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June 10, 2003

if a wmd doesn't fall in the forest...

Posted by Phil on June 10, 2003 11:14 PM

All together now: Saddam was a murderous tyrant whom his people are well rid of. But how does the world, and history, judge a government that does the right thing for the wrong reasons? Is it even possible, or does having the wrong reasons, in the end, corrupt the right thing done?

Maybe we'll know when the war is over. Wars have three parts: a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. Hollywood movies, TV news, and the audience at home are generally only concerned with the Middle, and in this case it was conducted as well as one could expect. It was quick, with fewer casualties all around than expected, and Saddam is out of power. Mass graves have been found and horrible accounts of the regime have trickled out, so a majority of Americans have declared themselves pleased with the whole affair, especially the parts where they rescued the girl and pulled down the bad man's statue.

That certainly works for the Bush administration, which would also be happy to let the End justify the means. But two things are necessary in order to have an End: the losers have to either be dead or done fighting, and everyone else has to agree that the reasons for the Beginning were good and are settled. Otherwise, there is no End at all, just more messy Middle. As it happens, a general scoldingly informed us last week that, on the ground in Iraq, the war is in fact not over. American soldiers and their families didn't need to be told that, but a lot of folks at home were fooled when the president landed on a ship in a pilot suit with a big sign that said "Mission Accomplished."

So how about that Beginning? We all heard the president's message of fear and danger as he beat the drum for war. Watching his spookily scripted prime-time "press conference" back in March, I was disgusted by how he overplayed his hand, so I'm hardly shocked to see it proven on the ground that he was, at best, wildly exaggerating. I might have agreed that there were valid reasons to build a global consensus to force Saddam out, but the Bush administration chose to base its case on these thin allegations, apparently convinced that its hidden, honest intentions would be even harder to sell than its flimsy, stated ones.

Supporters of Mr. Bush charge that his critics are mired in mere politics, unable to see the great good this war has already brought to those Iraqis whom it did not kill. But war is politics, and so is terrorism, and Mr. Bush in his rush to war resorted to the cheap political tactics of a demagogue, playing to hotheads and paranoid simpletons, bulldozing all who counseled caution and cultural sensitivity. Leaving aside the hotter accusations that this war is about misguided revenge, resurgent imperialism, and oil profits for administration cronies, this has been a political campaign conducted on the global stage by George W. Bush, and America had better wake up to the fact that we are losing.

Mr. Bush was either woefully inept, or he was cravenly dishonest. Thanks to his obfuscation, we can't know for sure what his and his advisers' goals for this war were, and that is why the world is visibly not--indeed, never has been--at peace with it, or with America. If America is willing to see this for what it is, this will be his "Read my lips" moment--inevitable because conservatives learned the wrong lesson from that: Bush Senior wasn't wrong for raising taxes, he was wrong for saying, for short-term political gain, that he never would. The son and his father's advisers have once again arrogantly tried a shortcut.

Winning the war on terror is not about brass balls and flight suits. It's about fairness and firmness. It requires mature leaders and smart politicians--politicians who can reach out to and make peace with our enemies. Saddam Hussein has killed many times more Arabs than Mr. Bush. Who is more detested in the Arab world? The one who's a bad politician.


Y'know, I was reading this and thought, "This is cool, but it doesn't sound like Michael." It wasn't. I had to pop out of NNW Lite & go to the site to find out it was you, Phil. :) I wonder how many other writings of yours I've attributed to Michael without knowing it? Trippy.

Posted by: Ed at June 11, 2003 2:12 PM