Head Colds and Iraqi Cures

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This just in: Everybody has a cold. Global warming lulled us into going outdoors with wet hair, or without warm socks (my grandmother maintained that people caught cold through their ankles), in January. And now, whenever I start telling someone what an awful cold I have, the response is invariably, "Tell be aboud it," or "You think you hab a code."

So the world must be as much of a blur to you as it is to me. You, too, must be finding it hard to concentrate on the fine points of this week's news, like whether it was in questionable taste for the New York Times, in its story about the inadvertent decapitation, by noose, of Saddam Hussein's half brother, to refer to that poor ex-evildoer as the "former head" of Hussein's secret police.

Couldn't the Times have called him "former chief"? But let it go. We are too sick to be picky.

If our own heads weren't so phlegmatic, we might leap to the conclusion that if you want someone hanged right, don't leave it up to Shiites. But since we are groggy with antihistamines (and wouldn't mind getting rid of our own heads, the way they feel at the moment), we can suspend judgment. This thing of losing one's head may be an old Sunni gallows trick. As when Saddam — just by being so him — provoked his executioners into treating him with insufficient dignity. If you can't cheat the hangman, as the saying goes, you can at least make him look insensitive.

It's too bad that a week when everybody had a cold was also a week when we so badly needed a clear-cut plan for Iraq. A poll showed that only 29% of Americans believed that the President had a plan, and 2l% that the Democrats had one. Iraq's President al-Maliki came up with a plan: give Iraqi soldiers more and bigger weapons. But in both the Times and the Washington Post, an American soldier made the point that the war would continue to go badly as long as the Iraqis on our side keep supporting and supplying the Iraqis we are fighting.

In the Post, E. J. Dionne Jr. quoted an anonymous Army officer as saying that everything our soldiers accomplish is being undone by Iraqi politicians who "finance and maintain military auxiliary wings" that kill our soldiers. On the Times op-ed page, Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan proposed that "a new set of at least l,400 elite officials jointly selected and vetted by the Iraqi ministries and the coalition forces" form an "anticorruption task force" to eliminate the problem of Iraqi black marketers' selling military supplies to the insurgents.

Why, we may ask, would anybody want to be an elite official in Iraq's current government, except to get in on the corruption? Maybe there is no more cure for Iraq than for the common cold. But even politicians agree that the solution to Iraq will not be military, but political. So instead of sending more soldiers and armaments over there, let's send more politicians. We have lots of them left over from the last election. We even have ex-congressmen who are in jail for corruption and still drawing hefty pensions. They would be more useful in Iraq checking trucks for contraband. It takes a thief.