Just a Question or Two…

Stuart BowenOn Tuesday night I paid a visit to 1333 H Street here in Washington, DC for what I thought would be an interesting debate over reconstruction issues in Iraq, an event held by the National Security Network.

Inspector General Stuart Bowen was present and delivered an interesting opening statement laying out his plans for fixing bureaucracy and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke proudly of the $53 Billion (of our tax dollars) that is being spent on reconstruction and the efforts the United States puts in “protecting its interests abroad.”

Why does the United States need interests abroad? It seems as if Mr. Bowen, a residue of the Bush Administration, is only promulgating a message of perpetual war, especially when he laid out his plans for reconstruction. 

His message to the very small audience was a lesson learned. After the Clinton Administration the United States had to put more effort in nation building.

The result? Mr. Bowen suggested a “permanent approach” to solving nation building. He wanted to combine all bureaucracies together in the Department of Defense under “one institution and one leadership” in the executive branch that will “need more money and funds” to integrate “offensive, defensive, and stabilization strategies” in one.

This is an individual of whom we, the people, pay a good amount of tax dollars to keep employed and doing his job correctly. What on earth has government come to? What he was essentially arguing for was a complete and utter centralization of government and foreign policy power resting entirely in the President’s hands. Additionally, why does the government need an “offensive strategy” and offensive reconstruction effort? I’m not quite sure either but if I was the leader of any other foreign country, I would see this as a threat, a sleeping dragon in a straightjacket that will burn itself to flames if it has to for the sake of what Mr. Bowen called, “national security.”

The absurdity continued when he wanted to bring USAID and its many offices under one strategy. He wanted to build a “civil-military culture” to lead Reconstruction in Iraq.

So, let me get this straight…

I pay taxes, and lots of them, to support USAID, whose sole purpose is to interfere with the internal development of other countries (without my consent, mind you), and now you want to add a “civil-military culture” to dictate public policy in Iraq after we’ve used that same military to bomb, occupy, anger, destroy, prostitute, dismantle, and corrupt the very culture we’ve victimized?

No, I want no part of it.

And then there was the Q&A which I vehemently wanted to be a part of because at this point, I was rightfully enraged. People asked certain questions about the legitimacy this type of bureaucracy would have. The moderator, Barbara Slavin, even asked Mr. Bowen how much this project would cost with a perky smile on her face and the answer was a mumbled, “I take no part in that or that kind of stuff.” But of course, just like many people believe, we need to “respect authority and let it do its job,” right?

After some people showed distaste to Mr. Bowen’s proposal, it was my turn to ask a question; I asked two. The first was “In regards to reconstruction, what efforts have we been putting in actually understanding Iraqi culture and seeing what the people want in order to ultimately return to them their sovereignty?” And the second was, “If this institution is to be under ‘one leadership,’ what happens if that leadership is flawed?” I thought these were reasonable questions to ask, considering that I pay taxes to have that man keep his job.

Given that these questions were somewhat addressed during the speeches, I felt it necessary to stress them once more because I, as any citizen in this fantastic Republic, want a straight answer. When previously asked about the leadership, Mr. Bowen addressed the leadership as a “personality” and how the leadership would be determined by “personality.” Well, I don’t know about you but I quite frankly don’t care about personality. George Bush had a great personality, but was his policy sound? I can even bet Joseph Stalin had an exquisite personality in the Politburo, playing Russian Roulette with his best buddies, but was he really all there in his head?

There’s a fundamental difference between personality and flawed leadership. What I wanted to know was if there would be criteria determining an effective leadership and whether or not people (both Iraqi and American) have a say in what the leadership should look like. There were several ways the question could have been properly answered.

But what was the answer I got?

Nothing.

The audience laughed because they knew the questions I posed were “too difficult” to answer. Barbara Slavin, the moderator chuckled with her fake smile and pasty white personality and completely ignored me, saying, “Let’s take two more questions.” Mr. Bowen, however, was jotting notes, ready to answer me, but heaven forbid we ask tough questions to our people in unelected offices; Ms. Slavin had to evade quickly.

What was so wrong with my questions? Nothing. They struck the heart of the issues at hand. What are we, the West, doing over there in the Middle East? There’s a continuous clash of cultures because neither side fully comprehends the culture of the other. We see Iraqis as “silly Arabs” who need to be democratized while Middle Easterners see the West as an enormous industrial-military complex because that is all they have been privy to for the past 60 years, given our flawed foreign policy through mandates, occupation, and the “propping of repressive regimes,” to quote Dr. Ron Paul.

I found it quite offensive how my questions were evaded and ignored. I am a tax-paying citizen asking my employee for a fruitful, straightforward answer, but instead I received no answer. If this was the free market, I would have had him fired. Rather, this is government and government hates competition, especially when it comes in the form of ideas.

We haven’t seen the end of Iraq or the warfare-welfare state. These people in office want it to drag on forever because it’s the only thing that keeps them employed. The only way we can change the system is if we seek to legally and rightfully infiltrate it and transform it ourselves. Until then, power is not with the people. 

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