July 28, 2003

Ignoring The Positives

Which description best fits the roles of the U.S. military in Iraq and those there who are still trying to kill us? In Andrew Sullivan's words....

a) "Colonial powers opposed by restless population"

b) "Liberators still opposed by remnants of totalitarian regime"

Our political and military leaders, rank and file soldiers, along with those reporters and observers who have actually been in Iraq, observing and interviewing Iraqis, say that clearly the answer is "b".

Why then are there so many media types, Democratic presidential candidates, and assorted other naysayers trying so hard to convince people that the answer is "a"?

The easy answer, of course, is partisan political considerations. That's why the subject for these folks has been a sentence in a 7-month old speech, and not the difficult and steadily progressing work that our people are doing in Iraq today. As Sullivan says, it's unfair to the Iraqis themselves:

It's perfectly legitimate to question - aggressively - the fallible intelligence that was used in part to justify the war. But to use such an inquiry to undermine the current attempt to rebuild Iraq is to compound forgivable government failure before the war with the desperate need for allied success after it. To replay the war debate now is a fatal distraction from the vital work at hand. Even if you disagreed with the war, it is utterly unfair to the Iraqi people now to use their future and their lives as pawns in a domestic political squabble. Yet some would try to do exactly that. Their agenda needs to be resisted just as firmly as the cowardly attacks by Baathists in Iraq. For they serve the same purpose: the demise of democratic promise in Iraq and the collapse of the West's long and difficult war against terror. We can afford neither. And it's past time petty politics ceased in the face of that reality.

Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post says Iraqis are coming together more quickly than we had hoped, and that worries of tribal warfare were exaggerated. Here's an excerpt:

Two great discoveries have emerged in the ruins of Baathist Iraq. One is that fierce religious and ethnic hatreds that the experts -- them again -- warned would trigger bloodbaths if Hussein were toppled have been phantoms. For all of its problems, Iraq is not today beset by ethnic or religious warfare.

Second, the predicted great cleavages between "exiles" and insiders have quickly narrowed as Iraqis of all backgrounds seek common solutions. Some of Bush's own Cabinet members should try that approach. "Iraqis are not a defeated people and should not be treated by American authorities as such," Chalabi tells me at the end of a long day of palaver. "We defeated Saddam, even if it was the Americans who defeated his forces. We survived him. The people did not fight for him."

From today's Bleat, Lileks recalls that it wasn't that long ago we were embroiled in protests over the Afghanistan intervention.

In the Sunday book pages of the Strib was an article about the women of Afghanistan. It was discussing the new-found freedoms of women in the post-Taliban society, about girls queuing for school after years of oppression. Quote: “No matter what one’s political misgivings about the war might be, the sight of those girls was a thrilling shock.”

That sentence stuck in my head, and made me think back to October 01, to all the discontent over the Afghan campaign. We’ve forgotten what that was like - the marches in Europe, the predictions of mass casualties, the accusations of empire-building, how it was all about (cue Twilight Zone theme) an oil pipeline, how it would become a quagmire, how it was a quagmire, how we should have used international law to bring OBL to justice. It was the dress rehearsal for Iraq. The same blind sputtering fury; the same protests with Bush = Hitler posters and giant mocking puppets; the same inability to accept that a byproduct of the campaign would be a freer society for the very people the protesters supposedly cared about.

Any mass executions at the Kabul soccer stadium recently? No?

Wonder why.

That book-review quote says it all. We have to honor those who had “political misgivings,” because dissent is a virtue too pure to be stained by truth. Nevermind that the end result of those “political misgivings” would have been another generation of Afghan daughters beaten with bats for winking at a cute guy. Those “political misgivings” would have assured that any young Afghan woman who stepped outside her house and asked to be educated would be whipped with 2 X 4s by the Committee for Flaming Theocracy Gynophobe Committee.

But that can’t be said. People who were wrong for the right reasons will always get a pass.

Just as those who invoke the "Q" word today regarding Iraq are those who favored a policy that would have left Saddam, Uday and Qusay in power for the foreseeable future.

Posted by dan at July 28, 2003 4:03 PM