Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Now? Well, No.

Latest Newspaper Column:

The political cartoonist who goes by the pen name of Tom Tomorrow did a strip a few months back that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Entitled "America: A Brief Parable," the strip shows two people in a convertible tooling along the road.

"Watch out," the passenger says in alarm, "you're headed for that cliff!"

"There's no cliff," the driver says.

"It's right ahead of us!" the passenger shouts. "Stop the car!"

"Relax," the driver insists, "I have a map. There's no cliff."

As the car careens off the cliff and the passenger screams in terror, the driver huffs, "This is your fault. You wanted us to fail."

Recently we marked the four-year anniversary of George Dubya Bush's standing on the flight deck of the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, under a banner that said "Mission Accomplished," and telling us: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Well, maybe that was true for major combat, Mr. President, but those minor combat operations are bleeding us dry. Since Dubya announced that "In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed," we've gone from 139 American troops killed to more than 3,300 (I won't put an exact figure in because between the time this column is written and the time it runs, the number will almost certainly increase).

The number of wounded went from 542 at the time of Bush's speech to more than 24,000. And there's no end in sight, since "The Decider" is willing to cut off funding for the troops in the field because the funding bill contained a timetable for getting out of the Iraq mess.

This, despite the fact that a recent CNN poll shows that 57 percent of the American people favor a bill setting a timetable. Sixty-one percent would favor a bill that set benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet to maintain American support, but Dubya has vowed to veto that one, too. And so we drag on, week after week, while the Iraqis we've freed seem intent on using that freedom to slaughter one another, and us too while they're at it.

So you'd think that people who called people like me "traitors" and "terrorist supporters" for daring to question this war might think of saying to us, "Hey, maybe you were right." Well, if you think that, you obviously don't know squat about the American Right.

The current right-wing talking point, as espoused by people like vicious drunkard Christopher Hitchens, psychopathic bully and sexual harasser Bill O'Reilly, and admitted prescription drug addict Rush Limbaugh, is that the vaguely defined "left" is happy about the chaos in Iraq because they "want us to lose."

For the record, no. I'm not happy. And you can't say I didn't give George Dubya a chance. Back in 2002, I wrote: "I'm not one of those people who reflexively says 'no' to any American military action. I'm willing to get behind a strike on Iraq, but first I'd like some answers" to questions like "Suppose we march on Baghdad and oust Hussein. Then comes the Mother of All Questions: What do we do then?"

Well, as it turns out, not only did the president and his men not have any real clear idea about what we do then, they didn't have much patience for anyone else who asked the question, even their own generals.

In an interview by the Hampton Roads Daily Press with retiring Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, one of the people in charge of planning the war, he relates how he and his fellow officers kept trying to write plans for what they called "Phase 4," the post-invasion occupation of Iraq.

Even if we weren't planning to stay, Scheid argued, there should at least be a plan. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld threatened to fire the next person who brought up the subject. There wouldn't be public support, he said, for a long war. Well, he was right about that, at least.

So am I happy that my misgivings actually came to pass? Let me answer that question with another question, in the form of a hypothetical.

You have a dear friend who likes his whiskey and he likes to drive fast. You warn him over and over that he's headed for trouble, bad trouble, if he keeps on, but he ignores you. Finally, the inevitable happens, and you're standing next to his bed, tears running down your face as you see his broken body. One of his drinking buddies staggers up to you and sneers into your face "I guess you're happy now, huh?" What do you do?

I suspect you'd punch him right in the mouth.

So please don't ever ask me if I'm happy to have been right about Iraq. Not if you like your teeth where they are.


Celine said...

Bingo. How the HELL am I supposed to be happy about something like this? I can't even work up a good case of schadenfreude about it (and thank you again for introducing me to that word!), because the misfortune has NOT fallen upon those who so richly deserve it, but on the innocent instead.

I'm with you. Anyone who dares to suggest that I'm happy about the way every single one of my side's predictions have come to pass is just begging for a split lip.

David Terrenoire said...

You know how I feel. Being right never felt so fucking awful.