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(DV) Random: The Light at the End of the Tunnel







The Last Throes
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
by Jack Random
June 28, 2005

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“I think they’re in the last throes of the insurgency.” 

 -- Vice President Dick Cheney

When Dick Cheney’s optimistic assessment of the war in Iraq was greeted with derision, he responded by suggesting that his critics needed to consult a dictionary on the meaning of the word “throes.”

Throes: 1. Pangs, spasms. 2. A hard or painful struggle.

The vice president's problem is that his critics were not responding to the meaning of the word “throes” but to the adjective preceding it.

Last:  Final, having no successor; after all others in time or order.

No one disputes that there will be violent upheaval in the days and weeks ahead. A day without eruptions of violence in Baghdad, Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah or anywhere else where American troops are engaged, would be shocking indeed.  Only yesterday, the media reports dozens dead from suicide attacks in Mosul while mortar attacks in Baghdad claim another eight lives, including the Baghdad Chief of Police, and the official death toll for American soldiers climbed another notch.

The vice president is either hopelessly naïve or deceitful beyond belief.  This from the same man who brought us “We will be greeted as liberators” and “We know where the weapons of mass destruction are” and “Saddam is in league with Al Qaeda” and “We have to fight there so we won’t have to fight them here.”

A day in the life of a Baghdad resident is filled with gridlock, triggered by waves of violence and counter violence, as Operation Lightning gives way to Operation Thunder, as bombings, suicide attacks, assassinations and executions kill countless innocents and not so innocents alike.  Life goes on or it does not and the last throes of a Christian fundamentalist crusade can last a thousand years.  In a war zone, mourning is brief and constant.

The last (as in “most recent”) time we were referred to the dictionary it was that master of circumlocution, Secretary of Defense Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld, directing us to look up the meaning of the word “slog”.  I did.  It has two meanings. One is to hit hard and the other is to plod as in to proceed slowly and tediously. Apparently, the Secretary meant that we were going to hit the insurgency hard, not that we were facing a protracted struggle against a determined enemy.

As our soldiers come home in boxes, guarded from media coverage, are we supposed to take comfort that the leaders of this war are expert in parsing words? Are we supposed to be impressed, if not by their war strategy, then by their vocabularies?

Neither the soldiers nor the Iraqi people are comforted by the optimistic views of American politicians or Generals. They have learned to recognize a smokescreen and simply walk away.

General John Abizaid suggests on CNN that we are at the 21st mile of a marathon. He insists we are fighting with the Iraqis, not against them.  Place yourself in the boots of an Iraqi soldier. How did you arrive at this place? There are no jobs in Iraq but security.  Police are even more vulnerable than soldiers.  Who is the enemy? Will you storm the homes in a Baghdad neighborhood on the orders of an American commander?  Will you fight against the insurgents? Little wonder that so few Iraqi soldiers are considered capable of fighting without American “support.” In this context, “We’ve got your back” has an entirely different meaning and one that does not require reference to a dictionary.  If you ask them before the embedded cameras, they will give the words the Americans want to hear but they, along with all of Iraq, are praying for the occupiers to leave.

“I would say we have been relatively successful in reducing the violence in Baghdad,” says Major General William Webster. Relative to what: the Gaza strip?

“It seems we are reaching a point of no return,” says Abed Qadeer, a Baghdad resident.

“The insurgency is in its last throes.” Look it up in the dictionary.

The president goes on the road to exploit his bully pulpit, to spend his political capital, to practice the fine art of persuasion. No one -- not even Karl Rove -- has the heart to confide the truth.  He is a lame duck. He has no pulpit. His capital is spent. His account (like the nation’s) is beyond empty and his art is beyond lost.

I am once again reminded of the former opposition leader to Tony Blair in old Britannia, who ended every round of questioning in the House of Commons with “and nobody believes a word you say.”

There is no need to look it up in the dictionary. We are not losing the war; we have lost it. Any member of Congress who does not join the cry for immediate withdrawal (even as we negotiate with the insurgent leaders) must feel the pangs of popular uprising. You are in the last throes of your reign.  We must not allow the party of opposition to offer up a softer version of pro-war.  If the occupation is not over by the midterm elections, there is only one issue and it is not social security.

As the weeks roll by and the body counts rise, the last throes seem more and more like the light at the end of the tunnel and the light at the end of the tunnel appears more and more like a desert mirage.  Iraq is Vietnam. Look it up in the history books.

Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others. Visit his website:

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* Recall the Governator
* The Gates of Hell: Occupied Iraq
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* No Citizen Left Behind
* A Marine Comes Home: The Untold Story of War
* The Compassionate Leader -- In a Time of Crisis
* In Defense of Barry Bonds
* Defending Dan? Rather Not
* David Went to Canada...& Johnny Got His Gun