Declaring victory and going home

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The title for today’s piece is from a popular meme poking fun at the George ‘Dubya’ Bush administration during the 2003 Iraq war that resulted in the toppling of Saddam Hussein. In case you forgot, after Hussein was deposed and later executed, there arose an extremely violent insurgency in Iraq (remember the improvised explosive devices (IED’s and the suicide bombings) that made the country virtually ungovernable. As you can imagine, US losses were piling up, the US efforts at stabilising the country were not yielding the desired results (from the US perspective), and perhaps most importantly, American public opinion was souring on the war.

It was at that time that many Americans, especially the so called neo-cons who’d pushed for the war, ostensibly to find Hussein’s cache of weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s), (turns out there weren’t any) suggested to ‘Dubya,’ who no longer seemed to have any plan as to the way out of the quagmire, that he should simply declare victory and bring the troops home.

Fast forward 17 years to the self-same Washington DC, now headed by another ‘winner’ named Donald Trump, and he has declared victory over Covid-19 in the United States. In fact, since the very beginning of this pandemic, he has consistently ‘whistled past the graveyard,’ downplaying the gravity of the situation and making rosy and unrealistic predictions. The US president is so intent on declaring victory, never mind the hidden dangers ahead, that he is planning to disband his coronavirus task force. According to a May 6 report from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Critics have accused the president of sacrificing Americans’ public health in his eagerness to reopen the US economy ahead of his re-election battle in November. In Arizona on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said that Democrats were hoping his coronavirus policy would fail ‘so they can win the election.’ Acknowledging a human cost to the plans, Mr. Trump told reporters: ‘I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly?  Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.’”  Hence, the hasty declaration of victory. Hence, the disbanding of the Covid-19 taskforce.

Similarly, with no real plans for the future (save for a re-opening of the borders), and no real plans to seriously ascertain the extent of our Covid-19 problem, save for declarations that we already peaked several weeks ago, and we are coronavirus-free. And no visionary plans to get the economy back on a sound footing, save for the fanciful talk about tourists knocking down our doors and flocking back to our shores. And not forgetting to mention, the harsh reality that we will have to borrow at least US$150M, our Antigua Barbuda Labour Party administration is looking to wrap up the work of the “fifteen smartest men and women in Antigua and Barbuda” on the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) by declaring victory and . . . well . . . going home. Sigh!

According to the Cabinet notes dated Wednesday June 17, 2020: “The Minister of Education submitted a report to the Cabinet on the workings of his sub-committee. (There are seven sub-committees on the ERC, chaired by seven government Ministers). He will report to the ERC during its seventh meeting tomorrow. The ERC will also receive reports from two other Ministers as it wraps its work. A document will be issued shortly that will summarise the invaluable work of the ERC.” Hmmm!Talk about Bugs Bunny’s, That’s all folks!” Talk about an anti-climax!

       Only seven meetings – a little more than a handful, to chart a way forward out of the biggest economic crisis that this country has ever faced. Folks, we submit that children building a doll’s house or planning a marble competition have had more meetings than this ERC. To date, we have not had a peak at some of the grand plans and ideas that the ERC has been pondering. Moreover, the youth of this country have suggested (and rightfully so) that their voices should have been included in the ERC deliberations, much as the voices of the ordinary citizens by way of town hall meetings and serious invitations to the confabs.

        We await the promised document “that will summarise the invaluable work of the ERC” as it closes shop.The thing is, we are not sure as to why our hearts are not beating rapidly with anticipation. Perhaps it has something to do with the aforementioned President ‘Dubya’ Bush, days after the successful Iraq invasion, parachuting onto the deck of a warship with a banner declaring MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! We all know how that premature declaration turned out.

           We here at NEWSCO continue to urge due diligence and deliberation, and more than an abundance of caution, in the days and weeks and months ahead. Let it never be said that we won a battle, but lost the war. Worse, let posterity never recall that ours was a pyrrhic victory.

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