Sunday, October 03, 2004

In his appearance on the Friday Diane Rehm Show to tout his new book, Seymour Hersh said that he's glad Kerry came on strong in the debate, but even so both Kerry and Bush failed to state the obvious about Iraq, which is that it's unwinnable. I agree with Hersh's assessment, and I wonder where that leaves us, those of us who believe that Iraq is a lost cause. Supporting Kerry is uncomfortable. Jonathan Schell, in the Oct. 11 issue of The Nation, shows that he understands that dilemma. In "Why We Must Leave Iraq, he makes some worthwhile observations about Kerry and Bush vis-a-vis the war.
If the story of the occupation so far . . . teaches a single clear lesson it is that the United States is a radicalizing force in Iraq. The more the United States pursues the goal of a democratic Iraq, the farther it recedes into the distance. The longer the United States stays the course, the worse the actual outcome becomes.
Let there be as orderly a transition as possible, accompanied by as much aid, foreign assistance and general sweetness and light as can be mustered, but the endpoint, complete withdrawal, should be announced in advance, so that everyone in Iraq--from the beheaders and other murderers, to legitimate resisters, to any true democrats who may be on the scene--can know that the responsibility for their country's future is shifting to their shoulders. The outcome, though not in all honesty likely to be pretty, will at any rate be the best one possible. If the people of Iraq slip back into dictatorship, it will be their dictatorship. If they choose civil war, it will be their civil war. And if by some happy miracle they choose democracy, it will be their democracy--the only kind worth having.

George Bush does not yet and never will recognize the wisdom of Schell's advice. Schell feels that Bush:
has an audacious personal quality that has somehow served him well so far; full frontal repudiation of facts known to all. Faced with the absence of WMDs in Iraq, he once simply said, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction." Faced with a Presidential Daily Brief titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.," he and his spokespersons called it "historical." In his universe, faithfulness to delusion is "consistency."
He fostered this delusion throughout the GOP convention and got a boost in the polls because his version of reality was so much more appealing to believe than grim facts. The polls bounce around as the public vacillates between his "bright and shining lies" and "the plain truth."
Scheller gives Kerry credit for finally facing up to the necessity of declaring that the war is a mistake, [and] saying of the President, "Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties toAl Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no . . . ." He did not proceed, however, to the necessary corollary that withdrawal is necessary, though he hinted at it. Each of his concrete proposals . . . is fine, but none guarantee the success in creating a "viable" Iraq that he still seems to promise. He has put one foot in the real world, but left the other in the imaginary world, leaving himself open, still, to the flip-flopping charge that Bush immediately leveled against him again. Only one-hundred-percent fantasy will do for the President. But Kerry has at least begun the journey--one as hard as the journey from his service in Vietnam to his protest against it--toward the real. Give him credit for that.

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