat to study the wall map. "Lass Stop Fo Man-ha-tan!" and back down again, then utterly still and silent. He gazed happily at his ratty sneakers and seemed pleased with the whole performance. I don’t think he understands what’s happening over there. I’d already sized him up as harmless, and turned my attention back to other lunacy, the official kind.
And here we see one result of our dreadful public education system, see an America so dumb-fucked down and soft on standards we can’t even hold people to simple definitions. Why does nobody in the press dare speak to the Emperor that leaving 50,000 troops behind (in fact, leaving any troops behind) is not a withdrawal, it’s a reduction? Whenever any government tongue starts yapping about a "withdrawal", why doesn’t the White House press corps laugh, hoot, and act like rational men for a change? Is the food at the buffet table that good? 50,000 troops is an entire Army Corps. Why does my New York Times not rip a new one every so often, left off some stream, give The Man a middle finger? Why do they play along with this blatant farce? Why do we?
I glance over for sympathy, but my fellow passenger seems oblivious to the insanity, he’s chasing his own fixation and has swiveled back in his chair again, now sitting on his knees with his face inches from the wall map, tracing his journey with a finger. His lips move silently, his tongue, long set in its ways, incapable of any chance at proper pronunciation. I’d pity him, but he doesn’t seem to need it. He’s turns back, hunched over, excited and happy in the little things, God bless ‘em.
The subway is now the deepest it will get under the East River, and we hit the upslope of the tunnel. We have a few more minutes before Lexington Avenue, so I look down and the reporters of the piece are worried on my behalf if perhaps "the administration has been so preoccupied with Afghanistan and Pakistan that Iraq has gotten less attention from top policy makers" and I laugh out loud at the irony and shout "the wrong war!"
The little old Chinese man gives me an annoyed look but I think he registers me as harmless when he looks down again and resumes to smile at his sneakers. Being sane I immediately clam up. He may seem all right, but there’s no need to provoke.
So for safety’s sake I determine it prudent to read in silence, but almost immediately run into trouble when it’s revealed Vice President Joseph Biden, whose extensive military expertise consists of dodging the Vietnam draft and watching old re-runs of Patton, has been put in charge of the "administration’s Iraq portfolio". Modern America has finally reached nirvana, become a true democratic paradise, a blessed world where even people without a clue get a crack at running things. This is 2010, after all, and everybody’s got a right to be an expert. It’s almost enough to make me patriotic again.
We pull into Lexington Avenue; we’ll be underground now all the way to my stop at Prince Street so I settle back. A young couple enters the car, tentatively, but excited. They have the reek of first-time tourists about them, a pungent, bright-eyed excitement to see the city they’ve grown up watching on television. Suddenly my fellow passenger bellows "Wex-in-tin Aben-bu!!!" to shatter glass, and the girl-half of the couple squeaks in fright and leaps into her man’s arms in a desperate attempt for safety, knocking him, and her, clear back out onto the platform.
"Save yourselves, I’m already lost!" I pile on but "Next dop, Fit Aben-bu!!" is the last thing they ever hear from us as the subway doors close shut. I’m happy for them, satisfied that after they flee back to the safety of street level and fly home they’ll have a New York story to tell the yokels, forever more to proudly unveil their frightening souvenir over the backyard barbeque.
Alone again at last, I go back to the reporters who, not one column over from just telling us up to 50,000 troops will be left behind, add that Biden is "using the looming American troop pullout" as a lever over the Iraqi politicians’ heads, warning them to start acting more American as "they will not have an American security blanket forever". Yes they will, I think - up to 50,000 of them.
Mr. Biden is confidant that we might never need to use those troops anyhow, as we’ve rounded up all the Iraqis, or at least a good enough chunk, and sent them to the voting booth, that well-spring of sweet liberty. "Politics has broken out in Iraq", says he, no doubt patting himself on the back for a phrase well turned. This is what we get (and deserve) by turning over the difficult task of putting down a colonial rebellion to a dimwit.
He obviously has never read Clausewitz’s On War else he would have come across its most famous maxim "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means" and spared himself the embarrassment of talking out his ass, but in Biden’s defense he’s a professional politician, not a statesman. This, people, is the best America can produce, our political ocean is all fished out.
The subway stops, but in silence. I look up and realize I’m at City Hall station, too far downtown. I’ve missed my stop. The crazy Chinese guy had gone. Serves me right, I’d become so dependent on his announcements that I’d become lost without him. I get up and exit, crossing to the other side of the platform to wait for the uptown.
I lean against a wall made of black steel bars and finish the article to pass the time. It segues into the deep thoughts of Christopher R. Hill, a second-generation career diplomat, now ambassador to Iraq. He is most impressive, able to "speak out about Iran’s influence in the election process" while at the same time, with a completely serious look on his face, "deliver the message (to the Iraqi politicians) that the United States wants a clean election".
You try doing that without laughing. Unlike Biden, Mr. Hill is a professional, just the type we need to keep the Empire in high gear, a man so immersed in climbing up the ladder that any sense he may have once harbored of the deceit, irony, and hypocrisy in his daily routine have long been banished; he loyally reads whatever script his handlers place in front of him, thinks whatever thoughts he’s ordered to think. We need more men like him.
I finish and close the paper – that’s enough for now. The news today reads like America’s autopsy report; we’re just too poorly educated and arrogant to be aware that we’re already dead. I look about the platform. City Hall station is festooned from end to end with ugly black bars everywhere designed to direct the flow of foot traffic; their cage-like appearance gives the look and feel of an underground prison.
Considering those who rule this city work right above, while City Hall station may not be the prettiest subway stop, architecturally speaking, she certainly is the most appropriately dressed.
The northbound R arrives, and I’m off.