"Hope begets disappointment, and we are now in a moment of disappointment when it comes to Iraq. During these shakeout moments, the naysayers get to gloat while the rest of us despair, lacerate ourselves, second-guess those in charge, and look at things anew. But this very process of self-criticism is the precondition for the second wind, the grubbier, less illusioned effort that often enough leads to some acceptable outcome."
So wrote David Brooks, the conservative op-ed columnist, this week in The New York Times, further arguing, "the weeks until June 30 are bound to be awful, but we may be at the start of a new beginning."
The "naysayers" to whom Brooks refers no doubt includes editors of newspapers like this one. Indeed, we at the Flyer stand guilty as charged, having been "nattering nabobs of negativism" (as Spiro Agnew so famously characterized his enemies in 1970) ever since the mad idea of a unilateral American invasion of Iraq first began making the rounds in the summer of 2002. That October, we urged Congressman Harold Ford Jr. to vote against the War Powers Act (he didn't), and the following winter pleaded with the Bush administration to allow Hans Blix's UN weapons inspections to be concluded before contemplating war against Saddam Hussein (he didn't either). And in March 2003, as the president ordered an invasion of Iraq over what amounted to a de facto UN Security Council veto of his actions, we cried foul: "With its radical concept of preventive war," we wrote, "the Bush administration is about to let a potentially dangerous genie out of the bottle."
Yes, we were naysayers, early and often. But all that doesn't give us now the slightest sense of satisfaction. One cannot gloat while men, women and children are dying. We take no pleasure from predicting that the unleashing of what Senator Robert Byrd early on called "the dogs of war" would get us into a mess of such monumental proportions.
No, and even negativity nabobs like ourselves never imagined that events would unfold in the truly diabolical fashion that they have: with the President's WMD causus belli proving to be total fabrication, with a military "liberation" strategy so thoroughly inept that tyranny in Iraq has been replaced by anarchy, with the regime of a historic Iraqi war criminal being replaced by an occupation force guilty of war crimes of its own.
And yet Brooks, poignantly, still sees the bottle as somehow half-full. "There's something about our venture into Iraq," he writes, "that is inspiringly, painfully, embarrassingly, and quintessentially American."
Really? Is it "quintessentially American" to launch an invasion of another sovereign state without proof of genuine threat to our national interests? Is it "quintessentially American" to kill thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and not even bother to keep an accurate body count? Is it "quintessentially American" to ask our soldiers to die for a war built upon a lie?
Perhaps Brooks failed to read the gripping interview published earlier this week in The Sacramento Bee (www.sacbee.com), in which Marine Sgt. Jimmy Massey, an Iraq veteran, detailed numerous instances of random violence against Iraqi civilians during the actual invasion last spring. Today, Massey has no doubts why our troops are facing a nationalist insurgency ("We killed a lot of innocent people"), and deeply regrets his own role in the slaughter. "I killed innocent people for our government," he admits. "For what? Where is the good coming out of it? I feel like I've had a hand in some sort of evil lie at the hands of our government."
So have we all, Sgt. Massey. The bottle is neither half-full nor half-empty, but well and truly broken. And the genie has come roaring out. n