Hallelujah! A new Iraqi flag has been chosen! Hoist it up the pole and let's see who shoots at it.
Former Miss Corporate San Diego and current White House ice-bot Dana Perino hails the new flag as a sign of progress. The surge is, like, totally working. Those guys “were able to come together and get it done.”
Right on, Dana. I know you and your hubby still own a house in South Park, so next time you're in town to wash the blood off your hands, let me treat you to a Cosmo at the Whistle Stop. I have always wanted to buy a lady with balls a drink—just to say I did, you know? Call me.
But first, let's talk about this new flag.
Iraq is always changing its flag. The country started up in 1921 with a flag that had a black, white and green horizontal stripe and a red trapezoid with two white asterisks.
Then in 1958, there was a revolution and they came up with a new flag that turned the black, white and green stripes vertically and replaced the little white asterisks with a single red and yellow star. Then in 1963, the new government was overthrown and the stripes were turned sideways again, the green stripe was changed to red and the single red and yellow star was replaced with three little green ones. Then in 1991, Saddam Hussein added the words “God is Great” in green Arabic handwriting (supposedly Saddam's handwriting) between the three green stars.
Then in 2004, J. Paul Bremer and the U.S-led governing council proposed a totally new flag, a white one with a blue crescent and blue and yellow horizontal stripes at the bottom. Iraqis hated this flag because the colors and design reminded them of Israel's flag. Iraqi Olympic athletes wouldn't wave it. Bremer was an idiot. The 1991 flag was retained instead. Then, later in 2004, the 1991 flag was changed: Saddam's handwriting was replaced with traditional stylized Kufic script.
That brings us to 2008 and the unveiling of the brand-new flag that is a glorious sign of progress: The green stars have been removed!
Of course, all those stars and stripes, like the ones on our own flag, have meaning. And while the Iraqis universally rejected the white and blue flag, every other version, for one reason or another, has also had its detractors, including the latest. In fact, the new starless flag, like nearly everything else in Iraq, is temporary. In one year, the Iraqis will try once again to come up with a flag that pleases everybody. Good luck with that.
Here's the reason why the latest flag is more a sign of political expediency than a sign of political progress: There's a Pan Arabic conference going down in Northern Iraq this month, and the Kurds were refusing to fly the flag with the stars on it, because it reminds them of the Saddam era. But other Arab leaders wouldn't show up if only the Kurdish flag is flying. So the new flag is a stopgap compromise just to get the various Iraqi factions to show up at a conference. Five years of occupation and that's political progress?
And what are Iraqis saying about the new flag?
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki told the Associated Press that the flag “could have been changed in a better form.”
“The government should change our life for the better instead of changing the flag,” said Khidier Jassim, a civilian from Fallujah. Jassim told an AP reporter that he is helping to organize a protest on Wednesday.
Sunni leaders like Sheik Mohammad Saleh al-Butchery, a spokesman for the Fallujah Tribal Council, voted against the new flag. Shiites also voted against it, like Nassar al Rubaie, the head of Sheik Muqtada al Sadr's bloc in parliament. If you were as desperate as the White House, you might even argue that opposition to the new flag is as much a sign of unity as support for it.
But it's no surprise that our administration is making a big deal out of a flag. America is obsessed with flags.
Remember how Old Glory (made in China) dominated the landscape back in 2001? Interstate 5 looked like a Nuremberg Rally. And remember the summer of '06, when the flag-desecration amendment was barely defeated in the U.S. Senate?
The U.S., like most nations, looks up to its symbols too much and doesn't live up to its ideals enough. George Washington said the white stripes on the flag represented liberty. Consider how your liberty has been stripped away under the Bush regime, and even you, dear reader, might be tempted to burn a flag in protest, or at least just the white parts.
That's one reason why I voted for Barack Obama last week. He was one of the first politicians to remove his stupid flag pin, which he said had become “a substitute for true patriotism.” That was around the time he was boldly speaking out against the Iraq War, even though it was unpopular to do so.
Flag issues in Iraq, like flag issues in the U.S., are mostly distractions. While the Iraqis have been squabbling over their temporary flag, suicide bombings have killed or wounded more than 200 people already this year—in other words, in the last six weeks.
And last week, U.S. troops, allegedly under fire, burst into a house in Tikrit and killed an unarmed farmer and his family. One of two little girls wounded during the attack died in the hospital. The military says it regrets the death and injury of the civilians. Earlier in the same week, the U.S. killed nine civilians, including a child, in a bombing raid.
The military says it regrets that, too.
Might as well hoist the corpse of one of the dead children up the flagpole at the entrance to the Green Zone for all the hearts and minds a new fucking flag is going to win over.