A young man goes to India before he knows much of his own country; but he cherishes in his breast, as I hope every man will, a just and laudable partiality for the laws, liberties, rights, and institutions of his own nation. We all do this; and God forbid we should not prefer our own to every other country in the world! but if we go to India with an idea of the mean, degraded state of the people that we are to govern, and especially if we go with these. impressions at an immature age, we know, that, according to the ordinary course of human nature, we shall not treat persons well whom we have learnt to despise. We know that people whom we suppose to have neither laws or rights will not be treated by us as a people who have laws and rights. -- Edmund Burke, Speech on the Impeachment of Warren Hastings.
Casualty report for today, the 28th day after the end of the War:
Two Iraqi men were killed and two U.S. servicemen injured in an exchange of gunfire at a mosque in Baghdad, witnesses and soldiers said.But the U.S. Central Command said Monday it could not confirm that the incident took place or that there were casualties.
This weekend the belligerent establishment moved to put down these petty complaints about the Weapons of Auto-Disappearance. The two horse trailers that the NYT's Judith Miller was only able to look at with opera glasses, and while performing a position prescribed by the Kama Sutra for relieving bunions, have suddenly become exhibit A, according to our always valiant president, travelling in that enemy territory known as Europe. Indeed, we have faced many threats as a great people, but we have never faced a threat like this: two trailers that might, at any time, given the right equipment, and some bug spray, and some bacteria, and a teaspoon of sugar, and a couple of big iron pots, and a strainer, and the eye of newt, and the blood of a dog killed under a full moon with St. John's wart -- that might, we said, produce such weapons as would shake us all in our beds. Not perhaps within forty five minutes, as Tony Blair told us, but certainly within forty five years, more or less.
So we have to revise the very reason we went into Iraq, which now turns out to be to get rid of a mass killer. Alas, we got rid of the mass killer years after his last mass kill -- and we sorta might have uh helped him the years of his mass killing youth, but better now than never.Jim Hoagland, who is a middle of the road slice of bacon writing for the Washington Post, puts it like this:
"Three weeks before the war began, a representative Time/CNN poll reported that 83 percent of their sample said "the most compelling reason to disarm Hussein is that he has wantonly killed his own citizens." "Saddam's cruelty" was the top reason for action, followed by 72 percent who felt that a war "would help eliminate weapons of mass destruction."
There was a mosaic of valid reasons for removing Hussein, and most Americans understood and approved of that mosaic. Feigning shock on behalf of "duped" citizens who were fairly clear-eyed about what they were getting into takes some doing.Nor did war opponents Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder base their decisions about whether Iraq possessed programs to produce biological, chemical or nuclear weapons on Secretary of State Colin Powell's powerful presentation at the United Nations. Nor was there ever any significant disagreement within the CIA over the intelligence on weapons programs. Controversy was over terrorist links."
Well, isn't that interesting. We thought controversy had to do with a little thing called pre-emption, and pre-emption, as we remembered it, had to do with imminent threats. Which is why the clear eyed populace had many curious ideas before the War:
"Polling data show that right after Sept. 11, 2001, when Americans were asked open-ended questions about who was behind the attacks, only 3 percent mentioned Iraq or Hussein. But by January of this year, attitudes had been transformed. In a Knight Ridder poll, 44 percent of Americans reported that either "most" or "some" of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens." A New York Times/CBS poll in August, 2002 showed that 62% of Americans thought Saddam had WMD and was targeting the US with them.
Etc. Imagine a poll which asked, given the absense of significant links between Saddam and al Qaeda, and given the lack of any real current Iraqi possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction, should we invade the place? The Hoagland mural would start to flake off in big bits.
The Independent -- naturally, a British paper -- had a big summary, Sunday, of the WMD controversy. Just another episode in the amazing Blair escape artists hour. However, the bigger question is: who cares? The invasion isn't going to be reversed any time soon. The real problem with using big lies as the basis of a major foreign policy decision is that we, Americans and Iraqis, have to live with that decision. This means that America has not only a moral obligation to pay for reconstructing Iraq, but that it is a necessary cost in securing home sweet home. I don't know what the polls say, but I suspect that the Bush administration still believes its own dope about paying for the reconstruction out of Iraqi oil revenues. That is, of course, a pipe dream. As the fool said in King Lear, nothing comes of nothing. If we decided to "implement" democracy in Iraq -- and we have -- we have to face up to the costs. Those costs will be about fifty billion dollars over the course of the next year. But as it becomes more apparent that the clear eyed populace was talked into the deal, it will also be more likely that the clear eyed populace will balk at paying for Bush's Folly.
Walter Mead, who supported the invasion, and wrote a pre-conflict sci fi op ed piece in the Washington Post about the cost of the sanctions in human life, now writes in the LA Times about the triumph the U.S. is experiencing in the rest of the world, as Chirac "frantically" phones the White House and Russia edges towards the U.S. position on Iran. Oh really? Mead obviously reads different papers than LI. But the scariest part of Mead's piece consists of these grafs:
"... But what if things come unglued in Iraq? What if law and order don't return, and the present low level of violence starts to rise and become better organized? What if the body count among U.S. forces continues to increase? Won't American public opinion demand a speedy retreat? And wouldn't a retreat that left Iraq still undemocratic undercut the U.S. further? The short answer is that if Iraqi violence continues to rise, at some point the administration would go to Plan B: Find a general, turn the place over to him and go home. If this happens, it would be a tragedy not only for Iraqis but for the democratic aspirations of the whole Middle East. For Bush, it might not be so bad."
We think Mead is naive in thinking this is a plausible scenario. For Bush, this would be a disaster. The repercussions of getting 160 some thousand American troops out, while trying to 'turn the place" -- which, mind you, officially has no military -- over to a general would be something like the Titanic times ten. Not to mention the spread of chaos throughout the region.
No, we are stuck there. If that is not accepted by the American populace now, in their clear eyed trance, it will become evident over the summer. And if Americans start dying in more than the ones and twos that are reported in less than headline style in the newspapers, the extent of our committment will become all too clear.