Is Libya an echo of Iraq?

Al Kamen
Columnist October 25, 2011

Supporters of the Iraq war continue to argue that the invasion of that country paved the way for the Arab Spring. Over the weekend, former presidential envoy L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer wrote in this newspaper of certain similarities he saw between the two countries in the post-dictator world.

First, Moammar Gaddafi’s death “came eight months after the start of military operations there,” Bremer writes, “the same length of time it took us to track down Saddam Hussein after U.S. forces liberated Baghdad in 2003.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

This reminds us of the old urban legend about coincidences in the assassinations of John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. (They were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson, etc.)

But Bremer insists “the parallels are striking,” noting quite correctly that both dictators “had brutally oppressed” their citizens — which is something dictators tend to do. And “Gaddafi was found in a sewer pipe; Hussein was captured in a spider hole,” Bremer writes.

There are, of course, some slight differences, such as: some 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq vs. none in Libya; a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites; millions of refugees; Iranian meddling; and ethnic cleansing.

In contrast, Libya, which has tribal and regional schisms, is 97 percent Sunni with a population of 6.6 million — compared with Iraq’s 32 million people. And Gaddafi was a much better dresser.

Still, as Condoleezza Rice and Don Rumsfeld pointed out, Iraq was really “just like Germany” as Allied armies drove toward Berlin. So maybe Libya’s like Germany?

Come to think of it, sometimes at sunset, Benghazi and Heidelberg do look very much . . .

Speaking of Germany

Perhaps it was inevitable. A popular Internet meme, in which jokesters slap their own subtitles over a German-language movie of Adolf Hitler’s last days, has a new target: the federal bureaucracy.

The Internet parodies, which go back several years, feature a scene in which Der Fuehrer explodes upon receiving grim news from the battlefield. Clever YouTubers have added subtitles: Hitler giving the iPad a bad review; Hitler learning of Michael Jackson’s death; and, in one particularly popular version, Hitler learning that his beloved Dallas Cowboys have lost to the Giants.

In that one, Hitler rants about Jessica Simpson, calling her a “jinx” for distracting quarterback Tony Romo, and bemoans the fate of his $70 Terrell Owens jersey he had planned to wear to the Super Bowl. (It’s sheer genius.)

But the gag might have jumped the shark of late with an anonymous insider posting a video of the scene in which Hitler appears to be ranting about the inner workings of the Department of Justice. In one recent (and way over-the-top) video, Hitler is identified as Fraulein Christine (for Christine Varney, the former head of the department’s antitrust division), and the clip is filled with insidery references to morale problems said to plague the division.

Der Fraulein screams at subordinates as she details efforts to shut down investigative field offices that might uncover waste — or worse — in administration stimulus programs and alludes to a “magic website” (the government’s Recovery.gov) and ignored red flags on Solyndra, the energy company whose government loan has caused controversy for the department.

A Justice spokeswoman wouldn’t address the video directly but responded to some of the concerns it airs, saying that the proposal to close field offices is part of a larger effort to save money and improve efficiency, and that everyone who would lose their job as a result would be offered comparable positions in other offices.

The video probably has a limited audience of folks who get the inside jokes, which explains why the Cowboys versions have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube compared with only dozens of views for the Justice spoof.

Precious-metal detector?

Ah, the indignities lesser-financed candidates must endure. There was former House speaker Newt Gingrich, decked out in suit and tie — the sun had not yet risen — waiting for the 7:10 a.m. Delta nonstop from Des Moines to Reagan National on Sunday, our colleague Philip Rucker reports.

Gingrich, whose campaign fundraising is such that he travels commercial — though in first class, perhaps via frequent-flier upgrade — and without a noticeable entourage, was pulled aside by the TSA for a random bag check. Wouldn’t have happened to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who probably hasn’t seen the inside of a commercial jet in a long time.

After landing, Gingrich, who appears to be having just a great time these days as a back-bencher, joined his wife, Callista, for an outing to Tysons Corner, the Reliable Source reported, where Callista popped into — where else? — Tiffany’s. Gingrich has said the couple are ”very frugal,” so maybe there was a year-end clearance sale.

An emerging market

All aboard! If you’re a business exec looking for some interesting new business associates, the Commerce Department is leading a trade mission to lovely Kabul, Afghanistan, our colleague Emily Heil reports.

The September 2012 trip, which the department began trying to fill last week, is a redo of an outing it had planned for September but canceled after several companies backed out for financial and security reasons.

Maybe the second time is the charm? The department’s International Trade Administration is looking for companies, particularly those in construction, mining, agribusiness and technology, for the tour, which includes tete-a-tetes with local officials and business types.

Commerce swears the trip is safe and says U.S. businesses need to make inroads in Afghanistan’s nascent economy — as European companies already have.

But unlike some of these business-drumming-up jaunts, the visit to Kabul is expected to be all work and no play. “I don’t even know what kind of fun you can have there,” says spokeswoman Mary Trupo. “Besides, the schedule is packed.”

Dress code is business casual. (Flak jackets optional?)

Out of Africa

Speaking of unsuccessful trips to undesirable places, the Chaffetz congressional delegation we wrote about 12 days ago — with stops in Kenya, Ethi­o­pia, South Sudan and Morocco — never got off the ground.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, along with Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), were to take off on a hunt for waste, fraud and abuse in foreign aid in Africa.

This was not a Loop-recommended congressional delegation, or codel, because the trip didn’t seem to allow for sufficient downtime in Rome or Paris or Madrid. Sure enough, one member had a scheduling problem and another dropped out, so Chaffetz is looking to reschedule for sometime next year.

Wouldn’t have had this problem if he’d thrown in even a brief stop in Venice.

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics