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Endless Iraq Whack-a-Mole

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: April 24, 2008 7:13 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.
"I want to cut off the finger I voted with."

Ayad Hassan heaps scorn on the Iraqi government that he cast a ballot for two years ago. Hassan finally got out of Sadr City three weeks ago after being pinned down in his house for days while renewed open warfare again devastated his neighborhood.

"For the past three weeks, we have been placed in a prison, this whole city. We cannot go out. We are prisoners."

Student Mustafa Anwar has had it with the dysfunctional Iraqi government and warring parties.

"We don't have any good politicians to protect us.

Maliki isn't good and neither is Sadr. No one serves the interest of the Iraqi people."

There's no end in sight. It seems that the Iraq war has devolved into something like the "Whack-a-Mole"
game you see at Chuck E Cheese. The moles keep popping out of holes, and the objective is to smack 'em back down with your mallet before even more pop up. Smack, smack; you knock 'em down ... but they keep popping up out of new holes.

You can't actually defeat the moles and win the game in Whack-a-Mole. ... "Victory" is defined as whacking more moles in the current round than you did in the last. You pay more money, you whack the moles. You whack more moles every round, but they never stop popping up. You keep whacking until you either run out of quarters and quit or get unglued at the game and trash the whole damnable machine.

Over the past three weeks, some 400 Iraqis were killed and some 1,300 were wounded in the latest "Whack an Insurgent" flare-up in Iraq. Sadr City was again bombed to ruins. U.S. losses in Iraq now total 4,039 troops, having increased by 40 since the start of this recent Sadr City round. We're paying a steep price to stay in this insurgent-whacking game.

There's a new fear haunting Iraqi politicians and civilians these days, and it's spoken of in increasing frequency. That is, that Iraq may become the "New Somalia" - that warring factions may splinter and fight turf wars indefinitely, taking what's left of the whacked-up country into a never-ending bloody hole.

Iraq as a permanent Whack-a-Mole nation. Five long years we've been at this - and still the insurgent moles pop up, and we whack ‘em back down. The notion of "winning" has simply become killing insurgents as fast as they pop up. The war has lost its mission and ending point. We play now until we run out of money or decide to trash the whole damnable machine.

We used to have a finite goal - to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction, be greeted by cheering crowds with flowers, set up a willing democracy - and get out. That mission was to take six weeks or six months, and be over. But as miscalculation built on miscalculation, our commander in chief asked for more and more time and more and more quarters for his war machine. Today, Gen. Petraeus says there's no finite conclusion in sight. "Whack Iraq" has become a game with no particular end.

It's interesting how America was lulled into acceptance of endless war. Had we been told from the start, "five years and a trillion dollars," few would have agreed to play. But instead, we were led on little by little, repeatedly promised "victory is at hand" - if only we stay the course and throw in more quarters. is running an interesting video that replays how America was seduced into acceptance of open-ended war.

It goes like this:
Question: "How do you get to McCain's ‘100 years in Iraq'"? Answer: "Six months at a time."

Feb. 7, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld: "It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

Sept. 10, 2003, John McCain: "The next three to six months will be critical."

May 18, 2004, George Bush: "Our efforts are approaching a crucial moment."

Dec. 4, 2005, John McCain: "We will probably see significant progress in the next six months to a year."

Nov. 12, 2006, John McCain: "(We) lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months."

May 25, 2007, George Bush: "This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy."

April 7, 2008, Washington Times: "Petraeus is expected to call for halting troop reductions ... for six months."

April 8, 2008, John McCain: "... Success is within reach."

The whole affair has turns out to be anything but that nicely packaged, quick and easy "mission accomplished" war that George Bush signed us all up for. Long gone are the tidy "missions accomplished." Instead, after five draining years, ordinary Iraqis threaten to cut off the fingers they voted with, while American soldiers continue dying just to keep the lid on the Pandora's box Bush pried open. And the very worst - we're compelled to continue fighting and dying only to avoid the humiliation of quitting a war that should have never been waged and that we can no longer afford. And so, we're stuck in an endless cycle of Whack Iraq.

Thank goodness, in nine months sanity and responsibility will be restored, Bush will be unplugged, and Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will end this previously unending game. In time, like Vietnam, most Americans will conveniently forget the suffering we endured and the suffering we caused.

But while we may forget the pain, America should never forget and never forgive George Bush for having tricked Iraq and the U.S. into such a wretched, endless mess. While Americans are unlikely to cut off their voting fingers, most would certainly take back their votes in 2000 and 2004 that set this debacle in motion. We have a chance for positive change this year. Let's be sure to take it.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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