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September 21, 2003

Buckets and Mops

Posted by Mike on September 21, 2003 11:32 PM

One of Salon's senior news editors argues Iraq is also the responsibility of the American left, not in the sense that we caused the war in Iraq, but in the sense that this country bears a collective responsibility to fix what our administration and military most manifestly broke, regardless of what we all thought before Bush & Co. knocked the place over.

"The difficulty, for many on the left, is that the war and Bush seem inseparable, so that if you cheer the liberation, you seem to be cheering Bush and Cheney. But that perspective, too, is a form of shortsightedness: If the war is not over in a matter of weeks, one thinks, then it is lost, or not worth fighting. When the car bombs blow, you say: 'I told you so.' The Iraqis are responsible for their own freedom, or maybe you think that the Arab world is not ready for freedom. These are the thoughts that can sometimes be implicit in a slogan like 'bring the troops home.'

"There is another way of looking at things: Bush and Saddam, each in his own way, poses a profound threat to democracy, and so it's incumbent on us, even those who vehemently opposed the war, to oppose both of them while pressing to provide sufficient aid and support to make the liberation of Iraq a reality. One can oppose the enrichment of Halliburton, and yet still help to rebuild Iraq."

I buy a big chunk of this argument, which is why it makes me sick to realize that when Bush goes to the UN this week, he'll probably be alienating everyone in the room and virtually guaranteeing that the tools we need to rebuild Iraq will be scarce and grudgingly lent.

Josh Marshall dug out some people who think so anyhow, and it'd certainly fit the pattern.

Since we're on Iraq, it seems worth taking a second to note the ridiculous armchair hawks pushing the "flypaper theory":

If you don't spend a lot of time following the deluded rationalizations of the likes of Andrew Sullivan or Glenn Reynolds, you really just need to know that the flypaper theorists maintain that the ongoing bloodshed in Iraq is all part of a larger plan . . . that we've lured the forces of terrorism to engage us in Iraq, where they'll dash themselves against our might and end this pesky militant Islam problem forever.

If you needed any more evidence that these people are nauseatingly false when they solemnly acknowledge the horror of war before beating its drums, this is pretty much it. Having destroyed Iraq's government and thrown the country into chaos, our responsibility is to fix the damned place, not use it as bait in a "plan" I suspect is primarily a fever dream of hack commentators who can't admit that Bush & Co. had no exit strategy. Sullivan, no doubt, thinks he's demonstrating more of that "steely resolve" a civilian with no input into foreign policy and at no particular risk from dying in the conflicts he incites must demonstrate.

Hopefully the rest of us are catching on to the essential moral infirmity of these people: When they say they don't want war, they are lying. They clearly do want war, and any excuse or rationalization for its prolongation will serve. When they say they never thought Iraq was about anything other than liberating its people from Saddam's horrors, we can see the puddle-like depths of their compassion: They're arguing with straight faces that Iraqis should cheerfully continue to live in fear and bloodshed while we use Iraq as our proxy battleground.


The only war issue now--the only reason to talk about who wanted it, who lied for it, who voted for it, who planned it, and who fucked it up--is whether the people who got us into Iraq are the people to resolve the situation. The answer is no. Bush will be no better at nation-building than he promised to be in 2000. He thought we were just nation-taking-over, hero's-welcome-accepting, and regional-influence-assuming.

It's impossible to say whether any combination of solutions will bring about a just and peaceful society in the construct that is Iraq. But America is there now, and must remain, and it is up to the American left to see to it that it is done right, if it can be done at all. The "bring 'em home now" folks are as wrong as as the flypaper theorists whose phony "plan" uses Americans and Iraqis alike as pawns. I think worst of all are the windsocks in the middle who blindfolded themselves with the flag and went along with Bush's folly, if they now want to slink away with the excuse that they were lured there under false pretenses.

To anyone who was paying attention, there have been few surprises in Iraq, and citizens who claim otherwise are admitting to being derelict in their democratic duty.

Posted by: pk at September 22, 2003 1:56 PM