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"I'll be back."

You know what's gone missing from the blogosphere lately? The "good news" from Iraq.

For a while there you could hardly click on a pro-war blog without coming upon loud denunciations of everyone's favorite whipping boy, the Mainstream Media, for failing to report the "good news" from Iraq. There would follow a link to a blog post about a school opening in Donkeydung, Iraq.

Lately, far less chiding. Far fewer posts linking to happy news from Iraq. Not even the most enthusiastic of the pro-war bloggers can keep up that particular line anymore.

Now the pro-war bloggers spend their time straining to avoid recognizing the obvious connection between the Rumsfeldisms of southern Lebanon and Iraq. Now the pro-war bloggers strain to ignore that devastating book, Fiasco. Now the pro-war bloggers carefully avoid taking note of the right-wing pundits and decorated generals and rock-solid conservatives who have abandoned them.

Now, above all, the pro-war bloggers mull ways in which they can somehow . . . somehow . . . blame the liberals for the looming disaster in Iraq.

Yes, the culprits, inevitably, are the liberals who wielded precisely zero influence over the conduct of this war, and the New York Times, which famously became Scooter Libby's own personal Pravda for a while. They, the liberals, are to blame . . . must somehow be to blame . . . for the failure of a war conceived in the minds of neo-cons, carried out under the precepts of the neo-cons, and financed without stint by the American people.

The blame must never fall on the people -- like me -- who wanted this war. No, we cannot possibly be to blame.

And never must blame fall on the people in power who ignored dissenting voices, distorted intelligence, botched the conduct of this war, relentlessly politicized this war, lied about this war, sought to profit politically from this war.

People who were simply wrong then -- and I was among them -- too often went from honest error to stubbornness in defense of error. Now stubborness is metastisizing into fantasy, denial and scapegoating.

All humans make mistakes. Honest mistakes must be forgiven. (At least I, who have made my share, hope so.) But those who make mistakes and then, rather than admit error, rather than suffer correction, turn to denial, and worse to a dishonest search for scapegoats, lose their chance at redemption.

I was wrong to support this war. Not the first time I was wrong about something, and it won't be the last, I'm afraid. But I try to follow the First Law of Holes: when you're in a hole, stop digging. Unfortunately too many in the political world, and in our little blogosphere, their hands tight-clenched around the shovel's handle, just keep digging.

We are moving already into the "Who Lost Iraq?" game. It seems early, but the Right is standing astride the railroad tracks and sees that train a comin'. So they are working feverishly to sidestep blame. The search for a scapegoat is on in earnest. The neo-cons will morph into neo-McCarthyites. They will try to find a witch to burn to expiate their own sins.

So I want to repeat something I will remind readers of from time to time: the number of Mr. Bush's budget requests for the war that have been refused: zero. The number of military decisions made by Mr. Bush's critics: zero.

Remember that. The denialists will work night and day to lay the blame for this fiasco on someone else. Never forget that Mr. Bush has been given every dollar, every man he as asked for, and has set every policy. Every dollar, every decision.

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  1. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    I think it's important to remember that the small little cabal of far leftists who lay at the center of the anti-war movement (and whose idiocy gives the anti-war movement its worst aspects) are the same little cabal who decried the invasion of Afghanistan and demanded we not retaliate for 9/11. No one listened. Why? Because these far leftists were clearly so wrong.

    But NOW, lots of people are listening to those leftists not because they're suddenly wise but because the other side, the pro-war side, has driven so many people into the anti-camp.

    The "liberals" are not losing this war. The liberals have gained strength because the Republicans are losing this war. No one would have ever listened to the banter of the far left if the right hadn't screwed things up.

    So, yeah ... that's my long way of saying I agree.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Couldn’t you, Democrats, have helped out with deciding-making?! Do you know the pressure of having to work around the clock, 100 hours a day?! I know, I’ve gotten all the dough I asked for; but do you know that I was hoping you’d offer more?! I purposefully low-balled the budget for this war; I was being modest! Did you come through?! – No, as always! I told you, the WMDs are there, just look a little… And did you?! – No, no, you didn’t, if you looked you would’ve finded them. And now, the Assyrians got ‘em. You wouldn’t be able to find a needle in the haystack! So much for relying on you for anything, pinko assholes!

