You know something is up when even Bill O’Reilly, the Fox network’s champion bloviator, is admitting that he was wrong about the “weapons of mass destruction” he and the rest of the War Party insisted were in Iraq. Of course, it was still a good idea to go to war, in his view, because Saddam was a Bad Guy, and, well, you know the drill. But what is amazing, at least to me, is that he not only admitted his utter and complete wrongness on the air, but he also apologized to his audience.
Now if only President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the editors of the Weekly Standard would follow O’Reilly’s good example!
Don’t hold your breath, though. Humility is hardly their strong suit. This crew currently in power never admits to error, and certainly never apologizes for anything. Yet, in their unyielding insistence that, as the President put it recently, we invaded Iraq because “there was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a danger to America,” the War Party is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the country. Antiwar sentiment is springing up in the most unlikely places, resonating in comments like Mel Gibson’s answer to Diane Sawyer when she asked him what comes after his Passion flick:
“I was thinking of pitching my tent right next to the weapons of mass destruction, then no one will find me.”
To read the hysterical denunciations of antiwar protestors regularly emitted by the neocons one would think that the opposition to our Iraqi adventure consists entirely of Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and the Dixie Chicks. This caricature, if it was ever true, doesn’t come close to describing what is going on now. I knew the tide had turned when I read the following item in Cindy Adams‘s gossip column the other day:
“ANTI-WAR GOPERS JUST SAY ‘NO VOTE’
“A columnist is the eyes, ears and mouth of the world. Today, Presidents Day, I’m not the Mouth. I’m the Ears. I report exactly what I heard at a corralful of Republicans. Types who’ve Made It. Successful. Comfortable. Two homes, two cars, mostly two marriages. They weren’t speaking to the economy, outsourcing of jobs, Halliburton thing, abortion, gay marriage, cloning or old boy stuff as in why no one at Enron’s gone to jail. Weren’t interested in Bush’s National Guard war record since they recognized that as Dem political trashing.
“They were hot only about this war. About American and other foreign lives being lost. About non Weapons of Mass Destruction hysteria slowly osmosing into the well-Saddam’s-a-bad-dude-so-it’s-right-we-took-him-down-anyway philosophy. One staunch flag-waving patriotic rah-rah-America soul who’d never voted Democrat and doubted he ever would said he simply wanted not to vote for Bush. I now report on something I’d not heard before. He was told: ‘Just don’t vote.’ Don’t vote?! The realization suddenly occurred that violating our nation’s greatest privilege might be President Bush’s newest opposition. Antiwar Republicans who believe he’s vulnerable won’t vote.”
Cindy protests: “Don’t pick on me. Me, I make no comment. Me, I just report.” No “spin” there: just good honest reporting and in the ultra-hawkish Murdoch-owned New York Post, yet! Forget David Broder, Dick Morris, and the rest of the talking heads brigade: The Bushies pay attention to Bill Kristol and ignore Cindy Adams at their peril.
The biggest expansion of discretionary spending since Lyndon Baines Johnson and the “Great Society,” added on to the exponential growth of military expenditures under the general rubric of the “war on terrorism,” all of it funded by debt it’s a fiscal conservative’s worst nightmare. And many of them, including these folks, and these folks, and even some of these guys, are joining the ranks of the boycotters the fiscal and stylistic conservatives who abhor the radicalism of American foreign policy even more than the staggering expense.
As the Old Right journalist John T. Flynn pointed out in 1944, Franklin Roosevelt garnered support for his revolutionary program from the mainstream and even some conservative elements by melding the Welfare State with the Warfare State. “That man in the White House,” as his enemies dubbed him, accumulated enough power to dream of packing the Supreme Court and becoming the closest thing to an American dictator as ever existed. As a wartime President, he nearly succeeded in achieving his ambition.
In styling himself a “wartime President,” and implicitly comparing himself to Roosevelt or, worse, Wilson Bush is scaring those two-home twice-married Republicans, who are beginning to wonder what’s next on the neocon agenda. If they turn out and give the President a second term, won’t they be unleashing the warhawks in the Defense Department to go after Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and then on to Saudi Arabia?
The big question this election season when it comes to the war has to be: who’s got an exit strategy? General Jay Garner, former Iraq administrator, says we’ll be occupying that country for “the next few decades,” and one wonders if either George W. Bush or the Democratic nominee will own up to that. The Democrats will smugly assert that the American people were sold a bill of goods when they were told we must go to war. But the issue is: what do they intend to do about it now?
The answer is, unfortunately, nothing much different from what the Republicans are doing. The whole point of rushing us into war, of emphasizing the imminence of the threat and insisting that we couldn’t wait for UN inspectors to go back in there and verify the existence of Iraqi WMD, was to to ensconce a massive U.S. military presence in the Middle East as a permanent feature of our regional policy. Now that we are there, the conventional wisdom is that there is no turning back.
The conventional wisdom, however, is dead wrong. A mistake, if it isn’t corrected, can only lead to other and even bigger mistakes, and in this case we are just beginning to see the consequences of Bush’s error. Americans are supposed to believe that implanting the seeds of “democracy” in the inhospitable soil of Iraq is rationale enough for the invasion and occupation. But if Iraq is truly democratic and allows the majority to rule, then the results are far more likely to resemble, at best, neighboring Iran at worst, a three-or-four-way civil war. In either case, we have to ask: is it worth the number of casualties, including thousands of horribly maimed wounded?
The untenable nature of our position is constantly balancing on the thin edge between tragedy and comedy. For example, Bremer maintains that he will veto the imposition of Islamic law, but this is a) impossible, and b) a lie. Will he do this even after the much-heralded “handover” of sovereignty to the Iraqis? We know it’s a lie because he didn’t veto the recent law on marriage passed by the Iraqi Governing Council which handed the regulation of marriage over to Islamic religious authorities.
Recent polls show that half of the American people disapprove of the way the President is handling Iraq, and well over half believe he and his advisors were exaggerating or outright lying about the reasons for the war. For the first time, according to an ABC News-Washington Post survey, a majority (50 percent versus 48 percent) believe the war wasn’t worth fighting. Whoever wins these voters over wins the election which is why George W. is hoping they’ll stay home, and sit on their hands, rather than pull the lever for a Democrat.
The War Party may be in retreat, with a few of the more impolitic about to be cut down a few notches and perhaps even indicted but they did manage to accomplish their goal. We are stuck fast to the Iraqi tar-baby with no hope of extrication anytime soon. Both parties are eager, now, to cash in on this government-expanding bureaucratic bonanza of “nation-building.” The occupation of Iraq, and our perpetual wartime footing, mean power and money for those with connections, and contracts galore to hand out to their friends. A nation at war is a politician’s paradise, and that is why we are in for a long one.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Check out the March 1 issue of The American Conservative, and not only because of my review of Gore Vidal’s latest book, Inventing a Nation. Pat Buchanan drops a bunker-buster of a review on the Richard Perle-David Frum manifesto, An End to Evil. My favorite paragraph:
“Bush’s father made Hafez al-Assad an ally in the Gulf War. Ehud Barak offered Assad 99.5 percent of the Golan Heights. Why, then, must Bashir Assad’s regime be destroyed by us? We don’t have much time, say Frum and Perle. But what is Assad doing that warrants immediate attack? Is he, too, buying yellowcake from Niger?”
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