ow. That was quick. Three weeks after the first bomb was dropped,
and we're already toppling statues in Baghdad. Unfortunately,
as everyone knew going into this thing, making war is the
easy part. Once we've finished erasing the last vestiges
of Saddam's regime, we'll have to start making the peace.
And the postwar political battles could be far bloodier
than anything seen so far.
The problem is that, George Bush excepted, no one knows
for sure what we're up to in Iraq. The administration
insists that once the war is over, America will help the
Iraqi people both rebuild their country and establish the
government of their choice period. Once that is done,
we'll leave. Critics of the administration, though, insist
they're lying, and that conquering Iraq is really the first
step in a secret plan to take over the world.
Bush may dismiss these naysayers with a Rumsfeldian shrug,
but it's obvious he would like the world to begin taking
him at his word as soon as possible. Until the Iraqis have
their democracy and the last American soldier is back in
Cleveland sparking at the soda fountain, how do we know
he'll follow through? The truth is, it could take years
before America regains the world's confidence.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to. I have a foolproof idea
that will convince even the most hardened conspiracy theorist
that America has no intention to occupy Iraq any longer
than necessary. It's really quite simple. All we have to
do is put the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Development
in charge of the reconstruction.
As anyone who's experienced "the bureau" will
realize, after a few months of working "with"
the City of Portland all those American contractors currently
clamoring for a piece of the pie will be singing a different
tune: "I don't care how much oil they've got, once
this contract is up, I'm getting the hell out of here."
But for those of you without direct experience, here is
a hypothetical interaction (extrapolated from typical events)
between the CPBP and D and the first American company into
÷ ÷ ÷
The current CEO of Halliburton, David J. Lesar, enters the Portland City Planning office with his U.S. contract in hand and a smile on his face.
LESAR: Hello. I'm here to pick up a permit to put out oil fires in Iraq.
ANONYMOUS DESK CLERK #1: Yurmph phal seeze.
LESAR: What's that?
ADC #1: Excuse me. Mouth full. I need to see your plans, please.
LESAR: Our plans? Oh, well, I didn't know we needed to show you anything. After all, the government awarded us the contract to put out oil well fires on the strength of our plans. It's been in all the papers.
ADC #1: I'm sorry, but we can't issue you a permit until your plans have been approved through our office.
LESAR: Okay, so what do you need?
ADC #1: Just follow the guidelines in form 1278B: Ninety-nine Steps to a Killer Oil Well Extinguishing Plan.
LESAR: Ninety-nine steps? Well, okay. I'll have my men get right on it, and see you in the morning.
ADC #1: NEXT!
two weeks later...
LESAR: Hello, I'm here to submit plans for an Oil Well Extinguishing permit. Hell, I had no idea a permit application would be so complicated. But here you are.
ADC #2: Thank you. NEXT!
LESAR: Wait a minute. I had ten men working full time for
two weeks on this application. And we need this permit as
soon as possible. Can't you at least give me an idea how
long it will take?
ADC #2: We'll notify you when your plans have been approved
by all thirty departments in the planning bureau.
LESAR: Thirty departments? But that could take days!
ADC #2: Days? Applications are currently taking about six weeks.
LESAR: You've got to be kidding? We need to put those fires out as soon as
possible. It's a matter of national importance.
ADC #2: Then you really should get us your plans as soon as possible.
LESAR: Isn't there anything we can do to speed up the process?
ADC #2: Sorry, all applications are processed in the order
in which they were received. But if at any time you want
to know how things are going, feel free to check the progress
of your application on our website: www.dontholdyourbreath.gov.
six weeks later...
LESAR: Hello, I put in a permit application six weeks ago,
and I was checking back to see if it was ready yet. Here's
my account number...
ADC #3: [click, clack, click, clack] It says here that
Engineering has put a hold on your application.
LESAR: What for?
ADC #3: Apparently, on your plans the nozzles on your water
hoses are fourteen inches long, but according to code they
can be no longer than twelve inches.
LESAR: What? We adjusted our plans to meet the specification
given in the literature that you gave me. In fact, I got
it from this pamphlet right here... See? Page four: fourteen
ADC #3: Oh, those pamphlets are two years old. They don't
reflect current standards.
LESAR: Then why are you still handing them out?
ADC #3: The new ones haven't been printed yet. In the meantime,
you'll need to correct your plans and resubmit them.
six weeks later...
LESAR: I've been following the progress of our permit application
on your website. And I've been very patient, so far, even
though it's taken at least twice as long as you said. On
Thursday, I was very happy to see that you were almost finished:
29 of 30 departments had signed off on the plans. But now,
for some reason, I can no longer log on to your website.
ADC #4: What's your account number? [click, clack, click,
clack] I'm sorry, but that number is not in our system.
LESAR: What do you mean, "not in our system?"
ADC #4: I think it's pretty clear. That account number
LESAR: Well, of course it exists. I've been tracking my application's progress on your website for weeks.
ADC #4: I don't find it.
LESAR: There must be some mistake. I have documentation from your office right here with my application number on it.
ADC #4: Well, I'll be damned. There it is in black and
white. So I'd bet dollars to donuts that something happened
to your file, ‘cause it's not there now. Speaking of donuts,
would you like one?
LESAR: Would I what?
ADC #4: Would you like a donut. We always have donuts on
Mondays. And you seem like you could use one.
LESAR: I don't need a frickin' donut, I need a permit...
ADC #4: I just thought... they're jelly-filled.
LESAR: ...and if you've lost my application, you'd better
bloody well find it, and fast. The whole world is watching.
ADC #4: Sir, you'll have to excuse me for a moment.
two hours later...
ADC #4: Boy, was that a marathon. Am I ready for
lunch or what?
LESAR: I don't care about your lunch. Did you find out what happened to our permit?
ADC #4: Yes, I did. And it's a good one. A real doozy.
You'll laugh when you hear it. Apparently, your application
made it all the way to Environmental Protection, which is
the final department in our approval process. But the head
of the department had some concerns about the environmental
costs of this project. Apparently the oil wells in question
are burning out of control and causing greater levels of
pollution than the code allows.
LESAR: Well, of course they are. That's the whole point. We want to get in
there so that we can put the fires out.
ADC #4: Well, you'd better hurry. Apparently those oil
wells are creating a big mess. Anyway, get this. The head
of the Environmental Protection department went to place
your application on hold so he could review the code, but
he accidentally hit "delete" instead of "hold"
and you got bumped out of the system.
LESAR: You can't be serious. Good thing I was paying attention. So now that we've got that cleared up, how quickly can you move forward with our application?
ADC #4: What application?
LESAR: What do you mean, "what application?"
ADC #4: Halliburton does not currently have any pending
LESAR: Of course not. You lost the file. Now, you'll just
have to find it.
ADC #4: I'm sorry, but our computer system can't undelete
a file. It no longer exists. But I promise that once you've
resubmitted your application, I'll put it right back in
LESAR: Resub... wait a minute! You made the mistake,
not me. So you'll have to fix it.
ADC #4: Good one, sir. But don't worry, you'll have your
permit in no time. Applications are currently taking only
about eight weeks.
LESAR: Eight weeks! But our plans were already approved
by all... and last time you said six... Do you realize that
I am a close personal friend of Dick Cheney, the Vice President
of the United States? Maybe you'd like to tell him yourself
why Halliburton has yet to step foot in Iraq. Would you
ADC #4: Sir, I've got a nice plate of brownies here. You
look like you could use one. Go ahead, take your pick.
÷ ÷ ÷
Who knows, after America has left Iraq to the Iraqis, the
Bush administration may even set its sights closer to home
and liberate Portland. We can always dream.
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