From the start, the anti-war crowd has
questioned the validity of the evidence that was used to rally
support for fighting a war in Iraq. They questioned the nature of
the Iraqi threat. They were skeptical of the existence of Iraqi
WMDs. And they were reluctant to believe, as the Bush
administration did, that the Iraqi people would welcome coalition
troops with open arms.
And history has vindicated them: Iraq’s WMD programs have
yet to be found, and, as evidenced by the recent spat of anti-U.S.
violence, a number of Iraqis strongly oppose a continued U.S.
presence in the region. With the withdrawal of Spanish troops from
Iraq, and mounting criticism at home, the Bush Administration is
now facing a two-front war: a war abroad against the Iraqi intifada
and a war at home against a growing number of those opposed to the
war. Against the former, the president has at his disposal the
finest army in the world. Against the latter, the president has a
weapon no less formidable: intimidation.
The hawks have shifted their approach from one of smug
self-righteousness to thuggish name-calling. In a column published
on April 7, William Safire of The New York Times threw everything
but the kitchen sink at Bush’s critics, calling them
“the apostles of retreat,” “coulda-woulda-shoulda
crowd” and the “quaking quagmirists.” David
Brooks, in another Times column April 10, labeled prominent war
critics Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd “Chicken
Sure, the sky isn’t falling, but people are dying —
in numbers not seen since the end of hostilities last May.
So maybe the “quaking quagmirists” really
aren’t too far off the mark? Surely we can all admit, if only
to ourselves, that things aren’t going exactly as planned. At
the cost of hundreds of coalition lives, thousands of civilian
casualties and billions of badly needed dollars, we’re still
miles away from self-governance in Iraq. Our timetable is in
jeopardy. We still have no WMDs. And with Spain’s withdrawal,
its clear that the glue that is holding together our
“coalition of the willing” isn’t quite as strong
as we had hoped.
To top it off, we’ve actually managed to get two opposing
religious factions, the Sunnis and Shiites, to hate us slightly
more than they hate each other. In a supreme act of idiocy, two
weeks ago acting U.S. administrator Paul Bremer closed down the
Al-Hawza al-Natiqa newspaper, citing the paper’s role in
“encouraging violence against the Coalition Forces and the
Coalition Provisional Authority.” By all accounts, he had not
prepared for the response that followed, which was, ironically:
Anti-American violence. Give this man a fruit cup.
U.S. Commander Gen. John Abizaid acknowledged yesterday that
he’d need another two combat brigades to quell the violence
in Iraqi cities. He also admitted that the U.S.-trained Iraqi
security forces — which are designated to take over most
civil defense functions when coalition forces leave in June —
have been a “great disappointment.”
Searching for answers, I went ahead and looked up the definition
— quag·mire: a difficult, precarious or entrapping
position. Funny, that doesn’t sound all that dissimilar from
our current situation. Difficult? Check. Precarious? Check.
Entrapping? Double check. Sure, Safire and Brooks would probably
disagree. For them, the renewed fighting in Iraq is a bump in the
road — a test of wills. But for coalition forces, 70 of whom
died in last week’s fighting, parts of Baghdad and other
Iraqi cities have erupted into full-scale insurgency.
This is an age-old argument: Either you are with us, and are a
person of conviction, or you are against us, and are something only
slightly better than a terrorist — a coward. This is an
argument, made by the old elites, to get the young and
impressionable to fight and support their war. This is an argument
made by a hawk, after all the other justifications for war have
melted away. It is as disingenuous as it is dangerous, and
I’m just not buying.