Second Thought: Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Stop or We’ll Pay You

Either own up to the real nature of the surge, or send us all checks.


Every day, John McCain chastises Barack Obama for his original stance on the troop surge in Iraq. McCain says Obama said the surge wouldn’t work and was bald-faced wrong. Obama says the surge has been effective, but there were other factors involved in the reduction in violence that’s been seen.
What’s suspicious about Obama’s response is that it trusts the American people to ponder those other factors. He could come right out and enumerate them, and McCain and even Gen. David Petraeus would have egg on their faces. The other factors are not a secret; they’re simply embarrassing, because they expose the U.S. strategy to ridicule and pessimism.
I commend Obama for taking the high ground, but there’s not enough room for all of us in the thin air, and I think it’s time we spoke frankly about the Bush administration’s most effective secret weapon.
All you need to know about the “surge” is that it should have been called the “splurge.” Sure, we sent 30,000 extra troops to Iraq, but during the first six months of the operation, violence went up, not down. As Army Col. Douglas MacGregor (Ret.) put it, “Up until that point, the surge was simply providing more targets for the insurgents to shoot at.”
What changed? Under extreme pressure to produce results and fill fewer body bags, Petraeus cut deals with armies of enemy combatants. These deals, part of what’s called the Concerned Local Citizens program, simply pay insurgents to become temporary allies of the U.S. military. Approximately 70,000 former enemy combatants are now paid to play nice, and all it costs us is $700,000 a day.
That’s right. For $255 million a year, 70,000 IED-planting, sniper-firing,roadside-booby-trapping insurgents will be our friends, and the death toll will drop, and we can pat ourselves on the back because the “surge” is working — or at least getting Bush some favorable press.
Conservatives and neocons are notorious for their contempt toward hand-outs. As they strut around golf courses and hunting lodges, martinis in hand, they grandly extol the merits of pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps. These days, however, they’re polishing the boots and wallets of our enemies to keep the U.S. from looking like it’s falling over its own bootstraps.
Now I’m usually loath to get behind any Republican ideas, but I like this one. It’s an excellent flip-flop. In fact, I recommend we apply it to more of our problems.
So far this year, our federal, state, and local governments have spent $56 billion on the War on Drugs and arrested just over one million drug law offenders. That amounts to $56,000 per offender, not including long-term incarceration costs. Why not pay offenders to clean up their acts? A few years of college and a pimpin’ new ride for every one of them would cost less than 56 large. And our courtrooms and prisons would be less crowded.
Instead of vilifying, chasing down, and prosecuting illegal immigrants, why not just pay them to stay home? Mexicans abroad sent $23 billion home in 2006, and even with the housing market slump and the American economy flailing, they’ll probably send at least $15 billion home this year. I say double their 2006 homeward remittances and start mailing checks to their residences in Mexico. It would be a lot cheaper than stationing troops on our border and building huge, useless walls across fields and wildlife refuges.
Each Iraqi insurgent we’re paying off will receive $3,640 this year (plus bragging and laughing-at-us rights). That’s six times more than each of us received in George W. Bush’s measly economic stimulus package. I think we’re being ripped off.
We’re stateside “Concerned Local Citizens,” and if Bush and McCain want us to keep voting Republican, pledging allegiance to ExxonMobil, condemning homosexuality, and comparing Obama with Nazis, they’d better ante up.
The Bush administration is clear and obscene proof that money makes the world go ’round, but they’re thinking too small. It’s time to spread the wealth. If they want us to smile and sit idly by while they continue to screw everything up, the least they could do is to compensate us accordingly.
It would make their war against us go much more smoothly.

E. R. Bills is a Fort Worth area freelance writer.

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