Category Archives: Iraq

For a moment….

I’m pretty damned cynical. It comes partly from being a former reporter and partly from just following American politics for so long, but I thought I’d take a moment to share this picture of Obama on the campaign trail meeting with a woman who had just lost her son in Iraq. Despite all the silly bullshit that surrounds the campaigns, they are, at their core, serious business, and it doesn’t hurt to remember that once in awhile.


Tomorrow and the Day After

There’s a crack in everything….

We’re just about a week out from the first debate, a little over a month away from the election. I’m puzzled. I don’t have any certainty over this election, which is probably good because I’m frequently wrong right when it comes down to the wire. Over the years, my gut was right about predicting Carter (’76), Reagan (’80 & ’84), Bush (’88), Clinton (’92 and ’96), then wrong with Gore (2000) and Kerry (2004). In other words, George W. Bush fucked up my average, along with everything else in America.

This year, my gut says Obama. But, as I said, I’m not certain. I am, however, feeling better because McCain’s bounce evaporated after just a week, and the celebrity/puppy love over Palin seems to have faded, as crushes often will once you get to know the person, which leaves McCain with basically nothing.

And it’s weird about history, but I’d forgotten the absolute nihilism I felt in ’92 at the prospect of another four years of a Bush. As apocalyptic as it turned out, I didn’t feel that bad in 2004 about W., much as I despised him, because, shit, who could have imagined Katrina? That was when I knew, indeed, that we were living in one of the worst times in American history. You…are…there.

But, back to this year’s politics. Here’s why I think Obama has a chance. He’s basically been steadily leading McCain in both the popular vote and the electoral college (where it counts) since he clinched the nomination. Last week, directly after McCain’s Hail Mary pass (which no one seems to acknowledge was as much a desperate attempt to keep his party from splintering as it was to change the overall game), McCain edged ahead, but not by much, and, in fact, more or less pulled to a statistical tie. The debates will tell the tale, certainly, and neither guy is the most briliant debater in history. (Though Biden’s very good, and the VP debate ought to be…fascinating. It’ll either be a slaughter or it’ll look like the first Kerry/Bush debate, where Kerry clearly won but Bush didn’t screw up so badly that he didn’t croak his incumbent advantage.) Brass tacks, though: 2004 was very, very close, really coming down to Ohio. Obama’s a stronger candidate than Kerry, is running a smarter campaign, and, despite the fact that he automatically loses a few points due to race (there are just some white people who will never vote for a black guy), he holds a very strong hand in at least winning every state Kerry did. That won’t be enough, of course, but he’s also putting other states in play sufficiently that both campaigns are contesting states that McCain shouldn’t be worrying about. His ground game is also reputed to be extremely good, his grassroots organizing, and McCain’s is rumored to be a mess. It was Bush’s ground game, particularly among evangelicals, that carried his ass in 2004. Sometimes, it helps to be a community organizer. Obama’s fundraising and use of the Net is clearly superior to McCain’s.

And this is where I think Palin screws McCain rather than helps him: he’s 72 years old, he’s had melanoma four times, and he’s going to look like 26 years of rough road by the time we get to the final stretch, when even youthful, vigorous candidates begin to look like papery husks. All that puts an emphasis on Palin possibly becoming president, and, I think, with people so worried about their checkbooks, jobs, homes, and retirements, the thought of putting a clear lightweight in charge of a listing ship will give them serious pause. She needs to either game up in a big way or Obama needs to make a serious misstep, else McCain has a steep hill ahead of him. Not a good place to be when the Republican brand is so bad their presidential candidate can only get traction by running away from it. Plus there’s simply the war: McCain won’t end it, and people–especially those with military ties who have borne the burden and traditionally vote Republican–are done with it.

So that’s what my gut tells me. It’s pretty clear that people can choose 1960…or 1929. But, as The Clash (and many others) noted: the future is unwritten. There is, literally, no telling what could happen between now and November 4th and how absolutely mindbending this all could become. The entire economy melting down, a terrorist attack, a gigantic skeleton falling out of a closet, and the stars could realign. And if that happens and McCain wins, all those folks who muttered about leaving the country in 2000 and 2004 might actually start dusting off their passports. Not that it’ll do them a lot of good, because by that time the whole damn planet will be swirling ’round the drain.

…that’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen–


The Real Thing

I was in Seattle this weekend, and, driving the way home to Portland, I passed Fort Lewis, a major U.S. Army base, also located near the huge McChord Air Force Base (as well as near a V.A. hospital). It’s the home of I Corp and includes the 3rd Brigade/Stryker Combat Team, which at one point relieved the legendary but then exhausted 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, being some of the first Stryker’s deployed over there. Stryker’s are these eight-wheeled light-armor vehicles. Despite their high-tech shielding, electronics, and armaments, they’re still prey to IEDs, particularly the “shaped charges” used to penetrate armor.

Fort Lewis is a relatively old base–I think it was built around the first World War, with some of those military buildings that look like they belong on a faded 4″x4″ color print (the kind with the edges that seem to have been cut by Pinking shears). This being the Northwest, the area’s very green and lush, though somewhat suburban, homes and businesses peeking behind tree trunks, and you see signs in the strip malls like “Military Loans” and “Tactical Tailor.”

At one point, an overpass crossing Interstate Five connects what appears to be two sections of the base, and just as the car was about to slip into the bridge’s shadow, I looked up to see that, along the entire span, flowers have been tied or wired to the pedestrian railings. Long dead, the bouquets have dried to a hard, brittle black, but no one has taken them down. The entire overpass.

And then it was gone, receding in the rear-view mirror.


Two Links on the Honor Roll

I wanted to point out two interesting links on my page’s “The Honor Roll” (a phrase I blatantly stole from Hunter Thompson’s book dedications). One is “Gunner Palace,” which is a documentary about Iraq well worth seeing. It doesn’t have a particular political axe to grind; it simply shows what life is like for one company of grunts operating around Baghdad.

The other is “Fight to Survive” which is a blog compiled by guys serving in Iraq and, as a kind of companion piece to “Gunner Palace,” tells of their average days, from the mundane to the absolutely ghastly. It’s been quiet of late, but it’s worth going back to read past posts. Soldiers’ voices are always worth listening to and ring much truer than the noxious rhetoric that flows unendingly from politicians and talking heads.

“Happiness is Iraq in my rear view mirror.”

Indeed.

Steve