Wealthy Frenchman

Friday, September 14, 2007

Debating Iraq? Pop a pill first

With the current political climate, it's no wonder so many Americans legally drug themselves.

Rosa Brooks

September 14, 2007

It hurts to be an American!

Don't take my word for it: Ask the International Narcotics Control Board, which reports that Americans consume far more medical narcotics -- heavy-duty prescription painkillers -- than people in any other nation. We pop codeine tablets and hook ourselves up to morphine drips at rates people in the developing world can only dream about. Although some might conclude that this is yet another instance of Americans consuming more than our fair share of the world's resources, such a conclusion would be completely unfair. Sure, we Americans take a lot of medical narcotics, but that's only because we're in a lot of pain these days.

Face it: We may have a higher standard of living than most, but we also have dumber, more embarrassing leaders; a more vapid, pompous public debate; and a more reckless, destructive foreign policy. And it hurts -- I tell you, it hurts.

Take the Iraq debate -- please.

Start with the intense nausea that overwhelms anyone rash enough to turn on C-SPAN. This week, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus was testifying before Congress, and he read his prepared testimony out loud -- three times over two days of hearings. Not surprisingly, the situation in Iraq did not improve between the first and the third reading, but Congress pretended that this bit of political theater actually meant something. Viewers got to see a lot of jostling over who loves -- no, really loves -- the troops more and whose heart bleeds more for the tragic plight of the Iraq people, or at least for those Iraqis who aren't insurgents or terrorists. Please, pass the anti-emetics!

And if you think any of this posturing means you're going to see a change in U.S. policy, you should consider an antipsychotic drug along with your anti-emetics, because you're delusional.

Here's the painful truth: We won't be withdrawing many troops from Iraq because no matter what the Democrats say, they don't have enough congressional votes to force a significant drawdown.

Sure, Hillary Rodham Clinton was against the war before she was for it, and now she's against it again and she swears she'll stay against it if we help her get to the White House -- but she's not in the White House now. As for Barack Obama, who was against the war yesterday and the day before that and who will still be against the war tomorrow -- same problem. Right now, all Clinton, Obama and the other 73 presidential candidates can do is talk -- and talk they will.

If your ears hurt, codeine will help.

Anyway, this means we're stuck with some variant of the White House strategy du jour, and lately the administration's desperate flailing is inducing nationwide whiplash. (Try more codeine.)

First we ousted Saddam Hussein and liberated our friends, the persecuted Shiites. Then we started fighting Sunni insurgents. Then we started fighting Shiiite militias. Then we started arming some of the same Sunni insurgents we used to fight. Now we're apparently cozying up to the Shiite militia leader Muqtada Sadr. If we could resurrect Hussein, at this point we'd probably reinstall him as dictator.

Then there's President Bush, who's spent the last four years informing the nation that we can't possibly set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq because "setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure." But -- more whiplash -- on Thursday night, Bush announced his intention of withdrawing 5,700 U.S. troops from Iraq by Christmas and five brigades -- about 25,000 troops -- by July.

Not that Bush has much choice. The Pentagon says we're out of warm bodies. As of April '08, we either have to start sending those extra "surge" troops home, or we have to lengthen deployments from an already punishing 15 months, which military planners say would significantly damage our already overstretched military. Or we could reinstate the draft, but -- ow, I think I'm getting another migraine.

Yes, it really hurts to be an American.

Oh, sure, I know there are also hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are suffering, victims of gunshots, IEDs and suicide bombings. I haven't forgotten them -- not at all. It's just that whenever I think about them, I get this awful pain in my chest.

So the rest of the world shouldn't begrudge us our medical narcotics. If we have any painkillers left after we get through this trying time, we'll put them in an aid package and send them along to Baghdad.

Meanwhile, pass the morphine drip.


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