"I have to infer from that (statement) that you would be happier if Saddam Hussein were still in power."
- Paul Wolfowitz
Let's deal with this question once and for all, OK? It's the classic retort given by neocons and other war supporters when anyone questions the wisdom of the Iraq War. In this case, it was Wolfowitz's response to a student who had just said the following: "We are tired, Secretary Wolfowitz, of being feared and hated by the world. We are tired of watching Americans and Iraqis die, and international institutions cry out in anger against us."
Let's say I get disturbed by a spider crawling the garage wall. I slam the car into it at 50 miles an hour, destroying the car and causing a few thousand dollars in damage to the garage. When my wife objects, I say:
"I have to infer from that statement that you would be happier if that spider were still crawling up the wall." No, schmuck, she says, I'd be happier if we still had a car and didn't have to fork out ten thousand dollars to fix the garage.
"Well, maybe you think our house is safe from spiders," I say. "Maybe you don't think spiders are a health problem. Maybe you don't realize some spiders are venomous." Thinking of Joe Lieberman, I add "Maybe you're in a 'spider-hole of denial.'" With David Horowitz-like reasoning, I go on to say "Maybe you support the spiders. Maybe you and the spiders are allies." I then show my wife a chart that includes her picture, together with a tarantula and a black widow, as part of an international network of spider-supporters. "Since you're so pro-spider," I ask her, "why don't you just go discuss this little problem with your 'friends' here?"
Spiders can be a health problem, she says, but there are lots of spiders in the neighborhood. This one wasn't a threat to us, and we can't go destroying things and spending tons of money every time we see a spider.
Before I can respond, Wolf Blitzer happens by. Wolf comes in and surveys the damage, then helpfully points out that "there have been some successes in the war on spiders, to judge by the corpse visible under the crumpled fender of this sedan." You don't make any sense either, she says.
"Well, if you care more about your spiders than you do about keeping this house safe," I tell my wife, " I don't think we can talk about this rationally."
So Dear Wolfie, and anybody else tempted to pose this question: No. I would not be happier if Saddam Hussein were still in power. I would be happier if 1,500 Americans were still alive. I would be happier if 20,000 - 150,000 Iraqi civilians were still alive. I would be happier if tens of thousands of American soldiers didn't have to face a future of disfigurement, disability, and/or psychological torment. I would be happier if my country didn't violate international law. I would be happier if I weren't lied to by an unethical government and an incompetent news media. I would be happier if we did something else with the $250 billion we're spending on this war. I would be happier if the policy of successfully containing Saddam had been continued. I would be happier if we hadn't gone through all this just so we can replace Saddam's dictatorship with a pro-Iranian theocracy. I would be happier if we had any military resources to spare, so maybe we could rescue the helpless people of Darfur.
My happiness was never going to be influenced by Saddam Hussein's career path. Instead, my happiness is affected by the well-being of Americans and Iraqis who have suffered needlessly as a result of your war.
R. J. Eskow writes the Night Light blog.