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Campaign Manifesto #3: On The Road, Defending Social Security February 28, 2011

So it’s Day 3 of my fake campaign for Congress, and we’ve run into our first obstacle

The Fake Campaign, as you may recall, is fake headed for Wisconsin, to show solidarity, and we’ve fake hitched a ride on a delivery truck headed for Rush Limbaugh’s Florida broadcasting studios—but we fake found ourselves caught up in the all-too-real Giant Grip Of Winter that has seized the Midwest over the past week.

We’re back on the road now, but we were stuck for darn near a half-day there at Wall…and if you know anything about South Dakota, you know there are really only two things to do in the City of Wall: you can shuffle back and forth between Gold Diggers and the Badlands Bar, partaking of numerous intoxicating liquors along the way…or you can head on into Wall Drug (the same one that’s on all those bumper stickers and signs) and partake of the finest display of Giant Jackalopia on the planet.

The Campaign, naturally, chose Jackalopia—and that’s why today’s Manifesto is all about the fake impromptu 5-cent-coffee-fueled Social Security Town Hall that we held in the Wall Drug Mall for several hours while we waited for I-90 to reopen.

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, grass grows by Itself.

–From the Zenrin Kushu, attributed to Toyo Eicho

I-90, the main route from West to East (if your fake trip begins in Seattle, as ours did), was closed at Wall, South Dakota for about 24 hours this week, but this particular delivery truck just absolutely has to be in Florida by Monday…and the delivery is so important that to get us back on the road we now have a special escort of two South Dakota Department of Transportation snowplows and two 2011 “new and improved” South Dakota Highway Patrol Dodge Charger Pursuits (now with longer lasting brakes!) to make sure we get to the Wisconsin line in the shortest time possible.

With the weather being what it is, Jenna and Tendei, our driving team, have been earning their money, in a big way, this trip, and for the moment Tendei is asleep, while Jenna and I mull over the conversations we had tonight, me and the caravan of Wall Drug customers who gathered, first by the snake-oil salesman (that’s not hyperbole, either: they actually have an anamatronic snake-oil salesman), then out in front of the Western bookstore, and finally over by one of the 5-cent coffee stations.

It was my fault: standing next to the snake-oil salesman got me thinking about all the lies we hear every day about Social Security…which I mentioned to the 30-something couple standing next to me, young son in tow.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d guess the next words out of his mouth are going to be: ‘I’ll never see a dollar of my Social Security anyway, so who cares how they fix it?’.”

He looked back at me, all surprised: “We’re not ever going to see any; they tell us that all the time.”

“Yeah, I know…but it’s a big ol’ load of hooey, and I’ll tell you why: Social Security is funded by payroll taxes that are, for the most part, paid out as they’re collected, that means there’ll always be money that we will use to pay benefits, unless we just quit collecting that money altogether, which is not likely.”

We were beginning to gather a few others around us (hey, we were all stuck there—nothing else to do…); that means my gestures were getting a bit bigger—but there’s a nice echo in there, and you can be heard.

“The way things work now, if nothing changes, there will be enough money to pay out all the benefits we expect to pay until 2037. After that, if the ‘pessimistic projection’ plays out, even if nothing else changes, we can still pay 75% of what we expect to pay for about 50 years after that. We only look out 75 years at a time, so we don’t have a projection that goes out past 2084…but, pretty much, as long as we keep collecting the money, we’ll still be able to pay the benefits.”

I looked over at a 40-ish couple that had come over to listen: “What about you two? Right now there’s a lot of talk about ‘fixing’ Social Security by making you wait longer to retire or by making sure cost-of-living increases don’t really keep up with inflation. Don’t y’all feel like if they do that, you’re just getting screwed?”

It was almost like Parliament and “Question Time” in there for a second (which is not a George Clinton reference) as the 15 or so folks listening began to “harrumph” in agreement.

“Well how about if I were to tell you that I could fix this problem, and that I could do it without raising the retirement age or messing with your cost-of-living…and that I could do this in a way that gives every person in this room a tax cut at the same time…and that, even though I’m running for Congress, I’m not a snake-oil salesman?”

About two lives ago I used to be a failed stand-up comic (true!), and it is possible to know when the crowd is turning—and this was one of those moments.

The 40-ish husband looked at me and said, basically, that I did sound like a Congressman—and not in a good way.

