Sometimes it's hard to tell how many Americans
understand the difference between TV and the
three-dimensional world. Just before the Iraq war, polls showed almost 60 percent held Saddam
Hussein responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks--a claim not even the president made, although
Bush took pains to link Saddam's alleged "weapons of mass destruction" and the terrorist threat.
Most who opposed the war thought the connection
specious or dishonest. Nasty SOB that he
was or is, we thought Saddam could be deterred. To take him down by force, we feared, would
burden the U.S. with its own West Bank, embittered, humiliated, and seething with ethnic and
religious hatreds which Saddam's tyranny kept in check. It would also be expensive, with
American taxpayers paying first to blow Iraq to smithereens, then footing the bill for Halliburton,
Bechtel and President Junior's other corporate chums to rebuild it.
Never mind the human toll; we are all geo-political
strategists now. Crocodile tears aside, few
GOP triumphalists exchanging high-fives over defeating a Third World nation with military
resources amounting to roughly 1/2 of one percent of the U.S. defense budget appear terribly
concerned about the dead and maimed on either side. The Pentagon has no plans to enumerate
Iraqi casualties, military or civilian. The phrase "many thousands" is, as they say, close enough
for government work.
Reporting on a 12-year old Iraqi boy, orphaned
by a U.S. bomb and hospitalized with both
arms blown off, a CNN correspondent actually asked if he understood the purposes of
"Operation Iraqi Freedom." A Kuwaiti doctor tactfully responded that Ali Hamza had suffered
"psychological trauma" and had no political views.
Another aspect of GOP triumphalism is hunting
domestic heretics. Try to believe that the following
sentences appeared in the lead to a New York Times thumb sucker entitled "Dilemma's Definition:
The Left and Iraq" by one David Carr: "This has been a tough war for commentators on the American
left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for
Evidently, Carr is not a sports fan, or
he'd have understood the concept of, say, cheering for the
Arkansas Razorbacks while also thinking they need a new coach. Nowhere did he show a particle
of evidence that any of the pundits named--David Remnick and Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker,
Eric Alterman of The Nation, Michael Kinsley of Slate, and Joan Walsh of Salon--hoped for defeat,
predicted it, or had any sympathy whatever for Saddam. Kinsley, indeed, had written that "[n]o sane
person doubted" that the U.S. would defeat Iraq. Carr's article was the journalistic equivalent
of the sheep in Orwell's Animal Farm, eagerly chanting "Four legs good, two legs bad" to drown out
criticism of Comrade Napoleon, the head pig.
So here we are scant days after the unexpectedly
sudden fall of Baghdad--so mercifully abrupt
that the Arab press is speculating that Republican Guard generals were bribed to take a powder.
A tactical masterstroke, if so. Electrical power and sanitary water supplies have yet to be restored
acros most of Iraq. If looting has died down it's because there's nothing left to steal from plundered
government ministries, presidential palaces, even hospitals.
The National Museum of Iraq, repository
of one of the world's great archeological collections,
lies in ruins--10,000 years of history vanished. The smoke still rises from the National Library, and
the Ministry of Religious Endowment. Ancient master-works of calligraphy from "The Arabian Nights"
to Korans that survived the Mongol conquest of 1258, have been burnt. Archeologists and historians
begged the Pentagon months ago to protect these treasures. But as the retired generals now mocked
for criticizing Rummy's battle plans argued, the U.S. lacked sufficient forces for the job. Never fear,
however, the Oil Ministry was well-guarded.
Meanwhile, no weapons of mass destruction
have been found. Somewhat belatedly, administration
stalwarts are reportedly losing faith in intelligence reports. Kurds have taken to forcibly expelling
Arabs from northern Iraq; U.S. troops have shot civilian protesters in Mosul; Sunnis and Shiites
staged mass marches in Baghdad demanding an American pullout; Iraqi cops derisively known as
"Ali Babas," (as in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves") have been put back on the street out of
necessity; and hundreds of thousands of Shiites have embarked upon a peaceful, but potentially
destabilizing religious pilgrimage.
Amid the chaos and uncertainty, an April
17 ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that 73
percent of Americans now fear that the U.S. will get "bogged down in a long and costly" mission
in Iraq. Did they think it was a made-for-TV movie? Next came the most unsettling headline of all:
"Officials Argue for Fast U.S. Exit From Iraq." The Washington Post quoted "senior administration
officials" hinting at an American pullout in "a matter of months."
Are they out of their minds?
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