As I write this, the McCain campaign is trying to maneuver Barack Obama into going to Iraq, with or without John McCain.
It is not a good idea. It is offered in bad faith.
If Obama went, he would be at the mercy of the Bush propaganda machine, as McCain has been every time he has gone.
If Obama went, he would be shown a Potemkin Iraq, and a surge that he would be told is working.
But he would find not much else working in the land where agriculture, cities, water systems, writing and libraries began four millennia ago: quality and quantity of electricity, water, medical care, education, are abysmally below what they were before the war that McCain cheerled and Obama condemned.
For now, I suggest that Obama point out that McCain has traveled a number of times to Iraq and always reported that the situation was improving even as it manifestly deteriorated into what can only be roughly called Hell: a million Iraqis killed (four percent of the population) and two million Iraqis (eight percent of the population) made refugees because of Bush's war.
You don't learn much new by staying in the Green Zone talking to PR flacks and venturing out to an open-air market with half the army protecting you.
We have to devise new ways of looking at this tragic occupation.
Senator Obama and other critics of the war have said that the United States has "no good options" in Iraq, but this phrase opens a chance for a new way of defining options, and a way out.
In fact, there are good options, morally good ones, that is.
The war was at best a tragic blunder by the Bush administration. At worst it was a knowing attempt to control the natural resources of the Persian Gulf for the 21st century.
Let us break up the world into two groups -- (1) the Bush coup group and its supporters and (2) everybody else.
The first group, a small number of people (the Bush coup group: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz et al.), organizations (the right-wing think tanks, Fox News), and corporations (Halliburton, Blackwater), were in on the making of the war and profited from its continuation. The giant oil corporations benefited from a 500 percent rise in energy prices in the seven years of Bush 43.
The second group was damaged in one way or another by the war. This second group--some 6.5 billion people, including most U.S. citizens -- must make the first group pay for its incompetence, lies, and cruelty.
If we are lucky, there will be an Obama administration in January 2009.
Already Obama is saying that as president he would do all he could to reverse whatever Bush has done that is unconstitutional.
If I were President Obama, I would apologize to the people of Iraq and the rest of the world (including the United States) for Bush's lies and crimes, as President Clinton apologized to the people of Africa for slavery.
If I were President Obama, I would make sure that the Bush gang spends the rest of their lives in courts and behind bars.
If I were President Obama, I would do whatever it took to make the situation right.
I would create a fund to make things right.
I would set aside $50,000 each to the families of every person -- Iraqi and those from the coalition of the willing -- killed because of Bush's invasion. Based on figures from Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet, the figure is probably a million. That's half a trillion dollars. A similar amount would go to the two million refugees.
How will we pay for this?
Simple: By taxing the corporations that profited from the war (Halliburton, Blackwater, the energy giants) and the 2 percent wealthiest Americans -- rescinding the 2001 and subsequent tax cuts for them, and retroactively garnishing the money given them.
These are the people and corporations that funded the Bush coup in 2000, and they are the ones who should pay for the Iraq tragedy. Taking away some of their wealth won't hurt them, but it can help in small ways the Iraqis and others who were victimized by the war.
How would the funds would be allocated? Surely the United Nations and various humanitarian organizations could devise a plan.
An unparalleled disaster like Bush's war on Iraq has consequences also in things forgone: What could we have done with $3 trillion if there hadn't been this $3 trillion war?
President Obama and the Democratic Congress should determine what domestic programs were aborted and destroyed by the Iraq tragedy, and enact laws to repair them.
Global warming should be stopped and reversed.
The gap between rich and poor should be radically narrowed.
New Orleans should be rebuilt to bring back all of its residents, of all economic classes.
Health care, education, infrastructure, the arts.
There are, after all, one or two good options for Iraq.