Angels Dancing on the Head of a Pin
Guest post by Marie
Arguing over how many angels is pretty much the state of the debate on Iraq in this country. The Pentagon doesn't agree among themselves. The WH doesn't agree with anybody but Petraeus and rightwing pundits and bloggers. Nancy and Harry, oh, who knows what they think anymore or who cares? Obama says ten and Hillary says twelve, or is it vice versa? Kucinich, Gravel and Paul say none, but so few agree with them that they don't count. Stay or go? Go how far away? For how long if we stay or redeploy to Kuwait, Qatar and UAE (assuming any of them would have us). Divide Iraq or keep it all in one piece. Privatize the oil or nationalize it? Bring in the UN, negotiate for a peace settlement with countries neighboring Iraq and ask them to send troops and money, as if any of those entities want to get stuck with the tar baby. And the angels keep twirling and spinning.
Except for the "fallen angels" that come home in the cargo bays of C-130s. A sentimental, treacly sounding but odd term for Americans that return home in a box. "Fallen angels" was not the stuff of heaven in my childhood catechism.
There is NO EXIT to this debate because there is a tiger behind each of the doors. A tiger that no faction can surmount on their own and the factions are damn sure not going to unite to take it on as the least bad tiger. The only lesson anyone seems to have taken from Vietnam is "don't let your Party get blamed for the loss." A lot less political liability is attached to starting an illegal, immoral and pointless war.
Some of us were ringing the alarm bells in 2002 and early 2003. Trying desperately to drown out the drumbeats for war. To stop the zombie-like citizens marching to the sound of the drums. Alas, our bells were no match for the fifes and drums. We whispered in the wind, “Just like Vietnam, only much worse.” Then we wept. Our tears now long gone from total exhaustion at the horror we can't take our eyes away from. Struck in a quagmire of our minds as unsolvable as the national quagmire in Iraq.
Yet, from the earliest days of this debacle all we've ever had to do was click our heels three times to be transported home.
- Admit that we were wrong and apologize to the people of Iraq and the world.
- Promise never to do it again.
- Promise to make restitution to the country and people of Iraq.
In other words, swallow our pride and open our pocketbook. The longer we wait to do this, the more it's going to cost. The price today is at least double what it would have been three years ago and that doesn't include what we've squandered on the occupation during the past three years. If Americans think their pride is worth and extra $50 to $150 billion dollars a year for the next ten years, then we will continue to live with the bleeding pustule in Iraq and all the associated problems and difficulties that this will present for us, and those may also come with a lofty price tag.
We must ask for nothing in return from Iraq except for a complete ceasefire between our two nations. All US military, civil service and contractors will withdraw in an orderly fashion as quickly as physically possible. How they choose to organize their country and natural resources is up to them. The primary condition for financial restitution is that Iraq remain a member of the UN and abide by human rights agreements. Reparation payments will be made in three simultaneous parts:
- We will pay the hard dollar cost for the damage done to their infrastructure up to a maximum of $50 billion (last estimate was $44 billion). We will also cover the cost of the international team of accountants, bankers, contracting officers and engineers to manage the disbursal of funds. The information will be publicly available and transparent on the internet and there will be zero tolerance for graft and fraud.
- We will match dollar for dollar the national oil revenues up to a maximum of $20 billion per annum for the next three years, seventy-five cents per dollar up to a maximum of $15 billion for two year and fifty cents per dollar up to a maximum of $10 billion for two years. This is to facilitate the equal sharing of the national wealth to all citizens of Iraq in an effort to encourage peace and reconciliation among the various groups of Iraqi citizens. Payments in years two through seven are conditioned on 1) a cessation of sectarian violence and the right of all citizens to return to their 2002 homes 2) open and transparent use of these and oil revenue funds.
- A staple food subsidy program, administered by international and Iraqi NGOs will be established for two five year periods. The first five year period will be for $12 billion per annum and a minimum of $6 billion must be purchased from US producers. The second five year period will be for $6 billion per annum and $5 billion of that must be purchased from the US. (And all the high fructose corn syrup they want.)
$250 billion is a lot of money except when compared with the alternative. The government(s) of Iraq will retain the discretionary authority to accept or reject any or all of the reparations. The US will also have to pay up our past dues to the UN if we expect them to assist us in resolving the mess we've created. So, how do we pay for all this?
- A flat per gallon tax on gasoline sufficient to generate at least $10 billion per year. This is the shared cost to Americans for their stupidity and short-sightedness for not having stopped this war in the first place.
- A surcharge on oil companies sufficient to generate $15 billion per year that may not be passed along to consumers.
- A supplemental tax on individual gross incomes above $X sufficient to generate $5 billion per year
- Extort $5 billion per year from the Saudis (and more if the price of oil increases above $90 per barrel)
All taxes and surcharges will sunset when collections total $300 billion which in no event should be later than year eight.
Americans should not expect any of this to buy hearts and minds. If it does, that's fine. But that's not what reparations are about. They are only payment for past sins.
I had a much better and cheaper idea in 2002, but this is the best I can do today. And it reinforces the first words out of my mouth that horrible day in September when I said, "We cannot afford to make enemies in an interconnected world."