“I know you don’t believe me, but listen to this: if you turn a wrench or carry a tray or do anything that makes under, basically, $105,000 a year in wages, all your income is taxed for Social Security…but if you make a million a year, you don’t pay any tax at all on the last $890,000…and if that income was taxed, we wouldn’t have a Social Security problem.

Now you don’t hear much about this back in Washington, and there’s a couple of reasons why: right off the bat, this President and this Congress don’t want to be accused of ‘raising anyone’s taxes’; beyond that, 2012 is coming fast, and both the President and the Grim Weeper are trying to be the one who can look at the voters and say: ‘I’m The Slasher, and I will cut the deficit and balance the budget faster than the other guy’.

Lots of people think cutting Social Security will somehow cut the deficit and reduce the debt, even though it has nothing to do with it at all, and some of them figure that if they campaign around cutting everything that government does it’s gonna help their political future, and that includes cutting benefits for people just like you, instead of just funding Social Security with a flat tax for everyone…even the rich.”

This argument, I might add, was starting to gain traction.

“Look at where we are right this very second: standing in front of a Western bookstore…and if you go in there you’ll see stories of how people died of starvation and how land barons ruled counties with an iron fist and how we fought range wars with imported hired guns and shootouts in the streets.

Is that what we want to go back to?

It’s not what they wanted. The pioneers didn’t just build isolated ranches, they built towns, and towns with a schoolhouse, so that the kids on those ranches didn’t have to rely on a home school education. They had a Sheriff or a Marshal and a Town Council and a Judge, because they knew that they had to create some rules and establish some government.

Some towns in the Wild West, and you know I’m telling the truth about this, didn’t even allow guns inside the town limits…just like when Wyatt Earp was the Marshal in Dodge City and you had to check your guns if you were going north of the railroad tracks.”

You know what? This was working: the crowd began to nod with me, and I figured while I had the advantage I’d press the thing home:

“Now a lot of people probably think the fix is in, and what’s the point…but I don’t agree. There was an effort at the beginning of this Congress to force these cuts by threatening to stop providing any money for the Government at the beginning of March if the ‘Wrecking Crew” didn’t get their way, and the Tea Party folks came in here with a big ol’ war cry about ‘shut it all down’ and all that…but now that March 4th is actually drawing close, and the public is starting to figure out what’s up, the message is suddenly all about ‘maybe we can extend the funding after all’.

That tells me that the people who think cutting everything in sight because it looks good are finding out it doesn’t always look good to just go around cutting everything in sight.

Tell ya something else. A lot of the people who want to change Social Security want to change it into a system that rewards people who manage Social Security accounts, not the people who own the accounts, and if you look at what ‘privatizing’ the system is all about, that’s what it is: it’s just a plan to get more money out of you in the form of fees and charges, which is going to be a great big reward to great big political donors who have been trying to make this happen since the 1980s.

So here’s the reality: there is enough money in the system to pay for you and your kids to have benefits, even if no changes are made, and if you just make Social Security a flat tax, even for the rich, we are pretty much guaranteed to have every dollar we need until at least 2084, and we don’t have to cut benefits or raise the retirement age, or do any of that crazy stuff…and we don’t have to give up our hard-earned money to big banks and Wall Street in the form of new fees and charges on your Social Security accounts.

So I came here in a truck, and it has to be in Florida in a couple days, and my driver friend is walking over here, and that means I gotta go, but I hope I told you something about Social Security you didn’t know a while ago…and if any of you are fake voting for a fake Congressional candidate in 2012, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.”

And with that, I fake shook a few hands, jumped in our fake truck, and headed off to Wisconsin.

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Campaign Manifesto #1: In A World Of Phonies, It’s Time For A Fake Candidate February 18, 2011

We have spent the past two years watching as insanity has gripped Congress, and even more so with Republicans now running the House.

We have a wavering President, far too many feckless Democrats, and Republicans that have decided to dive headfirst into total “insane mode” in a full-blown effort to destroy this country just as fast as possible.

To give but one example, in my own District, WA-08, we are represented by the absolutely useless Republican Dave Reichert, whose best-known legislative achievement is that he has virtually no record of any legislative achievement whatever.

Now we’ve had a very interesting relationship, you and I, over these past few years; in my efforts to “bring you the story” I’ve been a fake political consultant, a fake lobbyist, even a fake historian…and now, I think it’s time to try to bring our relationship to a new level.

And that’s why, America, I’m announcing my fake candidacy for Congress.

