June 28, 2007

A Bargain's a Bargain

Talk of benchmarks for the Iraqi government by US politicians or the media is often accompanied by the curious phrase that Iraqis must "hold up their end of the bargain." Every time I hear this phrase I want to smack someone. These kind of statements are the moral equivalent of saying a woman deserves to be raped because she is attractive. There was never any dialog or bargain between the US government and the Iraqi people. Are the people who talk about sharing responsibility for the state of Iraq imagining this conversation:

(The Scene: Late 2002, Halls of Justice)
All Iraqis: Excuse me sir, but you've got to help us.

US Government: Whatever do you mean?

All Iraqis: Our country is magically controlled by a brutal dictator that not a single one of us supports. We're desperate to remove him but too lazy to do it ourselves. If only the magic spell could be broken by simply removing this one person.

US Government: Sounds bad but what are we supposed to do about.

All Iraqis: Invade our country at once. It's the only way.

US Government: I don't know. The whole thing sounds dubious and could be pretty risky for us. For one thing, invading your country will hurt our standing with the rest of the world. It will hurt us financially and militarily. I mean, think about it. Unilateral aggression against a sovereign country that is no threat to us goes against everything we stand for. Not to mention its blatant illegality and...

All Iraqis: We don't care. We demand that you do this. In exchange, we'll meet any demands you might have of us. I think that would be a fair bargain.

US Government: Fine. We'll do it but you'll have to meet a number of arbitrary benchmarks that we will set in the future otherwise the deal's off. It's the least you can do.

All Iraqis: We agree and we thank you. You'll be greeted as liberators for the decade or more that we demand you stay.

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