Posts Tagged ‘Saddam Hussein’

Collateral Dynasty: the Colorado Iraqis story

August 21, 2011

As the US winds down its military involvement in Iraq, it’s easy to overlook the many successes of this far-reaching American crusade to extend freedom and our way of life. Among the great advances in this cradle of civilization since US-led liberation, let us not neglect the feats of the Colorado Iraqis.

“I know even less about baseball than I do about hair care,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. “But I am moved by the success of the Colorado Iraqis since the advent of freedom in Iraq.”

The Colorado Iraqis were conceived in the wake of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s widely condemned invasion of Kuwait in 1990. After US forces expelled the invaders, the Pentagon and Major League Baseball officials established the Iraqis franchise. “From Abner Doubleday through Tim Johnson, there’s been a strong, positive relationship between baseball and the military,” Gen. Colin Powell, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman during that first Gulf War, explained. “So we believed that establishing a major league franchise could help moderate the regime’s behavior.”

After two inaugural losing campaigns, the Colorado Iraqis reached the playoffs as the first-ever National League wild card team in 1995. However, the franchise failed to continue its winning ways. The growing misrule of Saddam Hussein led to increased international scrutiny. Consistent major league leading power output fueled suspicions of an illegal nuclear program. The team’s Blake Street Bombers nickname suggested connections with international terrorism.

“In a post-9/11 world, those risks were unacceptable,” former Texas Rangers owner George W. Bush, who served as US President from 2001 to 2009, said. “Plus, we wanted to create a government and a team that the Iraqi people could support.” So the US led an international coalition to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom to oust Saddam Hussein and bring democracy and winning baseball to the Iraqis.

Regime change didn’t make the Colorado Iraqis successful overnight. Replacing Saddam Hussein with L Paul Bremer didn’t do the Iraqis any more good than replacing Jim Leyland with Buddy Bell had. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s experiment with the Iraqis using a seven man lineup set back their progress. But the rising tide of freedom would eventually propel the Iraqis upward in the standings.

While the US-led invasion uncovered no weapons of mass destruction, the Colorado Iraqis retained Todd Helton. The Coalition Provisional Authority’s efforts in the immediate aftermath of the invasion to nurture democracy and development enabled the Iraqis to develop Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki.

However, it wasn’t until advent of the surge strategy in 2007, championed by Senator John McCain and implemented by manager Clint Hurdle, that the Colorado Iraqis returned to the postseason. With a 6 1/2 game deficit on September 16, the Iraqis won 14 of their last 15 games, including a one-game playoff, to become the National League’s wild card team for a second time.

The Colorado Iraqis fantastic 2007 postseason run became known to all as Iraqtober. The Iraqis swept the Philadelphia Phillies to advance to the National League Championship Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Iraqis repeated the sweep to win their first National League pennant, giving them an unprecedented 21-1 run from mid-September. But Iraqtober came to an abrupt end in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, which the Iraqis lost four games to none.

“The surge strategy enabled the Iraqis to make meaningful, sustainable gains against opposing forces,” General David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq in 2007, recalled. “The past four years of learning to defense the hit and run really paid off.”

Not everyone was as pleased as Petraeus with the Colorado Iraqis’ results. “After nearly one million Iraqi deaths, you ought to get a least one game off the Boston-effing-Red Sox,” Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said. “The only thing worse would be losing to the apostate Cardinals or Padres. And, to be honest, I don’t like those Indians much either.”

The late season surge strategy has become a regular feature of the Colorado Iraqis’ finish every year since 2007. In 2009, the Colorado Iraqis rode September winning streaks of eight and five games to another wild card berth. They didn’t get beyond the first round of the playoffs, but they’ve become a force to be reckoned with annually, transforming the season’s closing weeks into the fall of Iraqis.

“Whatever you think of the original circumstances of the invasion of Iraq, it’s indisputable that the Colorado Iraqis are established as a thriving, successful franchise, right in the center of the Middle East,” President Barack Obama said. “That’s allowed my administration to focus on the current threat to global order from WMDs – the Wilpons of Mets Destruction – and to dare hope we can duplicate the success of the Colorado Iraqis in our efforts to assist the long-suffering Detroit Libyans.”

Totally globalized native New Yorker, reforming baseball writer, and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. See his biography, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com.

Prince of Darkness made his own coffin

August 19, 2009

Robert Novak complained that Valerie Plame would lead his obituary. As the self-styled Prince of Darkness would have reminded that sniveling twit, “Who the hell’s to blame for that? It’s his own damned fault.”

Like MarketWatch media critic Jon Friedman, I’ll shed no tears for Novak. It’s not just because of Novak’s reactionary, sanctimonious political pontificating, but his brand of journalism spanning the eras from dueling city dailies to cable television’s punditocracy.

In the days of ink, Novak’s approach – officials were either sources or targets – belies his admirers’ cliam that he was first and foremost a shoe leather reporter. His column with Rowland Evans wasn’t about policy or substance. The pair produced the Washington equivalent of a gossip column, bonding the establishment, regardless of views, as it created mystique and aura around politics and its players, including its chroniclers.

Being part of story was a constant for Novak, making him a natural for the talk TV trenches. I worked at CNN in Washington during the heyday of Crossfire, so occasionally ran into him around the newsroom. Novak was as full of himself off-camera as on. That’s because his stage was all of Washington and fanning its importance brightened his own star. The spread of his brand of uncompromising ideological self-righteousness has helped to poison the national debate and paralyze government, particularly because the Washington bubble of bonhomie insulates its pompous practitioners from the consequences of their own actions while the country suffers.

Many praise Novak for his reporting pedigree, noting how that set him apart from fellow pundits. While it is amusing to think of Ann Coulter hunting for facts, Novak, at least in recent decades, was hardly an honest reporter. Rather than diverging from his journalism career, the Plame story was the natural conclusion of it: self-important celebrity columnist gets used by high level sources for a hatchet job on a political enemy. Novak didn’t investigate the main point of the leak, that Plame lobbied for her husband, former ambassador James Wilson, to examine claims Saddam Hussein obtained uranium from Africa. Wilson found the claims groundless and said so publicly when the Bush administration publicly misrepresented his findings. When Vice President Dick Cheney fed Novak the Plame story to discredit Wilson, Novak just licked the plate clean. Despite breaking the law, Novak managed to protect himself while other journalists were subpoenaed and even jailed for his offense.

Still, you couldn’t say that the Prince of Darkness had an ethical lapse in the Plame affair. It had been years since he had any ethics at all.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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