It was almost too good to be true. Richard Milhous Nixon, the main villain of my political consciousness for as long as I can remember, was finally biting that bullet that he’s been talking about all these years. The man that not even Goldwater or Eisenhower could tolerate had finally gone too far—and now he was walking the plank, on national TV, six hours a day—with The Whole World Watching, as it were.

That phrase is permanently etched on some grey rim on the back of my brain. Nobody who was at the corner of Michigan and Balboa on that Wednesday night in August of 1968 will ever forget it.

Richard Nixon is living in the White House today because of what happened that night in Chicago. Hubert Humphrey lost that election by a handful of votes—mine among them—and I had it to do again I would still vote for Dick Gregory.

–From Fear and Loathing in the Bunker, by Hunter S. Thompson

So let’s start with the obvious question: why a fake candidacy?

Well…why not?

Obviously, I can be just as fake as any real politician, and, as we discussed before, we have years of history together to prove it.

Can I be more useful to the District than Reichert?
Hey…even a fake me can do that.

After all, it’s not like there’s a high bar to jump over or anything.

It was four years in office before he actually got anything passed…and according to Congress.org, by 2008 he was ranked number 401 out of 435 in terms of how much power he exerts in the House…and that’s 9th out of 9 for the Washington State delegation. (Reichert’s own Congressional website reports he was ranked 166th out of 435 in 2006—and that means he fell more than 250 spots in a single term.)

So basically, all I have to do is take the Oath of Office…and we’re pretty much tied.

Now Dave tries to some extent to “ straddle the middle ”, as a result he supports environmental legislation but he’s against “card check”; he also voted to extend children’s health care coverage. He supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

His stance on Social Security?

Do a search for Social Security on his Congressional website, and you get “No documents matched your query”. Look for Social Security as an issue on his site and you can find this:

Congressman Reichert has fought to protect seniors’ Medicare and Social Security benefits, preserve their access to needed health care services, and make prescription drugs more affordable

(You have to look under “ Seniors ” to find it…but at least it’s there.)

According to FreedomWorks, Reichert had no position worth reporting on Social Security when they attended his April ’05 Social Security workshop…although another attendee reports he had this to say about removing that “tax cap” that represents a giant tax dodge for the richest among us:

Raising the cap was portrayed by all three as a tax hike, which they oppose because “the government shouldn’t be taking any more out of families’ hard earned budgets.”

OnTheIssues has this to say about his Social Security record:

No issue stance yet recorded by OnTheIssues.org.

By the way…did I mention that Reichert is currently serving on the House Subcommittee on Social Security ?

That’s a pretty high level of useless, and it’s exactly this kind of “get up and go” that explains how Reichert managed to fight his way right on up to number 401 in effectiveness among those 435 Members of Congress.

Me, I support the “Rich People Pay, Too” approach: no matter what your wage income might be, you gotta pay Social Security tax. No more “once you get rich, it’s a free ride”.

And guess what? If we just made all wage income taxable for Social Security purposes…the problem is actually solved…and it might not even require that much reform.

Law and order?

Reichert is a former Sheriff, and a man who cultivates the image that he personally caught the Green River Killer. When a bill came up to get the Justice Department off the backs of medical marijuana users, Reichert voted “ no ”.

I am most assuredly not a former Sheriff…and as a fake candidate, I would propose a different approach:

If you elect me, and we can get the bill passed, once a week I will personally dose up Members like Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachmann and Joe Barton with large amounts of LSD…and I will then transport them right back to the House floor…and then one hour a day we’ll set up something like the obstacle course on MXC and then have them run it…and I will introduce a bill to set up a special “Premium Content” partnership with C-SPAN that charges $14.95 a month so that you can see the uncensored “GoDaddy” version of the video, with the money to be used to lower the Federal deficit.

I support medical marijuana—but I would limit the co-pay, by law, to $10.

Civil rights?

Reichert opposes same-sex marriage, and only gets a 50% rating from the NAACP…and I’m one of the only people you’ll ever meet who was officially notified he was gay by email…and if one of my family members had a “homosexual relationship”, unlike some Members, I wouldn’t keep it on the “ down low ”.

I’m more or less broke, just like you—and they tell me that, if you win, there’s pretty good health insurance —but I’m not looking for donations, from any source…with one exception:

At the moment this is a fake candidacy, but I’m thinking about asking a group to consider underwriting this as a comedic art project—and if they do, that would be the only money the “fake campaign” would accept.

