I forgot to mention: the art above is a heavily abused version of from a grossly blown-up still, taken from a home movie of the 1939 Worlds Fair. But you knew that!
Its from the Prelinger Archive, a gigantic collection of old movies. Ive long been fascinated by the 39 Fair, for all the usual reasons - cool architecture, iconic modernism symbols like the Trylon and Perisphere, the Looming Shadow of War that cast a nervous, shimmering shadow over the whole thing. And of course the giant typewriter. It was a high point in the Era of the Grownup. Its almost painful to see the home movies, because you realize that it did exist, it was in color, and you missed it.
Whats left is here.
Gnat was a pill today, but thats okay. Shes ill. Small cold. The medicine makes her space out, and when it wears off shes just Miss Peevy 2003. Everything was a battle tonight: sitting in the chair, eating the corn, sampling the beans, saying may I be excused before she dismounts from her chair, getting into the bath, getting out of the bath, giving up her Spot (from Rolie Poly Olie, of course) plush doll so he can be dried out, getting into her jammies. I am always the Heavy here. When discipline is required, Daddy is enlisted. Why? I have the deep voice, and I have the will. I am careful to explain why she is being naughty; I always express my understanding of her position, but I am firm: this will not stand. Comply, or at the count of three youre locked in your room.
Its a microcosm of international events, really. She tests me: when first I introduce the possibility of consequences, she pretends to agree. But she doesnt comply. When I make a motion to enforce my decision, she complies - but its always a dilatory effort. And this results in Stage Three, where I live up to my word. I hate doing that. I hate taking her up to her room and shutting the door; the cries of Ill be good! or youre not my friend any more! are like picador spears. But it has to be done.
How can anyone who has children be a diplomat? Theres no more instructive example of the basic facts of human nature than the daily life of a three-year old.
Okay. Now comes the gnarly stuff. Bail if you choose; see you tomorrow.
The Strib had a massive editorial today which implied that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld lied, people died. And by imply, I mean that they said this: "in fact, they'd have reason to assert that 'Bush, Cheney, Rumsfelt and Wolfowitz lied and our soldiers died." Got that? We're not saying Bush et al has sexual congress with goats, only that some would have reason to assert it. Im not interested in a point-by-pointer tonight; its the last true night of summer, and Id rather spend most of it on the cliff watching planes come in than waste my time trying to convince someone that there were plausible Iraq-Al Qaeda connections. I mean, theres this:
Finally, what if any new evidence has emerged that bolsters the Bush administration's prewar case?
The answer to that last question is simple: lots. The CIA has confirmed, in interviews with detainees and informants it finds highly credible, that al Qaeda's Number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met with Iraqi intelligence in Baghdad in 1992 and 1998. More disturbing, according to an administration official familiar with briefings the CIA has given President Bush, the Agency has "irrefutable evidence" that the Iraqi regime paid Zawahiri $300,000 in 1998, around the time his Islamic Jihad was merging with al Qaeda. "It's a lock," says this source. Other administration officials are a bit more circumspect, noting that the intelligence may have come from a single source. Still, four sources spread across the national security hierarchy have confirmed the payment.
The entire article is here, and its worth reading. Its a summation of what the Administration alleged, what they didnt use, and what theyve learned since the war. Heres another taste:
Farouk Hijazi, former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey and Saddam's longtime outreach agent to Islamic fundamentalists, has been captured. In his initial interrogations, Hijazi admitted meeting with senior al Qaeda leaders at Saddam's behest in 1994. According to administration officials familiar with his questioning, he has subsequently admitted additional contacts, including a meeting in late 1997. Hijazi continues to deny that he met with bin Laden on December 21, 1998, to offer the al Qaeda leader safe haven in Iraq. U.S. officials don't believe his denial.
For one thing, the meeting was reported in the press at the time. It also fits a pattern of contacts surrounding Operation Desert Fox, the series of missile strikes the Clinton administration launched at Iraq beginning December 16, 1998. The bombing ended 70 hours later, on December 19, 1998. Administration officials now believe Hijazi left for Afghanistan as the bombing ended and met with bin Laden two days later.
If you think its another steaming slice of facts from the Great Pie of Minced Prevarications, fine. But its a plausible piece, and if youve read it the lied-died meme seems particularly loathsome.
Look. I'm a big-tent kinda guy. Im willing to embrace all sorts of folk whose agendas may differ from mine, as long as we share the realization that there are many many millions out there who want us stone-cold bleached-bones dead. Its the Andre the Giant philosophy, expressed in Princess Bride:
I hope we win.
