December 19th, 2006

Bush Leans Toward “Surge”; Iraqi Police Respond by Picking Noses With US-Made Equipment. No Kidding. Really.

by Philip Baruth

We live in genuinely absurd times, my friends.

George W. Bush, responding to a midterm clarion call for change in his Iraq policy, is now looking to beef up US presence in Iraq by as much as 30,000 troops.

bush, in denialTheir core mission: to stand up Iraqi troops and police, and secure Baghdad.

In other words, to accomplish precisely what we’ve been unable to accomplish thus far, by going at it in exactly the same fashion.

And if you want to know why it hasn’t worked thus far, look no further than a truly, phenomenally enlightening Boston Globe run-down of last week. We meant to post it then, but the urge to save a good nose-picking story is strong.

The Globe on Iraqi reaction to the latest US attempts to bolster their infrastructure:

“In February, US military headquarters in Baghdad introduced a computer tool to help Carter and his team assess Iraqi police stations.

“If the Police Station Management Report was a model for anything, however, it was the cumbersome US bureaucracy. It was a 55-page Excel spreadsheet with a total of 794 questions to measure police readiness.

“The Iraqis were noticeably annoyed.

“‘The acting police chief at one station went so far as to start picking his nose with his radio antenna to show his boredom or displeasure,’ Carter wrote.

“But when Carter included the anecdote in an official report, his commanders rebuked him.

“‘It’s unclear how high the nose-picking story actually went; it might have made it all the way into the dispatches which get sent back to Washington,’ Carter wrote. ‘What I do know is that I got a very blunt phone call from the brigade operations officer.’”

They pick their noses in our general direction, is what it boils down to, my friends. And who wouldn’t?

But imagine being a 24-year-old recruit from Newark who just wanted some money for college, and you get shipped to Tikrit, and they stick you in a down-armored humvee and they ship you to some provincial Iraqi police training site, and you show a 45-year-old Iraqi how to navigate his new Excel spreadsheet, and he takes the antenna of the radio your unit provided him, and he jams it up his nose at you.

And then you have to get back into your down-armored humvee and drive back to base, dodging IEDs, and email your kids good-night because they’ve stop-lossed you into the middle of next year, and you may, in fact, never get home at all.

Funny? Well, not so much.

Bush, dithering on Iraq