June 15, 2006
Thoughts from one of those folks on the train
Walking down the street in New York the other day, I was
chatting with a friend of mine who was criticizing the decisions
being made by the senior management of a company for which
we both once worked. After he vented, I laughed, reminding
him we must be doing something wrong as those execs making
bad decisions were earning at least twice what we were, combined.
I am not one who makes decisions affecting the fates of countries
or companies, a thought which reverberated with me last night
on the train.
Being a semi-regular on the train has resulted in train acquaintances
and through them opportunities to talk with people outside
my regular circle representing a wide variety of economic
and social strata and certainly varying political opinions.
So last night's conversation on the train centered on the
trip to Iraq by POTUS [President of the United States]. A
train companion mentioned several times how good he thought
it was for the troops the President had made an appearance
on the ground. I agreed that for the troops it was indeed,
probably, a great psychological shot in the arm. The Commander
In Chief on the ground in a war zone is not something that
has happened very often in the history of the country and
I am sure it was heartening to the troops. However, from what
I understood, the President's stated reason for going to Iraq
was to meet with the new Prime Minister, look him in the eye
and see if he was up to the test.
I am not the guy making global decisions; I am just the guy
riding the train in and out of the city, making a living one
way or another - but my concern was that "W" created
a really bad impression of the United States.
The new Prime Minister of Iraq is the Prime Minister of what
is supposed to be a sovereign country. Now being the guy who
just rides the train and makes a living, I can't absolutely
say this is correct but I think diplomatic protocol requires
a leader of one sovereign state to at least alert the leader
of another sovereign state that he is about to drop in.
Now I understand the reasons for keeping the visit secret.
I am sure Al Qaeda in Iraq would like nothing better than
to scrape up a few surface to air missiles to try to take
a shot at Air Force One.
However, the whole adventure [and listening to some of the
reporters afterwards gave me the sense the trip had the feel
of boys adventures] left me feeling we had communicated very
clearly to the world that Iraq is not a sovereign state but
a vassal state of the American Empire and our Imperial President
[and the trip had an Imperial feel to me but then I just ride
the rails] ignored diplomatic courtesies for his domestic
The last thing we need in this quagmire of a mess is any
message which sends out the signal that Iraq is considered
a vassal state by the United States. That kind of message
riles anti-Americanism throughout the region and across the
It is also the impression much of the world has of us as
a country, if not for us as individuals, that we feel we don't
have to play by the rules we demand of everyone else. It would
not, I expect, be appreciated by Mr. Bush if any world leader
"dropped in" on him unannounced. Nor would he appreciate
having any world leader say he had come to look him in the
eye to see if he was up to the task.
Too bad we didn't give that courtesy to Mr. al-Maliki. It
would have looked so much better to everyone. Courtesy between
individuals is essential and it is the same between countries.