Thursday, January 11, 2007


George W. Bush has an urge to surge. Like every junkie, he asks for just one more fix: let him inject just 21,000 more troops and that will win the war.

Been there. Done that. In 1965, Tom Paxton sang,

Lyndon Johnson told the nation
Have no fear of escalation.
I am trying everyone to please.
Though it isn't really war,
We're sending 50,000 more
To help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese.

Four decades later, Bush is asking us to save Iraq from the Iraqis.

There's always a problem with giving a junkie another fix. It can only make things worse. Our maximum leader says that unless he gets to mainline another 21,000 troops, "Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons," and terrorists "would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people."

Excuse me, but didn't we hear that same promise in 2003? Nearly four years ago, on the eve of invasion, this same George Bush promised, "The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed."

Instead of diminishing the threat from terrorists, Bush now admits, "Al Qaeda has a home base in Anbar province" -- something inconceivable under Saddam's rule.

Four years ago, Bush promised us, "When the dictator has departed, [Iraq] can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation." Just send in the 82d Airborne and, lickety-split, we'd have, "A new Iraq that is prosperous and free."

Well, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Here's my question: Who asked the waiter to deliver this dish? Who asked for the 21,000 soldiers?

We know the US military didn't ask for the 21,000 troops. (Outgoing commander General George Casey called for a troop reduction.)

We know the Iraqi government didn't ask for the 21,000 troops. (Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is reportedly unhappy about a visible increase in foreign occupiers).

So who wants the occupation to continue? The answer is in Riyadh. When the King of Saudi Arabia hauled Dick Cheney before his throne on Thanksgiving weekend, the keeper of America's oil laid down the law to Veep: the US will not withdraw from Iraq.

According to Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi who signals to the US government the commands and diktats of the House of Saud, the Saudis are concerned that a US pull-out will leave their Sunni brothers in Iraq to be slaughtered by Shia militias. More important, the Saudis will not tolerate a Shia-majority government in Iraq controlled by the Shia mullahs of Iran. A Shia combine would threaten Saudi Arabia's hegemony in the OPEC oil cartel.

In other words, it's about the oil.

So what's the solution? What's my plan? How do we get out of Iraq? Answer: the same way we got out of 'Nam. In ships.

But can we just watch from the ship rail as Shia slaughter Sunnis in Baghdad, Sunnis murder Shia in Anbar, Kurds "cleanse" Kirkuk of Turkmen and so on in a sickening daisy-chain of ethnic atrocities?

No. There's a real alternative. And it isn't more troops, George.

Let's imagine that somehow we could rip away the strings that allow Cheney and Rove and Abdullah to control our puppet president and he somehow, like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, suddenly grew a brain. His speech last night would have sounded like this:

"My fellow Americans. Iraq is going to hell in a handbag. So the whole shebang doesn't collapse into mayhem and madness, we need to send in 21,000 more troops. So I've just wired King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and told him to send them.

"My missive to the monarch reads: Dear Abdullah. It's time your 16,000 princelings got out of their Rolls Royces and formed the core of an Islamic Peacekeeping Force to prevent mass murder in Iraq. The American people are tired of you using the 82d Airborne as your private mercenary army. It seems like the Saudi military's marching song is, 'Onward Christian Soldiers.'

"Well, King Ab, we're out of here. We're folding tents and loading the wagons. For four years now, Saudis have been secretly funding the berserkers in the Iraqi 'insurgency' while the Iranians are backing the crazies in the militias. Well, we're telling you and the Persians: you're going to have to stop using your checkbooks to fund a proxy war and instead start keeping the peace. It's time you put your own tushies in the line of fire for a change."

"If the African Union nations, poor as they are, can maintain a peacekeeping force to stop killings in Sudan and Senegal, you Saudis, with all the military toys we've sold you, can certainly join with your Muslim brothers in Jordan, Iran and Turkey to take responsibility for your region's peace.

"And when you get to Fallujah, don't forget to drop us a postcard."

Well, that's my fantasy. But instead, War Junkie George will get his fix of another 21,000 American soldiers.

It reminds me far too chillingly of a Pete Seeger tune written when LBJ was saving Vietnam from Vietnamese. It was based on the true story of a US platoon in training, wading into the rising Mississippi, whose commander order them to keep going, deeper and deeper -- until they drowned.

We're waste deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "Armed Madhouse." His reports on Iraq and oil for BBC-TV and Harper's Magazine can be viewed at