Thats all. If you can agree with that without doing a Horshack twitch, intent on adding conditions - oh! oh! what about genetically modified soy? - then we understand each other. We know that we have many disagreements, but we agree: I hope we win. Oh, we can argue about every word in that four-syllable statement. But when it comes down to it all, were on the same page.
I hope we win.
Now lets pick it apart. Whos we? And what does win mean?
Every day I read a piece like the Strib edit. They all have an inescapable conclusion: Saddam should have been left in power. No, they dont say that. Yes, the writers would surely insist that Saddam was a wretched tyrant, and the world is better off without him in power, BUT, Baghdads electricity service is now undependable. No, but. Yes, but. Perhaps, however. Perfection has not been achieved; the depredations of a three-decade nightmare have not been banished in six months, and that really is the issue, isnt it. Sorry, what was your question again?
I went back to the editorial archives today, to see what was said around the time of the Dec 1998 Desert Fox campaign. (And let us just imagine the panic if the current administration started naming military operations after famous Nazi nicks.) As I trolled back and forth in the microfiche looking for the relevant piece, I was struck by the other things the chattering classes brayed five years ago. "Lift the sanctions" was a popular item. And why? Because it would show Saddam the world was serious about giving him one last chance. Okay, heres your gun back. But if you shoot us were going to take it away. The naivety nearly makes you weep. These people didnt want Saddams body bobbing ass-up in the Tigris. They wanted a world in which the fascist clique that ruled Iraq curtseyed and bowed in the lovely gavotte of international diplomacy. However many people died in Saddams gulags was irrelevant; what mattered was that the UN was Concerned, and that the Iraqi Ambassador - clad in a nice Western suit, skilled in many tongues, daubed with a Macys cologne - agreed to facilitate the process of calibrating the precise nature of the consquences of failing to live up to the spirit of the letter of the penumbra of the -
Ah, its noon; shalll we have lunch sent in, or have our drivers take us to the Village? I understand there is an excellent Tibetan restaurant thats just opened.
The best case scenario in all the syndicated lift-the-sanction editorials left Saddam in power. Repeat: the best case scenario kept Saddam in power. Nevermind the misery he would wreak on his own people - and they were in the absolute sense of the world his people, his pawns, his possessions. Nevermind that this meant the continuation of the Baathist rule to the next generation - Dad kicks the bucket ten years later, and the sons take over. Twenty more years of rape camps and mass graves. More than enough time for the world to weary of peering through the keyhole and guessing what the shadows might be up to. Theyd have nukes, eventually. Best case scenario.
Heres the end of the editorial:
Its past time the principals behind this mismanaged war were called to account for their deliberate misstatements.
This mismanaged war.
Would they be more comfortable with a well-managed status quo that kept Saddam in power than a mismanaged war that kicked him out?
Lets go back to the editorial page the day after the 1998 bombing. Lead edit. Title: BOMBING SADDAM. Reason is clear; let attack be sustained. The writer lays out the case: Saddam has not complied with his obligations; he threw away the last chance that President Clinton gave him in November; Tony Blair agrees. Said the editorial: Neither will the attack be credible if it is limited to a few cruise missiles lobbed at Iraq. This must be the sustained, punishing effort that Clinton has promised.
The end result of which was five more years of Saddams rule. Interesting choice of words, that: Punishing. Saddam must be punished, then left in power. He must be hit with a credible attack, then left in power. The punishing, credible attack that leaves him in power must be sustained. And so forth.
Ive read enough editorials from various papers from this period to reinforce something Ive long suspected: the reason many editorialists hate this war is because they dont feel its theirs.
If Clinton had risen to the occasion, wiped out al-Qaeda, sent Marines to kick down the statues and put bullets in those filthy sons brainpans, this would be the most noble effort of our time. We would hear clear echoes of JFKs call to bear any burden. FDR, Truman, Marshall Plan, forbearance, patience - the editorial pages of the land would absolutely brim with encouragement and optimism every damn day, because the good fight was being waged, and the right people were waging it.
Not all on the left would feel this way; of course not. When Wellstone backed Desert Fox, he took a hit from the peace-at-any-price people. But the very fact that Wellstone supported Clinton in that operation tells me that there is an element in the Democratic party (or perhaps, more accurately, the non-Republican demographic) that would have roared for a war that took the struggle against terrorism to the Middle East itself. If many Dems balk now, it's hardly news - some elements in the Republican party took a powder in the Balkans because they didnt like the guy behind the big desk. They would have approved if their boy pushed the button.