So there you go: from here on out, there will be more “Manifestos” from the fake campaign—and in the next one, we’ll be talking, once again, about how you can support a candidate like Reichert, who’s basically a joke…or you can support a candidate like me, who really is one.

 

On Solutions, Or, Congressman Reichert, I Believe You Were Looking For This October 14, 2007

Filed under: Dave Reichert,Democrats,Iraq War,WA-08 — fakeconsultant @ 1:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

As I reported in a <a href=”http://fakeconsultant.blogspot.com/2007/10/fake-consultant-exclusive-congressman.html&#8221; mce_href=”http://fakeconsultant.blogspot.com/2007/10/fake-consultant-exclusive-congressman.html”>recent story</a>, I was fortunate enough to have a talk with my Member of Congress, Dave Reichert, regarding the “surge”.

While we disagreed with many aspects of his (and my) interpretation of events, there was one valid point he made that deserves a detailed response: that Democrats cannot articulate a path forward that could be reasonably expected to reduce the chances of “the bloodshed and chaos” that is so ominously predicted in so many quarters.

My goal today is to reach way outside the conventional thinking to offer such a path.

So let’s get right to it, shall we?

Before I can offer a set of specific proposals, I need to take a minute to frame the discussion that is to follow.

I will do this through the use of a set of hypotheses.
For example:

–I would suggest we are fundamentally wrong to view the events in Iraq since more or less the 1960s as a series of actions that are motivated solely by the desire of one religious group to dominate another

–We view the conflict that is evident today as a battle against terrorism that is directed at us…or some vague notion of Islamofascism; when in fact much of the violence in Iraq is in no way related to the struggle between extremist elements in Islamic countries and the US.

–I submit that we can get better results by viewing the troubles in Iraq as fundamentally an economic and political power struggle, where various groups are seeking to fill the vacuum left by the removal of the Al-Tikriti clan from power.

–Unemployment and corruption combined with a “failure of hope” for the future are our biggest enemies. A functioning economy and a Government perceived as honest wouldn’t fix all the problems in Iraq; but if we were perceived as the ones who helped Iraq get back to work, it might well keep things from getting worse-and when you’re in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging.

Our first hypothesis states that the events in Iraq are not solely related to the desire of one religious group to dominate another.

Is that correct?

Consider a few facts:

His name was not just Saddam. A more correct representation of his name would be Saddam Hussayn Al-Tikriti. Why does this matter? Because, as with many Iraqi names, the Al-Tikriti refers to the <a href=”http://en.allexperts.com/q/Arabic-1635/Definition-arabic-name.htm&#8221; mce_href=”http://en.allexperts.com/q/Arabic-1635/Definition-arabic-name.htm”>person’s tribe</a>.

Remember the “<a href=”http://www.defenselink.mil/dodcmsshare/briefingslide/84/030411-D-6570C-003.pdf&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.defenselink.mil/dodcmsshare/briefingslide/84/030411-D-6570C-003.pdf”>Playing Cards</a>”?
Look at the names…it’s Al-Tikriti all over the deck.

This fact alone tells us that a major portion of the Iraqi governing apparatus was tribally related-and when you combine this with the fact that the Baath Party was more or less a <a href=”http://www.beliefnet.com/story/123/story_12372_1.html&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.beliefnet.com/story/123/story_12372_1.html”>secular</a&gt; organization you can quickly see that Hussein’s was mostly a “capitalist” oppression, and not so much a religious one.

How did the Baath Party rule?
Not as a theocracy.

By Islamic standards, before 2003 Iraq was a middle of the road country. Women had more freedom of movement and options in public life than today. There was <a href=”http://abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200502/s1297054.htm&#8221; mce_href=”http://abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200502/s1297054.htm”>not</a&gt; a movement to establish a strict Sharia Law, nor an effort to “export Islam”.

Despite the claims of certain parties, there was no synergy between the Baath Party apparatus and Al Qaeda.

The economy was the real interest of Hussein’s-and the management of the “<a href=”http://www.iic-offp.org/documents.htm&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.iic-offp.org/documents.htm”>Oil for Food</a>” program is an indication of how entrenched the culture of distributing opportunity to your friends for a piece of the action had become.

Political oppression? Plenty of it, indeed-but I submit that oppression, and the attacks on the Kurds and Shi’a were motivated more by a desire to remain in absolute power, facing no opposition, then they were a product of religious animosity.

Evidence to support this proposition is found in the fact that both Kurdish communities in northern Iraq (who are predominantly <a href=”http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/religion-sunni.htm&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/religion-sunni.htm”>Sunni</a&gt;) and Shi’a communities were attacked on orders from Hussein, who of course was Sunni.

If the attacks were solely intended to send a religious message, why were fellow Sunnis in the north targeted?

It is important to keep in mind, as we evaluate all of this, that the area from more or less the Tigris River west to the Syrian border (the historically Sunni Arab area, which includes Tikrit, Falluja, and Hadithah) is the one portion of Iraq with the <a href=”http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/security/esar/esar_bigpic.htm&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/security/esar/esar_bigpic.htm”>least</a&gt; oil resources; and that at the time of the gassings of the Kurds and Shi’a both were considering nationalist movements-funded by the oil beneath their lands. This would leave the Al-Tikritis with no real source of income. (Do you know what Iraq’s biggest export is after oil? I don’t either…and that’s not good if you’re running what’s left after the Iraqis with all the oil have broken away.)

In that context, the use of gas against Hussein’s own countrymen seems more logical-he did whatever he had to do to keep control of the cash register…and he was perfectly willing to send the most brutal of messages to anyone seeking to diminish that control.

We have advanced a second proposition in this discussion: that the violence in Iraq is not primarily a function of Al Qaeda exporting “Islamofascism” to a new “central front in the War on Terror”.

Sure enough, there are facts available that support this analysis. For example, we are told that “foreign fighters” are responsible for a rather <a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/15/politics/15syria.html?_r=2&pagewanted=3&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/15/politics/15syria.html?_r=2&pagewanted=3&oref=slogin&oref=slogin”>small proportion</a> of attacks in the country. Conversely, we are told that <a href=”http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1583636,00.html&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1583636,00.html”>local combatants</a> are the parties responsible for the great majority of attacks…both against US forces, and <a href=”http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/08/0081159&#8243; mce_href=”http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/08/0081159″>other Iraqis</a>, as well.

That’s not surprising, if you think about it.

The most basic reality that US planners should have anticipated in 2003 is that no one really appreciates being invaded…no matter how “enlightened” the motives of the invader might seem.

The US itself is no exception. There is no question that the US Constitution is under wholesale assault by this Administration to a degree never experienced outside of a period of declared war. So try to imagine Gordon Brown announcing to Parliament that the UK feels the need for “regime change” in this country because the current Administration has become controlled by extremists and possesses “weapons of mass destruction”.

Imagine Mr. Brown announcing that British troops have landed on US shores, and will be marching on Washington…and then inviting us to “greet them as liberators”.

Despite the best intentions of the UK forces, the greeting would probably look something more like the biggest hunting season you ever saw, with militia members finally getting to use those stashed antitank rockets that are probably buried in back yards all over this country.

And so it is in Iraq.

Obviously the fact that enormous quantities of munitions were left laying around and unguarded makes it even <a href=”http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2007/03/23/hussein_era_arms_linked_to_fatalities/&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2007/03/23/hussein_era_arms_linked_to_fatalities/”>easier</a&gt; to not “greet us as liberators”; and facts suggest that something like the process I’ve just described is taking place.

Of course, violence in Iraq is not just directed at the “coalition of the willing”-a major portion of the violence is between the Iraqis <a href=”http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=515_1191353222&#8243; mce_href=”http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=515_1191353222″>themselves</a&gt;.

Our third proposition addresses that violence, and suggests that majority of the violence is not predicated on religious struggle, but economic.

As we previously discussed, control of a lot of oil has suddenly changed hands, and conventional thinking might lead us to believe that this asset will be divided along sectarian lines.

The fact that the Mahdi Army, led by A<a href=”http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/001513.php&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/001513.php”>l-Sadr</a&gt; is fighting the government of <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nouri_al-Maliki&#8221; mce_href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nouri_al-Maliki”>Al-Maliki</a&gt;, and that both are Shi’a…and the fact that Shi’a sects have begun to violently engage with each other in the Basra region as UK troops withdraw should tell you two things…

…it’s not all about sect, and… .

…despite what Joe Biden might think about the wisdom of such a plan, dividing the country into three parts along sectarian lines will not stop the Shi’a on Shi’a struggle; which is a major component of the troubles today, and likely to be a greater portion of the troubles in the future.

