"So, Jane," said a co-worker, "now that you've been to Iraq, what do you think is the solution to all the problems over there?" Good question. Nobody else has been able to figure it out so how do you expect ME to come up with an answer? But being the naive and hopeful (and nosey and interferring) person that I am, I'm going to give it a try anyway.
The absolute first thing we must do -- bar none -- is to make a statement to ourselves, our troops, the rest of the world and the people of Iraq that we are serious about helping to put that poor be-nighted country back together again (minus of course a million or so corpses and hecka lot of their infrastructure and a LOT of their oil). And the best way to demonstrate that we are serious about this is to throw Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in jail.
Until those three criminals have been apprehended, punished and brought to justice for what they did to Iraq, no one is ever going to take America seriously again. "Oops. We're sorry. It was all a mistake" just isn't going to cut it. The world wants to know -- just how sorry ARE we? Sorry enough to punish the "evil-doers" who unleashed Shock and Awe? Or are we just mouthing the words? A public trial and some jail-time (they can even come to the new jail where I work. I totally recommend it!) would be an excellent good-faith gesture for us to make at this time.
Next, America needs to deal with Iraq's oil money. This "war" was not about the oil? Prove it. Give something back. If Exxon, Halliburton, Bush, etc. gave at least $15,000 to every man, woman and child in Iraq (and $200,000 to the families of every American soldier who has died), that just might do it.
I've seen abject poverty in Iraq -- even in the Green Zone -- like you wouldn't believe. I've seen dirt-poor farmers tending their crops in the same way they did 2000 years ago and people living 15 to a room the size of your kitchen and working 12-hour shifts for slave wages. In a country as oil-rich as that? Don't make me laugh.
Then I'd recommend establishing a neighborhood watch. And not only in East Baghdad and Sadr City but everywhere else in the Middle East 'hood. I'd recruit Syria, Jordan, the Saudis and Turkey -- and, yes, even Iran. Especially Iran. It's their neighborhood. Not ours. And I'd light a fire under all those people who attended the Cairo conferences too. "Get out your flashlights and walkie-talkies, guys! It's your watch. It's your shift. Let's get this done before the crime level goes up any higher and the property values go down." And I'd also send an RSVP to Russia, China, the EU and the US. "You can come along, but only if you keep your mouths shut -- and bring the refreshments."
That's what I'd do. You got any better ideas? Fine. But SOMETHING needs to be done -- before the chaos there spreads to the rest of the world. I do NOT want the kind of chaos that Bush has brought to the Middle East to arrive here in Berkeley. No no no.
PS: Some kind soul has just offered to front me plane fare back to Iraq and now I'm just waiting for my approval from CentCom Baghdad to come through. "And where would you like to embed, Jane?" they asked me.
"In the Red Zone!"
PPS: Even as we speak, I'm typing up my book on Iraq and shopping around for a publisher. Interested? Write me back! Attached is a draft of what I have typed so far. But it won't be finished until I complete the last chapter, which will take place IN THE RED ZONE!
And here is some documentation of my 15 minutes of fame as "the blogging grandmother from Berkeley" who went off to Iraq. And I'd trade every second of that 15 minutes in a heartbeat if it would somehow bring peace to Afghanistan, Palestine, Darfur and Iraq.
PPPS: Here are two very good sources for news from Iraq, ones that most people may not know about: The Iraq Slogger at http://www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/post/2633/New_Oliver_Stone_Ad_Urges_Withdrawal and Stars & Stripes at http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=45608.