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Opinion: Doug Thompson and Daddy Warbucks

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A hostage situation
By Doug Thompson

Suddenly, Iraqi lives matter. The president said so last week.
This awakening of concern deserves some mention.
He didn’t care enough to count Iraqi civilian casualties when we first rolled over the country, or later. For years, his administration blamed a lack of a credible count on the chaos stirred up by the insurgency.
When things started going sour, war apologists said it was better to fight the terrorists over there than here. They didn’t know or care how many Iraqis died as long as no jetliners became kamikazes in America.
Now President Bush faces history, which has “loser” written all over it. The prospect of a bigger bloodbath if we leave became too horrible to contemplate.
Cynicism aside, though, let’s face up. There probably will be a bloodbath if we leave. Let’s not sidestep the issue by arguing otherwise. At the very least, it’s a possibility. I’d argue it’s a certainty.
The most conservative figure of how many Iraqi bystanders have already died is a simple count of deaths in attacks that make the news. That’s more than 70,000 now over more than four years. The tally’s on the Internet at www.iraqbodycount.org/.
As anybody who’s ever read about war knows, most deaths result from disease, famine and violent chaos. They don’t make the news. The best sample-based scientific guess of Iraqi lives lost is about 10 times the Iraq Body County figure.
Our continued presence makes this war endless.
We’re not putting out the fire. We’re just keeping it from burning itself out.
I agree with Gen. William Sherman here: “War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say give them all they want.” Let them give it to each other. Who knows? Maybe they’ll fight each other like men and stop suicide-bombing churches and wedding receptions.
As Sherman said another time: “War is cruelty. There’s no use trying to reform it, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over.”
Even from the Iraqi point of view, I’d rather run through hell as fast as I can than pick a relatively cool spot there and squat.
This cup cannot pass from the Iraqis. We have spectacularly failed at giving them a workable government. We disbanded their army. We let the militias form. We failed to rebuild the infrastructure. We’ve left them things to fight over and nothing to fight for.
All this and more makes Bush’s comparison of Iraq to successful nation building in Japan and Korea so pathetic, along with the piddling efforts made by the Iraqi “government.”
The allied occupation of Japan began on Sept. 30, 1945.  The allied occupation of Iraq began at, say, May 1, 2003. Let’s compare the progress made in Japan by early 1950 to the progress made in Iraq during the same amount of time.
The Japanese weren’t killing each other. GIs weren’t being blown up by improvised explosive devices. The Japanese government adopted an American-drafted but workable constitution four years earlier. Occupation leader Gen. Douglas MacArthur had ceded much authority to the provisional government within the past year. The Japanese were within four months of signing the Treaty of San Francisco, which paved the way to the end of all aspects of the occupation a little more than seven months later, except for continued occupation of Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
The Japanese economy (helped by the Korean War) was well on its way to full recovery despite the lack of Iraqi-like resources such as oil. Japanese business leaders had already rejected the American redevelopment model of producing cheap consumer goods and were planning to enter auto manufacturing along with steel production and shipping.
For those interested in detail, I strongly recommend John W. Dower’s “Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II.”
I’d give our nation building in Korea similar treatment, but I don’t enjoy belaboring an obvious point.
The obvious point here is that if the president was Harry Truman or Dwight Eisenhower, and the secretary of state was George Marshall, Dean Acheson or John Foster Dulles, and the head of the U.S. forces involved was Douglas MacArthur or Matthew Ridgeway, then George W. Bush might have a point.
He just wouldn’t be the one making it.

DADDY WARBUCKS

Cheap downloads, testing toys, lawsuits

Sounds like just another week at Wal-Mart. The world’s largest retailer, in somewhat of a slowdown mode as far as its Super Centers in the U.S., is roaring full force into the music and video download business and in a move to address the recent news about unsafe children’s toys is pledging to test toys now more than ever. And, in the high-profile Wal-Mart battle with its former high level marketing exec, Julie Roehm—who is suing Wal-Mart for firing her—a Michigan judge recently tossed the case back to Arkansas, Good luck on winning that case.

Wal-Mart entered the download market with its always low, low price pledge – 94 cents for a single tune or as low as $9.22 for an album (or is it now a CD collection since the record companies don’t actually make those old black vinyl albums anymore. The Wal-Mart deal will allow all those folks with iPods, iPhones and Zune players (and look around there
are millions of them out there) to tune up and tune in on these cheap downloads. Word is that the heavy hitters in the music biz – Sony BMG and Warner Music are in hush, hush talks with Wal-Mart. So look for them to come on board any day.

More bad news on the pet food front. Wal-Mart has pulled some doggie treats made from materials gathered in China. Seems there were some bad chemicals. Get ready for another barrage of deadly pet food stories on the nightly news. Daddy W. wonders how safe our food supply really is these days.

MAXINE’S REOPENING
Daddy W. is hearing the new grand re-opening of Maxine’s Tap Room is not far off. Woo Pig Sooie for that.

DIGITAL SCREENS
Just five weeks until the new Malco Theaters open near the NW Arkansas Mall, just west of the Mall Avenue Wal-Mart. The screens will not be digital – not yet anyway. The conversion cost for every movie screen from its bulky film to digital is about $75,000 to $80,000. So watch for these improvements in the next few years. What will a movie ticket cost then?

CHICK HEAT
Some poultry farmers are finding out what red tape is all about thanks to some of the new Homeland Security rules on propane purchases. Currently Homeland Security monitors all propane sales of over 7,500 pounds for security purposes. It takes a bit of propane to keep chicks warm in the winter.

BANK STRESS
There have been some abrupt management changes in area banks lately and watch for more, Daddy W. warns. All these startups with all kinds of shuffling about for new street corners is sort of dumb.

STRESS DOCTOR..
The UA’s business college (named after that family that fled Newport to come to Bentonville) says it has developed a formula to help area banks detect their stress levels before they become stressed by loans and foreclosures. The plan developed by Tim Yeager, shows that community bank profiles between 1990 and 2005 have grown from 235 to 45 percent an alarming rate. The new plan is said to help calm fears.

SOLD OUT
Rick Tanneberger, a well known tax guy, has sold/merged his business with Moore, Stephens and Frost a Little Rock based accounting firm. The group already has a Rogers office. Now they have one in Fayetteville.

CELL TOWERS
Daddy W. hasn’t heard much about the proposed five new cell towers planned for Fayetteville, but after AT&T cell phone service was interrupted for several hours last week for many cell phone addictees in NWA, one has to wonder. Can you hear me now?

WOO PIG
Get ready…football season starts in less than 48 hours.

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