The history of Iraq, for most of those alive today, is the 35 years that the Baath Party has held power-and total control of the economy…and all that oil money, and the oppression and fighting with Iran that accompanied those years….and of course, the 12 years between the Gulf Wars when the US operated the “no-fly” zones, and led the charge for the sanctions that so affected average Iraqi’s lives, and the 5 years that have followed.

And all of a sudden, the lid of the “pressure cooker” that had suppressed all other political aspirations has been removed. The internal power struggles, and the perception that Al-Sadr represents Iraq’s Shi’a poor (and that the Iraqi Government doesn’t) have come to the front, as has Iran’s interest in a more theocratic-and Shi’a dominated-Iraq.

Al-Sadr also seems to benefit from a reputation of being <a href=”http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14245376&#8243; mce_href=”http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14245376″>less corrupt</a> than Al-Maliki’s allies in Government.

All of this said, we should realize that religious considerations are to varying degrees important to the players; and that appears to be particularly <a href=”http://www.cfr.org/publication/9930/irans_goals_in_iraq.html&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.cfr.org/publication/9930/irans_goals_in_iraq.html”>true</a&gt; in the south.

Which brings us to solutions…

Of course, before we can discuss what to do, we need to define what we are trying to do.

With all respect to Congressman Reichert and those who share his perspective, there seems little probability that the surge will develop conditions that achieve the political <a href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/07/AR2007100701448.html?hpid=topnews&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/07/AR2007100701448.html?hpid=topnews”>reconciliation</a&gt; he seeks.

To put it another way, Iraq is not gonna be a “<a href=”http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/presiden/inaug/bush.htm&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/presiden/inaug/bush.htm”>thousand points of light</a>” anytime soon.

My goals are much more modest:

–Success would be to stop creating conditions that engender resentment towards the US.

–Success would be finding ways to help put Iraqis to work.

–Success would be working with institutions inside and outside of Government to improve the professionalism of Government; with the goal of reducing the perception that corruption is the normal way of doing business.

–Any success we might attain in “engaging” leaders and future leaders (religious, tribal, business, and political…who are often the same people) to whom we currently have no direct connection would be a greater victory that we have today.

Bill Richardson aptly <a href=”http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ifE6PiWrZ8TLkhoB3gO9je9g8B5g&#8221; mce_href=”http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ifE6PiWrZ8TLkhoB3gO9je9g8B5g”>points out</a> that when it comes to engendering resentment, the presence of US troops is making things worse, not better.

So the first thing that should be done, Congressman, is to get the troops out of the business of policing a civil war.

I suspect if we were sitting together having this conversation you would tell me that we cannot withdraw troops because of the potential for bloodshed and chaos once we leave. To which I would respond…

…we are incapable of continuing the surge past this spring. We just don’t have the troops. If the surge was required for “victory”, and we can no longer continue the surge, how are we to achieve the “more stable, self-sufficient Iraq” you were <a href=”http://www.house.gov/reichert/press06/1.10.07.2.shtml&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.house.gov/reichert/press06/1.10.07.2.shtml”>hoping for</a> in January?

…even if we had the troops to continue the surge forever, there is no political will to create the reconciliation the surge was supposed to engender. All knowledgeable observers, including <a href=”http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=2934192&#8243; mce_href=”http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=2934192″>General Petraeus</a>, agree that the only way to success of any kind is through the political process-and that, as the General says, the process needs to include our opponents as well as our friends.

…the surge does not reduce the pent up pressures that have developed between tribal and religious groups over these past 35 years, and more and more it seems evident that we are merely delaying any retribution that might occur-and losing troops to do it.

Another source of resentment: the state of the economy. As we discussed above, unemployment is the enemy, and we should more or less hire every Iraqi we can find to rebuild whatever local communities request that is reasonable.

The Defense Department has discretionary funds available for commanders, and we need to do the same thing on a much larger scale through the auspices of the State Department. Many more Provincial Reconstruction Teams resources are needed and local “Sub Teams” should be established. This will require the presence of troops for some time to come, for the purposes of security. But there’s no reason for 130,000 troops and another 150,000 or so contractors…and probably not 30,000, either.

My next idea for the Congressman will involve some looking at the neighbors for inspiration-particularly Syria and Jordan.

If we are to create a more professional governing community, we should aggressively start the process of educating those future leaders…even those who come from groups we might not today support.

