People laugh when I tell them that my favorite way out of the Iraq quagmire is to offer a bribe of $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars) to every member of the Iraqi parliament. Perhaps a few of these duly elected public servants might decide that they wanted to become hugely wealthy overnight -- not to imply that that they might be greedy enough or corrupt enough to take a bribe, just to wonder whether they may have learned about the glories of democracy from the example of some of our own fine legislators, such as "Duke" Cunningham and Tom DeLay. What would we be bribing them to do? To ask the coalition forces, politely and diplomatically, to go home.
You may recall that L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, said on May 13, 2004, "If the provisional government asks us to leave we will leave Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ obviously we don't stay in countries where we're not welcome." This is the same Mr. Bremer who said, "We're going to be on the ground in Iraq Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ for years. We're going to be running a colony almost." But that is another story.
Let us examine the advantages of the bribery method: The total amount of money this would cost is equal to a few weeks' worth of continued war, so the savings would be enormous. We would all be put out of our misery — all except the troops who were killed or damaged, their friends and families, and an unknown number of Iraqis. The news media would have a story so compelling that it could compete, at least for a few hours, with reports about famed young women and their wacky companions — not to imply that anyone in the media prizes the ratings they score from recounting tawdry tales more than they cherish their journalistic integrity. Anti-war activists would at last have the peace we have so desperately sought, plus plenty of bragging rights and a bit of good karma as well. The troops would come home. Americans of every political persuasion could park this whole embarrassing Iraq nightmare in the forgotten recesses of our collective memory and go on with our lives, except of course during times when we experience bouts of the blowback that is almost certain to come our way.
Everyone in Washington would save face — not to imply that anyone in Washington would permit additional death and destruction to continue for the sake of their ability to save face, or to enhance the re-election prospects of themselves and their party, or to increase their personal power, or to stockpile campaign contributions, or for any other motive that might be characterized as ignoble. Surely our well-intentioned and virtuous politicians would have had those troops home yesterday if it weren't for Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ for what, exactly? If the Iraqi parliament were to ask us to leave, Washington officials would no longer be burdened with the task of inventing plausible answers to such pesky questions.
Iraqis would get their country back, at least what is left of it, plus massive doses of compensation. The United States can never fully make up for what was done to them, but we can vastly improve the lives of those Iraqis who managed to survive. We would be an immoral nation if we failed to do that, and everyone knows how deeply congress cares about morality.
This scheme may not be perfect, but it covers more of the variables than any other plan I know. It may be untested and purely hypothetical, but that never stopped the neocons so why should it stop others?
Now we learn that this may not be so hypothetical after all. Not the bribery part, which is of course beneath the dignity of the good people in Washington and Baghdad, but the part about their asking us to evacuate the premises sooner rather than later. More than half of the members of Iraq's parliament, one hundred and forty-four of them to be exact, just signed a draft law calling for a timetable for troop withdrawal, a cap on the number of armed forces in the country, and a constraint on the Iraqi government's ability to seek renewal of the United Nations authorization for the occupation.
Let's be clear about what has happened. The coalition forces brought democracy, or some warped semblance thereof, to Iraq. The Iraqi people then elected legislators who as individuals have been contentious and as a group have been dysfunctional. Until now. They have finally become so incensed that they are willing to put aside their squabbling long enough to take steps toward ridding themselves of the foreign boots on their soil.
And most of our mainstream media have ignored this story or buried it on page 12. .
After you recover from thinking through the implications of that, read about Afghanistan's government taking preliminary steps toward ridding their country of infidel invaders, a story that was even more underreported.
Both of these wars are lost. The only question now is whether the United States will control the end game and wind them down in a smart way or whether we will suffer the consequences of staying the stupid course.
Pat Gerber (ppaattgg ([at]) yahoo ([dot]) com) is a San Francisco editor, cartoonist, and peace activist.