Now Playing in Baghdad and Washington by Thomas Fleming • May 2, 2007 • Printer-friendly
From the very beginning, the Iraq War has been a comedy, albeit a very black comedy. Everything about the war is screamingly funny—everything but the deaths and taxes it has cost. The laughs never quit, from the President’s first-rate impersonations of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane and Tommy Smothers to Colin Powell’s stage business at the UN, showing all those mobile weapons labs, to Karl Rove’s cynical manipulation of the press that did not stop short of outing a CIA operative because her husband had spilled the beans about the President’s and Vice President’s lies, which is the only proper word to describe their ridiculous claims that Iraq had or was on the verge of having nuclear weapons.
Everyone remembers the best scene: Four Years ago the President who avoided combat by serving in the Air National Guard lands his plane on a carrier and declares victory under the big bold letters MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. It is a good thing they no longer teach Greek tragedy in the schools he partied his way through. Otherwise, Mr. Bush would have been lying awake nights waiting for the ruin that inevitably follows such hubris.
In addition to these star-turns from the administration, there was, of course, the usual comedy of errors we can expect when wars are run by civilians, draft-dodgers, and peacetime veterans. I’ll leave it to you to decide in which category to put: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and the Pentagon’s team of hawks that included Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, and Perle. George Tenet, the man responsible for pre-war intelligence, did not have a single item in his resume (apart from college degrees in “foreign service”) to qualify him to be a cop on the beat, much less director of the CIA. He had been a lobbyist for Greek-Americans before becoming a congressional staffer. He was then picked up by the Clintons, who always had an eye out for incompetents who might prove to be good lackeys. How else to explain Albright and Reno—both of them more virile than poor Mr. Tenet.
In recent days, the black comedy has turned to burlesque. Mr. Tenet, to get back at a President who threw him to the wolves, has been whining about how he was treated unfairly and ratting out Messers Bush and Cheney along with Miz Rice. Republican damage control consists largely of accusations against Tenet. As usual, both sides are more or less right. Tenet was feeble, Rice incompetent, Bush and Cheney blind, willful, and less than honest. Tenet obviously thought he was going to improve his position in the history books, but his 60 Minutes interview was more like a murder-suicide pact. He only knocked off his former boss as prelude to destroying his own credibility.
But if Tenet has played a kind of Curley to the Vice President’s Moe, the Democrats have raised the level of the comedy by imitating Molière’s great hypocrite, Tartuffe. “We believed the President about the WMD’s. Everything is his fault and the fault of his party.” Right. Congressional Democrats always believe Republican Presidents and rubber-stamp their policies.
If there were Democrats in Congress who believed George Bush’s cockamamie stories, they should resign and go into hiding. Their only defense is that they knew he was lying but were too timid to oppose him—not much of a moral leg to stand on, less even than the prosthetic limbs too many American Iraq War veterans are standing on because of Republican lies and Democratic cowardice.
And what, now, is the Democratic alternative to the President’s failed war? Cut and run, and, even better than a flight as cowardly as Dick Cheney’s scamper down the rabbit hole on September 11, they want to hand, as the President (right for once in his life) points out, a time-table to the insurgents. (Naturally, George Bush calls them terrorists. Anyone who gets in the way of his ambitions is now a terrorist.) But, even more astonishingly dishonest than the time-table is the new Democratic buzz-word: benchmarks. If the Iraqis do not learn to make nice with each other and establish American-style democracy—meaning, presumably, a state controlled by two cynical and corrupt parties that ignore the people’s needs and desires—we shall simply leave them in the mess they have made of their country.
Except it is not the Iraqis who brought war and devastation to Iraq. It was the President and Congress of the United States. If Democrats are now saying the President was wrong, then they were also wrong, and the war was wrong. In that case, what we have done to Iraq is not simply a mistaken judgment: It is perverse and criminal . Imposing political “benchmarks” on a country that they have ruined goes even beyond the usual hypocrisy of the Democratic Party. Why not blame the inmates of a concentration camp for losing weight and then punish them, if they do not meet a set of weight-gain benchmarks, by reducing their rations. These people are sick and evil, more like the psychotic children who shoot their schoolmates than the ordinary crooks and scoundrels we once had in the glory days of our republic.
Do not ask me what to do with the horror we have created because I have no idea but this one little thought. Let us all, Democrats and Republicans, Liberals, Libertarians, and Conservatives, take a deep breath and for once in our lives tell the truth and demand the truth from our self-described leaders. If we cannot manage to force just one minute of truth from a politician, then I hope we all know better than to feed this political monkey by voting.
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