We may want to forget how this country, still stinging from he 9/11 attacks, were willing to lash out at someone....anyone...in order to make ourselves feel better. Afghanistan didn't satisfy the blood lust, and Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton both had been flogging the Saddam-as-boogeyman for over a decade leading up to George W. Bush's gleeful decision to both gain his father's favor by avenging an alleged death plot against the old man and simultaneously prove once and for all that his dick was even bigger than Daddy. I mean seriously...if you're going to do that silly Oedipal thing in the context of a war, at least go full-out Jimmy Darmody and be a REAL thug.
Yes, we want to forget. I'm sure Thomas Friedman wishes that this wasn't still out there on YouTube for everyone to see in perpetuity. I'm sure Bill Keller wants to forget all about Judith Miller. I'm sure every pundit that painted this as some kind of noble venture to both avenge our wound and create Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East wants to forget. Even now, it's painful to watch George W. Bush's blink-blink-blink-sure-sign-of-a-liar announcement of the start of the war.
The one person who never wanted to forget was Christopher Hitchens, who while he might have wished that Iraq hadn't been the clusterfuck that it was, was unrepentant about it until the end. Stabler over at Hitchens Watch has a summary of exactly what it waas that Hitchens was supporting.
Perhaps the outpouring for Christopher Hitchens is designed to give people like Friedman and Keller and all the other warfloggers at the time some cover, as his death gives them a reason to engage in verbal diarrhea over his passing instead of having to answer for their failure to engage in journalistic skepticism at the time. We're long past the realization that the talking heads of Washington and the gasbags of the Sunday morning network TV Mouse Circus (™ Driftglass) are a bunch of hacks who'll sell their souls for cocktail weenies and pinot noir at Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee's place. We expect them to want to walk back all their armchair braggadocio. But what of the rest of us? What about all the people still sporting mouldering "Support Our Troops" ribbon magnets on their SUVs and still voting for Republicans who want to slash veterans benefits? What about 54-60% who supported the war before it began? Should millions of people be able to get off the hook so easily, when we have the blood of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on our hands? And what of the families of the dead? What of the mothers, siblings, children and spouses of those who died in this misadventure? How can we make sense of their loss without forgetting the lies that took their loved ones away from them?
Lessons learned? What has been learned, when Newt Gingrich is out there calling for regime change in Iran and announcing that the insane John Bolton would be his Secretary of State? What has been learned when Mitt Romney, a man involved in his own penis size with daddy dilemma, throws red meat to Wall Street Journal editorial page readers and says that unlike that pussy Obama, I won't let Iran get nuclear weapons, and I'll do it by surrounding Iran with military ships, throwing more money at Israel (which has the side benefit of maybe getting me some Jewish votes in Florida), and I'll talk really, really, really tough.
All the GOP candidates are saber-rattling about Iran. It's what Republicans do -- create wars to serve the military contractors that help fill their coffers. And wars in the Middle East also make the oil men who are another sizable source of Republican cash happy. But what you will never hear from any of them is how George W. Bush's misadventure in Iraq has made the very same Iran about which they are saber-rattling now that much more of a concern.
Loren Thompson at Forbes.com:
The one local government run by Shiites that Maliki can turn to for help when the Americans are gone is that of Iran, which is essentially a Shiite theocracy. In other words, what looks like a fledgling democracy in Iraq to some U.S. policymakers looks to the governments in surrounding states more like a huge opportunity for radical leaders in Teheran to expand their influence. I won’t get into how resentful many Sunni Arabs are about the role America played in giving Shiites — a distinct minority in the Arab world — political power in Iraq, but that is likely to be a potent factor in future regional relations.
Concerns about Iranian influence in one of the Arab world’s premier oil-producing states explains why some of the U.S. troops departing Iraq aren’t going any farther away than neighboring Kuwait. Until Washington has a better understanding of Maliki’s intentions and his ability to control Iraq’s many political factions, it is likely to keep a sizable military presence nearby.
Local troublemakers know the U.S. electorate has had enough of Iraq, and that our threats to deal forcefully with them if they try to destabilize Maliki’s regime probably are empty (it might de-legitimize him to invite us back).
But it isn’t just perceptions of weakening resolve that have undermined Washington’s ability to influence developments in the region. America’s uneven performance in the Iraq war prior to the removal of Donald Rumsfeld from the Pentagon’s top post in 2006 eliminated any residual sense of U.S. military omnipotence that survived the 9-11 attacks. CIA analysts turned out to be ignorant about what was happening in Iraq. American soldiers had a devilish time coping with improvised explosive devices and other relatively simple tactics employed by a poorly-equipped and under-resourced adversary. The success of insurgents in pushing America’s vast military machine to the verge of defeat three years into the conflict will undoubtedly inform the efforts of future enemies.
Iran doesn't care about the saber-rattling of armchair quarterbacks like Newt Gingrich, because they've seen what happens when pasty American Republicans talk tough -- they rush into military adventures for the sound bites and the preening alone, without concern for the actual mission. Paradoxically, that makes this group of GOP candidates that much more dangerous, because with George W. Bush having demonstrated that all the money we spend on weaponry doesn't make us competent to wage the 21st century's wars, this bunch of bellicose warwhores won't hesitate to up the ante by dropping nukes on Iran. And then we're all done for.
Perhaps that's why no one wants to look at what we've left in Iraq.