Tuesday, March 17, 2009

At Least This President Reads

"You ought to teach a course."

That's what my wife said when I brought home my latest book on Afghanistan, to add to a pile of books on how colorful British imperialists carved up South Asia, Africa and the Middle East to suit their views on how the world ought to look.

They drew lines in the sand around a bunch of tribes and invented Iraq after the First World War, extracting oil, fighting insurgents and leaving a fake government in place. In Afghanistan they fought several wars against implacable mountain peoples, without even any oil to gain, and lost bloodily, leaving the lessons of war in that country to be relearned by the Soviets and now the U.S.

No book reviews here. All I have to offer is one line from my latest book, "The Unforgiving Minute," by Greg Mullaney, a young Army officer (now advising Obama) who served in Afghanistan. Before being deployed he saw a list of instructions on how to prepare posted by a veteran. One piece of advice:

"Go to the worst crime-infested place you can find wearing a flak jacket and Kevlar helmet. Set up a tent in a vacant lot. Announce to the residents that you're there to help them."

No, I'm not the one to teach the course. But seven or eight years ago the reading list was already there, the lessons of history ready to be absorbed. Too bad the deciders thought they knew it all.

Monday, March 09, 2009

It Was Only A Movie

Me, I miss George W. Bush. Sort of.

Conservatives are trying as hard as they can to forget Bush and his era. Now it's Obama's war, Obama's recession, Obama's stock market. Forgetting that O inherited this stuff from W is a great bit of brain work, well worthy of a party whose leaders include a radio-enabled drug addict and two children, Bobby Jindal and that eighth-grade prodigy from Georgia.

How much do I miss W? I rented Oliver Stone's movie "W."

There they all were, Cheney, Condi, Wolfie and the drunken Yalie who later got sober and tore up a few countries, including this one, worse than he ever did any bar or frat house. Josh Brolin was magnetic in a way the subject of his portrayal never was. I didn't even mind listening to him.

In the bad old days, you could watch small doses of Bush on TV or read the paper and enjoy the simple pleasures of hate and fear. You could make fun of Bush and call him names (although I can't remember any worse than "Bush"), much the way Fox News loves calling Obama a socialist while he tries to bail out Wall Street banks.

Now I can't read the paper anymore. I hate to see my guy taking a beating on every front, from Afghanistan to A.I.G. By the way, what do those two have in common? They can't be saved. How are they different? We own 80 percent of A.I.G., and the Taliban has 80 percent of Afghanistan.

I hate to see Fox News having so much fun, knocking a president and willfully forgetting their old favorite who preceded him, and drove my IRA into a ditch. Of course, the only Fox News I watch is on the Stewart and Colbert shows, because it's even funnier that way.

So I rented the movie, even though it runs two hours and twenty-nine minutes, which I think was the total time Bush served in the White House, minus vacations.

An hour and a half into the movie, the computer crashed like Merrill Lynch. The DVD was scratched, dirty or choked on a pretzel. I took it back to the video store and didn't ask for a replacement.

I know how it came out. And I can barely afford the DVD rentals.