Bob's Links and Rants

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

WKRP in Iraq

I used to enjoy watching the sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati." One of the most memorable episodes was the one about Thanksgiving. Mr. Carlson, the bumbling station owner, decides to try running a promotion himself, without the help of his more competent station manager Andy Travis. He tells the station staff to go on location in downtown Cincinnati on Thanksgiving for a live report. They all watch and report as a plane flies overhead towing a WKRP banner. They see objects falling out of the plane, too small and fast to be skydivers. Suddenly, one hits the ground. Newsman Les Nessman says "Oh my god, they're turkeys!" Soon dead turkeys are littered all over downtown Cincinnati, courtesy of and covered live by station WKRP. Carlson thought that turkeys could fly and figured he was providing free Thanksgiving turkeys to the people of Cincinnati.

Somehow I see that as a metaphor for the war in Iraq. I don't mean to imply that Iraqis are turkeys in the frequently-used pejorative sense. It's just that, like the turkeys, they've been removed from the relative (if temporary) security they had (on the farm or in Saddam's Iraq) and been tossed to the winds and asked to do the impossible. Today, the NY Times is blaming the turkeys:
If Iraq can still be saved from its consuming hatreds, at least some of these major Shiite leaders will have to rise to the moment and abruptly change their ways. Kurdish leaders can help by pledging to withhold their support for Mr. Jaafari's renomination unless he agrees to a broadly representative national government. And Sunni leaders will have to embrace and take part in such a government, accepting the fact that they are a minority in the population and must get used to playing a secondary, though still significant, role.

If civil war broke out, innocent Shiite and Sunni civilians would suffer first, but the repercussions could spread far beyond Iraq's borders. The Shiite south would be further propelled into the political orbit of Iran, and Kurds in the north would claim independence, probably drawing in Turkey. The oil-free western and central Sunni area would be left impoverished, a potential no man's land that could become a home base for terrorists operating around the globe.

Iraq's elected leaders can still save their country. They must now prove that they want to. Time is rapidly running out.
Considering the role that the NY Times played in helping Carlson push the turkeys out of the plane, it seems pretty crass for the paper to be telling them to fly now. They can't fly. And flying above them telling them to until the plane's fuel runs out isn't going to help. (That's my metaphorical way of saying that we still should bring the troops home. Their presence in Iraq never has been and never could be part of the solution to Iraq's problems, because for three years it has been Iraq's biggest problem. The part about the plane's fuel running out is less metaphorical and more literal.)