Remember moral clarity?
Not long ago, anybody who suggested that
attacking Iraq might create worse problems than it would solve was
dismissed as a cowardly moral relativist who couldn't distinguish good
To President Bush
and the visionaries who sold him and the nation
on "preemptive" war, everything was melodramatically simple. Saddam
Hussein was a wicked tyrant whose removal would bring tranquility to the
Middle East. Because Saddam was (and is), in fact, a murderous gangster,
arguing against the war required counting past two, a degree of
sophistication deemed decadent and unpatriotic.
in the American Prospect, Jason Vest quoted "a very
senior national security official" earnestly telling him before the war that
"Americans would be welcomed in Iraq, and not with a fleeting shower of
goodwill but with a 'deluge' of 'rose water and flowers' that would last in
perpetuity." Such statements were almost as common before the war as
warnings about Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction."
With relative ease,
Iraq would be turned into an Arab Switzerland.
Best of all, a veritable gusher of Iraqi petrodollars produced by the
entrepreneurial skills of returning Iraqi exiles would pay for it. Vest
had asked the unnamed official, a man with no military experience, what
he thought of a cautionary report from the U.S. Army War College.
Iraq: Insights, Challenges and Missions
for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario,"it emphasized the need
for careful pre-invasion planning it said the Bush administration, in its
ideological auto-intoxication, hadn't undertaken. "Without an overwhelming
effort to prepare for occupation," it concluded "the US may find itself in a
radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the
threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems
of America's own making."
The official smugly debunked
the Army's warnings. He was particularly
dismissive of Army chief-of-staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, as "bullshit from a
Clintonite enamored of using the army for peacekeeping and nation building
and not winning wars." Shinseki was forced into retirement after angering
Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld by telling a congressional committee
that hundreds of thousands of American troops would be needed to to
occupy Iraq for the forseeable future, perhaps as long as a decade.
Other naysayers, reports Col. David Hackworth in his syndicated column,
are being purged by "Rummy's" civilian ideologues--most of whom have
never heard a shot fired in anger.
President Bush pronounces
his faith unshaken, although he no longer
expects it to be easy. Willpower and sacrifice are now required. Nor will
the occupation pay for itself. The cost of putting Iraq's infrastructure back
in working order, civilian administrator Paul Bremer told the Washington
Post last week, was "almost impossible to exaggerate." His best estimate
was "tens of billions of dollars."
At the White House, it's
still thought decadent to count past two.
It's all terribly simple to Bush: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys, evildoers vs.
freedom fighters, an action/adventure film scenario. Speaking to the
American Legion on August 26, the president described al Qaeda's
religious zealots and Saddam's Baathists as one and the same:
"They know that a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East would
be a further defeat for their ideology of terror," he said. "They know that
the spread of peace and hope in the Middle East would undermine the
appeal of bitterness, resentment and violence. And the more progress
we make in Iraq, the more desperate the terrorists will become.
Freedom is a threat to their way of life."
Three days later, a truck
bomb detonated at one of Shia Islam's
holiest shrines, killing Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr Hakim and 125 of his
followers--the most ominous in a series of sickening atrocities. Hakim
had returned from exile in Iran urging forbearance toward the American
occupation. A U.S. Marine major offered the Washington Post's Anthony
Shadid three suspects: "former Baath Party operatives working with
foreigners, rivals of Hakim within the Shiite community and his former
allies in Iran seeking 'some sort of retribution.'" Out in the street,
Shadid wrote, some shouted and others whispered theories that ran the
gamut of possibilities--Sunni Muslim militants hostile to Shiites, Iran,
Israel, the United States and Hussein loyalists."
Others blame Saudi, Syrian,
and Palestinian extremists. "America
considers itself the superpower of the world, but here it is powerless
to keep any semblance of order," a Baghdad elementary school teacher
told the Los Angeles Times. "The Americans fired our police and our
army. Now there is no security and foreign terrorists are coming across
same ideologues who predicted a cakewalk in Iraq
have changed metaphors. Iraq has become "flypaper," a killing ground to
which Arab terrorists--evidently a finite number in their theories--are
Nobody mentions moral clarity anymore.
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