    Yours in Christ,


  3. Blogger cakreiz Says:

    On your old blog, I gave the War 18 months from November 2004. I've since reached the conclusion that Iraq a failed cause. Unfortunately, we've made the situation worse by violating Rule #1 of ME politics: things can and will get worse. John Kerry's haunting Vietnam question is now material: how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a failed policy?

  4. Blogger cakreiz Says:

    Further proof of the applicability of Rule #1: Nasrallah is now the most popular figure in the Middle East, according to an Egyptian poll. Ya gotta be kidding me.

  5. Blogger Cantankerous Bitch Says:

    Wow, Alan. Just wow.
    This is one of those "some say" comments that I so loathe about the pundit class. No citations, no quotes, no names. Just "some", or in this case "small little cabal".

    Who, precisely, do you have in mind? Anyone outside of Cindy Sheehan? Or the infinitely less credible A.N.S.W.E.R? Is it anyone with say, actual political credibility? After all, "some" conservatives would have our entire government based on Biblical law. "Some" would execute homosexuals on sight. "Some" feel that judges should not only be thrown off the bench, but otherwise maimed, attacked and poisoned as well.

    Surely these views don't represent the majority of conservatives, and they obviously don't reflect any legitimate political body (at least not one with meaurable power). Inferring that they are representative of a larger whole would be patently foolish. Just as insinuating that some "small cabal" that "demanded we not retaliate for 9/11" are the ones that "lots of people" are listening to.

    The American public, while wholly susceptible to bullshit -- particularly when peddled when they're the most vulnerable, the most terrified -- are a bit smarter than they're generally given credit for. They are not under the sway of some Leftie Fringe, instead they're simply not falling for the "BOO!" platform of this administration any longer. If it makes it easier to stomach this defection from the GOP line by marginalizing dissenters and critics, by all means, go right ahead. But this passive-aggressive attempt at caricature, FYI, is transparent and tired.

  6. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:


    I think I didn't do a good job of communicating my point because we actually seem to agree.

    My point was that most Americans and most anti-war people are NOT under the sway of some Leftie Platform. A lot of pro-war types would have you believe that the anti-war movement is being caused by the far left --- but it's not.

    My point is that the same people the pro-war side points to and says "see, the anti-war people are crazy" (the Sheehans and the A.N.S.W.E.R.S) are the same people who opposed Afghanistan. But no one joined the far left's ralies against that war. The only reason people are joining now is BECAUSE of the Bush administration's numerous failures and false statements on Iraq.

    Bascially, I'm saying that it's disingenious to point to the most radical fringe of the left and claim they're representative of the average anti-war person. I DO think the fringe has been allowed to organize too many protests and speak on too many talk shows, but I certainly do not think they have anything much to do with the growing number of people who oppose this war.

    Sorry for seeming transparent and tired.

  7. Blogger Cantankerous Bitch Says:

    Please allow me to hereby and gleefully retract my above, because yes, I did think you meant the exact opposite. Glad to see your clarification, and I thank you for it.

  8. Blogger Callimachus Says:

    Rising above the immediate issue and trying to see the philosophy:

    Because you lose a fight, was it wrong to fight it? Is success the only measure of what ought to be done?

    As for "people in power who ignored dissenting voices, distorted intelligence, botched the conduct of this war, relentlessly politicized this war, lied about this war, sought to profit politically from this war," yes, I agree, Lincoln has his problems.

  9. Blogger M. Takhallus. Says:

    Actually Lincoln did a rather poor job of managing the military side of the war. He was one of those pushing for precipitous action with an unready army. The result was Bull Run.

    Later when Lincoln did have a capable army he tolerated McClellan's dithering for far too long and replaced him too late with a series of less than impressive officers including Burnside who actually knew himself to be incapable of handling the job.

    An argument could be made that he should have listened to Winfield Scott early on (Scott was a million years old but had been a genuinely brilliant general in the Mexican War) and adopted at least some version of Scott's anaconda plan.