Iranians and Iraqis attended US schools in the past, along with citizens from many other countries. Do these contacts matter? I would invite the Congressman to consider these words:

<blockquote>“The relationships that are formed between individuals from different countries, as part of international education programs and exchanges …foster goodwill that develops into vibrant, mutually beneficial partnerships among nations.”</blockquote>

Who said that?
Our current <a href=”http://exchanges.state.gov/education/educationusa/&#8221; mce_href=”http://exchanges.state.gov/education/educationusa/”>President</a&gt;, that’s who.

To get a sense of what impact this can have, <a href=”http://exchanges.state.gov/education/educationusa/leaders.htm&#8221; mce_href=”http://exchanges.state.gov/education/educationusa/leaders.htm”>here’s</a&gt; a list of foreign leaders who attended school in the US-and the list literally goes from Afghanistan to Zambia.

Training in the US is a good idea…but what can be accomplished locally? That’s where Jordan comes in.

The <a href=”http://www.tagcb.gju.edu.jo/Default.aspx?&lang=en&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.tagcb.gju.edu.jo/Default.aspx?&lang=en”>Talal Abu-Ghazaleh College of Business</a> in Amman, Jordan is an excellent example of what we have not yet been successful in creating in Iraq-a genuine professional school that can operate with reasonable security.

Schools like this can be created in Iraq-if we make the schools either inclusive…or we help the various groups on the ground set up schools that meet their own needs…always trying to emphasize the positive effect on Iraqi citizens from knowing how to operate and maintain the infrastructure they are building.

This needs to go both ways…until we have schools that teach Americans how to understand this part of the world, our actions are as likely to fail as they are to succeed.

The mistrust that currently exists between the US and the Iraqi communities suggests we may have to accept a limited degree of control and oversight in order to create the perception that we aren’t ramming these schools down anyone’s throats.

This is like drilling wells for African villages-you build the facilities based on what the communities and the US can arrange…but then you let the locals run the show, and you hope they like you the better for it. That process, repeated a thousand times or so, is not only cheaper than today’s combat operations…it gets better results. As a matter of fact, it’s the exact same process we are using in places as disparate as the Philippines and Angola and Somalia-and <a href=”http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/jul2007/a071907tj3.html&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/jul2007/a071907tj3.html”>Baghram</a&gt;.

The faster the US is perceived as the country that builds things for poor people the faster we will find real National Security-because those folks will have less reason to hate us.

It sounds simplistic, but if it’s already our policy in the rest of the world…why not Iraq?

Along the same lines, we need to get credit into the local economy-and the Syrians, who are attempting to adopt a “<a href=”http://inthenameofdemocracy.org/en/node/66&#8243; mce_href=”http://inthenameofdemocracy.org/en/node/66″>social market economy</a>” model, are trying to move ahead with a brand of capitalism that both connects their economy to the larger world economy and capital flows; and does it while being empathetic with Islamic economic sensibilities.

We could learn much from an Islamist approach to economic reconstruction as we try to redevelop the economy of the next-door country.

Finally: we have to get to know the people we want to persuade them to see our point of view.

Advertisers the world over know that the first step in any communications effort is to know your target market-and if there’s one thing we don’t know enough about, it’s Iraq.

We don’t speak the language, we don’t understand the culture, and we have limited personal relationships with local leaders. To make matters worse, we transfer out our troops just as soon as they get to know the local leaders, and we replace them with a new set of troops who have to develop the relationships all over again.

This is another State Department and Intelligence Community problem, and we need to have greater Defense/State Department integration so that these relationships can be developed and nurtured over longer periods of time.

To paraphrase George Patton, why take the same real estate twice?

So Congressman Reichert, there you have it: a strategy that is far more likely to work than what the President has proposed to this point, a strategy that will stop us from digging our proverbial hole deeper, and a strategy that will, in the end, save lives-ours and theirs.

And here’s the best part-this same strategy would also go a long way towards fixing our Iran problem.

 

A Fake Consultant Exclusive: The Congressman And I Discuss “The Surge” October 9, 2007

Filed under: Dave Reichert,Iraq War,WA-08 — fakeconsultant @ 6:43 am
Tags: , ,

Every once in a while, serendipity provides a gift to those who answer its call.

But like a cat, you must be always ready; and that’s why I decided to turn around and see what was going on under the tent perched on the corner of the vacant lot this afternoon.

What was going on was that Republican Congressman Dave Reichert was giving a speech. I don’t get a chance to meet the local Congressman very often, and I said to myself: “Self…what a great chance to talk about Iraq…with a Member of Congress. You should go talk to him.”

