The late C.J. (Neal) Shine, onetime city editor and then publisher of the Detroit Free Press, had a sharp, spontaneous wit: he was genuinely funny and spared no one. Friends thought he looked like the actor Pat O’Brien. When the Real Item came to Detroit for a comedic gig the Freep staff rigged a face-to-face battle of one-liners between the two. I think it was a stand-off.
Shine once answered the telephone and the caller asked to speak to a colleague known for his long, liquid lunch hours. “Sorry,” Shine said, “but he’s out having his semi-annual liver transplant. The liver took but he rejected the strip of bacon.” When Norm Cash struck out yet again at old Tiger stadium, a fan shouted, “Good riffle, Norm.” Shine said, “He leads the league in good riffles.” He once said of an infamously corrupt Hamtramck politician, “he’s got the reverse Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to shit.” He had a million of ‘em.
I want to borrow that last one and use it to describe United States foreign policy. Take Ukraine. Please. (Sorry, Neal).
We spent $5 billion in direct cash and millions more in Black Ops to overthrow a democratically-elected president whose body odor we didn’t like. Now Ukraine is divided — Crimea has voted to attach itself to Russia — and blood-spattered. It has Willy Wonka as its new boss man, and Euro-style austerity as an economic model. Just what an already poor and starving people need. Civil war and stale bread.
Oh, quit whimpering, Ukraine, and eat a bon-bon. What if you were, say, Iraq, to pluck a country out of thin air. When it was being bullied by Saddam Hussein — remember Saddam? He had those magic WMDs that made mushroom clouds without even existing! — at least the air was thicker. Now that we’ve liberated it, all it’s got is violence, pollution and starvation. And only 1,455,591 Iraqi men, women and children had to become collateral damage to achieve this gift of democracy. Thanks, Amerika.
Or Afghanistan. Now there’s a foreign policy prize for you — if you can remember why we went there in the first place. If you say to chase down Osama bin Laden, you’ve been smoking too much of the Afghan national product. And by the way, tell me again why we had to whisk bin Laden’s carcass out to sea and dump it as if it were evidence or something. The people of Afghanistan are indifferent as to which particular warlord is bloodying their turf. They’ve been ravaged by history’s best — Alexander the Great, various Muslim armies, Genghis Kahn, colonial England, Russia and now us. Do what you will, Yank, but leave my poppy field alone, ‘kay? We’ve wasted roughly $5 trillion fighting shades in this stinkhole and the cost rises daily. Oh my! We’ve run up a deficit! Quit feeding those shiftless Darkies in Arkansas and send more bombs to Kabul.
You name your place Libya and you’re begging to be liberated by Amerika, right? And it only cost us $2 billion to off Muammer Qaddafi, as the great economist, Joe Biden, reminded us. What that pittance bought for today’s Libya is a human rights nightmare overrun by militias. Bloodshed and chaos mount daily as does the threat of civil war. Every now and then our supine media take note of Libya, like when an oil tanker is seized by rebellious militiia; or when a British oil worker is shot dead while having a picnic; or when the country's prime minister is kidnapped. What’s a raghead prime minister or two when you’re keeping the world safe for democracy?
We can thank Vladimir Putin for not being able to add Syria to our list of foreign policy disasters, except that it’s not kosher in Washington to thank Vladimir Putin for anything except possibly his rendition of “Blueberry Hill” on You Tube.
Which brings us back to Ukraine. Do you think the CIA really hijacked the country’s entire gold reserves the other day? So what if it did? Only amounted to $1.8 billion or so. Wouldn’t even fetch us another Libya.