    Even though Lincoln understood early on that it would need to be a war of attrition that brought the Union's superior numbers and resources to bear it took him three years to get the right men (Grant, Sherman and Sheridan) into the right slots. He was so slow to get his act together that he would likely have lost his re-election bid, and probably only won because Hood was fool enough to come out of Atlanta and fight Sherman.

    But say this for Lincoln: he managed to win against an opponent that, while not evenly matched, had a very credible army, the advantage of interior lines, the inherent advantage of defense, and some of the greatest generals since Alexander. Mr. Bush by contrast is being defeated by a foe which has, to be generous, one percent of our power.

    You'd be better off maybe citing FDR except that he, of course, managed to roll back the Japanese empire, and contribute to the destruction of the Third Reich, and did it all in four years despite starting the game with an absurdly small military and half his fleet at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

    Let's see, who else can we compare Mr. Bush to? Polk? Well, no, Mr. Polk's generals stole half of Mexico with a laughably small, underequipped force.

    Come to think of it, Cal, I guess the best comparison might be to Mr. Carter who managed to be beaten by a gang of Iranian students. But that's probably not a comparison you'd want to make.

  10. Blogger Callimachus Says:

    Right, and the South lost because it had "people in power who ignored dissenting voices, distorted intelligence, botched the conduct of this war, relentlessly politicized this war, lied about this war, sought to profit politically from this war." And so on. That's not what sets this war apart from any other.

    But what about the rest? If it was right then, but wrong now, what but the performance we turned in as a nation made the difference in your judgment? If we had a stable Iraq now, would it still be right?

  11. Blogger M. Takhallus. Says:

    It became "wrong" when it became clear that the president had no intention of matching means to rhetoric. Failing to win we wasted the lives of our soldiers, wasted our billions, and may have made things worse in the long run for the Iraqi people -- quite an accomplishment given what came before.

    Let's go to the medical analogies. Let's say my doctor diagnoses me as having both cancer and heart disease. Turns out he's wrong about the cancer (call it Sarcoma of Mass Destruction) but he's right I have a bad ticker. So he gets my consent to operate. On the day of the surgery my doctor shows up drunk and botches the job.

    Did he make an honest mistake about the cancer? Maybe. Did he prescribe the right heart surgery? Let's say he did. Did showing up drunk change the equation so that what was right in the abstract became a fiasco in reality? Yeah. Am I, the patient, right to be pissed, even though I agreed to have the operation? Obviously.

    People in any job have an obligation to do it right. They have an obligation not to fail. Failure happens neverheless, but that doesn't mean we should shrug our shoulders and accept failure. We should be particularly irate when the failure is not a matter of immovable objects or irresistable forces, but a matter of recklessness, stupidity, and ideology-induced blindness.

    I never argue that it was somehow evil to want to bring freedom to the people of Iraq. I've rarely even complained about the lies and distortions that set the stage. My main line of complaint, going back to the first months after Saddam fell, was that the operation was being incompetently managed. That incompetence made defeat more likely. Defeat in turn made it more likely that the damage would spread. That means a weaker United States and a more dangerous world. I'll go out on a limb and say those are bad things.

    To touch back with our sick patient, surgery isn't a bad thing. Unless it's being performed by a baboon. Then something which was a fine idea in theory becomes a very bad idea.

    To answer your question, if Mr. Bush had succeeded I'd be very happy. I wanted a free Iraq three years ago. I still do. I believed in the aggressive use of military force then, and still do. I believed in pre-emption then and still do. But if we're going to start wars, we need to win them. Starting a war and then losing it? Yeah, that's wrong.

  12. Blogger Callimachus Says:

    But then you weren't wrong. You were right.

  13. Blogger M. Takhallus. Says:

    No, Cal, I was wrong. As I said at the time it was a 51/49 decision. I was extremely doubtful about Mr. Bush's capacity to manage the war. I should not have supported a venture that I thought likely to fail when the stakes were so high. I don't know precisely how confident I should have been, but "on-the-bubble" is probably not enough to recommend sending other people's kids to die -- not when it was a war we could quite easily have avoided.

  14. Blogger Callimachus Says:

    My thoughts grew too long-winded for comments. So here:


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