So I did.

As it turns out, he was most gracious and more than willing to talk; and we spent about 10 minutes in a back-and-forth. As Paul Harvey would say, “the rest…of the story” is continued below.

There are a couple of reasons why I was particularly interested in talking about Iraq: one is that I have a godson now involved; but even more important is that Reichert is, in effect, the Congressman from the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, as Fort Lewis, Washington is within his district (WA-08). As you may or may not know, these troops are at “the point of the spear” as far as the “surge” is concerned, and they are taking casualties in substantial numbers.

So by now I’ve parked the car, and walked up to join the crowd of about 60. The Congressman is here today to be honored for his efforts to help the City of Snoqualmie with its redevelopment efforts; and with the requisite speechifying and handshaking of dignitaries complete, it’s time for my first question…which is basically that I don’t understand how he can continue to support the surge.

Reichert began by reminding me that he was not in office at the time of the original vote. He pointed out that members of both parties felt that there was a reason for the invasion.

Interestingly, he then commented on the fact that hindsight is 20/20…but he told me that if he knew then what he knows today, he would have still voted to invade.

He told me he had just returned from a trip to Iraq with Democratic Congressman Brian Baird, and that Baird had changed his mind as a result of the trip, and now supports remaining in the country.

Reichert recounted his trip through the market, and told me that on previous trips he could not have visited the “Red Zone”. He expressed more than once his belief that violence had been dramatically reduced, as well.

He told me that he had spoken to “hundreds” of troops on the ground, and that not a single one had expressed to him that we should get out because the war was serving no purpose.

He recalled a meeting with Jane Harmon, amongst others; and the problem with the Democratic stance on the war, as he sees it, is that the Democrats offer no alternative plan-or at least could not offer one when he confronted Harmon and the others about this issue at that meeting.

Taking a moment to offer a second question, I asked Reichert if the violence might be reduced in Baghdad these days because we are now at the end of a process of ethnic cleansing. I reminded him that Sunni and Shi’a are separated now more than ever before in the city. I pointed out that Sunni enclaves are now surrounded by blast walls, and that the Shi’a use the checkpoints as locations for targeting Sunni to be attacked if they enter Shi’a territory.

The Congressman told me I am mistaken regarding these issues. He informed me that ethnic cleansing is not an issue. In fact, he reports the local police chief he spoke with (who happens to be Shi’a-I asked), is married to a Sunni woman, and that there are no problems whatsoever. He further challenged my sources regarding this sort of information.

He also reports that Shi’a and Sunni death squads were targeting each other, but that they represent a small minority of the residents of these communities, and that this problem is nothing about which we should be concerned.

He then told me that he is the Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Committee, and as a result he has access to “Top Secret information” that flows from a source at a higher level than mine.

A most interesting moment occurred when he told me that we have to listen to the Generals to decide when to get out of Iraq. I asked him if it wasn’t actually Congress’ job to tell the Generals when to fight wars and when to end them. He said it was not. I then asked him if he believed in the concept of civilian control of the military.

He responded that he did not want me to put words in his mouth; that he was basically trying to say that we don’t want 435 more Generals micromanaging the war.

Although he spent a considerable time talking to me, at one point he looked at me and said “I can see I’m just wasting my time here…” in a reference to his inability to sway me to his point of view. Nonetheless, we continued to engage until his “handler” gently played “bad cop” and led him away.

So what did we learn?

The Congressman seeks succor in the fact that violence is reduced, he does not acknowledge that there are ethnic cleansing problems, now or in the past, and he tells us he is of the belief that we are on the right track.

What he did not like was the question of civilian control over the military. He was far more comfortable with the concept that we should not question our Generals.

What he did not mention was any element of the political situation…suggesting there is not much he wants to highlight in that regard, particularly as it relates to the problems of internal Governmental struggle and its connection to the inability to successfully “nation build”.

Ironically, on the day we were speaking, Iraq’s Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister was announcing that “there will be no reconciliation…”

The question I forgot to ask?

In an effort to improve the conditions faced by our troops back home, I have proposed that Members of Congress get their health care from VA and military facilities. I forgot to ask the Congressman how he might view such a proposal.

In any event, that’s the story for today: we meet a Member of Congress, we have a conversation, and we find that, although he was happy to spend the time, we still find ourselves very far apart on some very basic issues.