Understandable - to a point. But the stakes in this war are far greater than the stakes in Kosovo, and thats what dismays me about editorials like the one in the Strib. The people who write these bitter tracts dont seem to have a clue what were up against. Theyll pore over transcripts from some news conference, looking for the two-bit money quote: ah hah! Rummy said military operations wouldnt last past five months! He misled us! Uh - well, perhaps he was referring to the obvious fact that the Iraqi army couldnt hold out for five months against the US military? No! He said five months! Its been five months and two weeks! Misleader! Misleader! Do-overs! Set the wayback machine to Feb 03!
I cant help but come back to the central theme these edits imply: we should have left Iraq alone. We should have left this charnel house stand. We should have bought a wad of nice French cotton to shove in our ears so the buzz of the flies over the graves didnt distract us from the important business of deciding whether Syria or China should have the rotating observer-status seat in the Oil-for-Palaces program. Afghanistan, well, thats understandable, in a way; we were mad. We lashed out. But we should have stopped there, and let the UN deploy its extra-strong Frown Beams against the Iraqi ambassador in the hopes that Saddam would reduce the money he gave to Palestinian suicide bombers down to five grand. Five grand! Hell, that hardly covers the parking tickets your average ambassador owes to the city of New York; whod blow themselves up for that.
Would the editorialists of the nation be happier if Saddam was still cutting checks to people who blew up not just our allies, but our own citizens? Id like an answer. Please. Essay question: Families of terrorists who blow up men, women and children, some of whom are Americans, no longer receive money from Saddam, because Saddam no longer rules Iraq. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Explain.
In short: the same people who chide America for its short-attention span think we should have stopped military operations after the Taliban was routed. (And they quite probably opposed that, for the usual reasons.) The people who think its all about oil like to snark that we should go after Saudi Arabia. The people who complain that the current administration is unable to act with nuance and diplomacy cannot admit that we have completely different approaches for Iraq, for Iran, for North Korea. The same people who insist we need the UN deride the Administration when it gives the UN a chance to do something other than throw rotten fruit.
The same people who accuse America of coddling dictators are sputtering with bilious fury because we actually deposed one.
Complain, yes! Carp! Criticize! Bitch! Moan! But theres a difference between criticizing the particulars of the Normandy invasion, and insisting that Hitler can be contained with bauxite sanctions. (Imagine if these people had been running papers in the 40s: enough troops? Supply line problems? Plans in place for getting the Berlin power grid up? Oh no! Battle of the Bulge! Quagmire! Bastogne is a mess! Roosevelt lied, Private Ryan died!) To those who sniff this isnt World War Two, Ill agree: its worse. Its going to be longer, meaner, and it sprawls across every map. Its ultimate severity wont be apparent to some people until a band of god-bothering raisin seekers sneaks a nuke into Baltimore on a cargo container.
But. If it happens three years into President Deans tenure, the same people who wanted Saddam kept in a box - where he was free to spoon out the eyes of his citizens and beat them to death for their failings at an Olympic event - those same people will blame Bush for invading Iraq and radicalizing the Arab world. Iraq in 2007 could be stable and free, but that would count for nothing. We erred. We took the UN resolutions seriously. We spent blood and money to establish Beachhead One in that wretched abattoir, and for that we should expect to pay.
Iraq will probably never be nuked because of the actions of its leaders. We can now expect the editorialists of the world to tell us we had it coming if we get nuked for making that future possible.
Let us go back to that editorial from 1998.
There is one sound conclusion to be drawn from the confluence of events in Washington and Iraq: The conduct of foreign policy is a weighty responsibility that at times requires the undivided attention of a whole, unencumbered president. It is a sad commentary that some voices in Washington are complaint that momentous world events have interrupted their sideshow. . . . Events in Iraq make it clear that there is a world out there which requires the attention of the US Government. Its time to shift focus away from the neighborhood farce and back to the world stage.
This was a reference to the impeachment proceedings, of course. The editorialists were appalled that Congress was impeaching the president when the threat of Iraq loomed so large. Now the threat has been dispatched - and does this count for anything? No. The terrorist training campes are closed down, the torture barracks padlocked, the mass gravesare opened to the wailings of the families, the official hospitals of Baghdad no longer welcome cancerous terrorists, the Kurds no longer watch the skies for the helicopters and their bitter gusts, the citizens no longer wonder whether the government men will rip out the eyes of their infant children to produce the proper confession -
You know what really bothers some people?
That yellowcake story still looks shaky.
(Note: the Strib's lefty blog has links to the edit's sources here; judge for yourself, of course.)