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Candide's Notebooks

Iraq Awakenings, Four Years Late

Pierre Tristam

The New York Times on Sunday devoted its entire editorial to Iraq . In a piece called "The Road Home," the Times finally discovers what should have been obvious, and was obvious to some of us, going back to 2003: "It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit." The Times editorial appears grave and groundbreaking. For all its few good lines, it is, in fact, late and muddy. The good lines: "It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush's plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost." "The political decision should be made, and the target date set, now." But when it notes that "A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago," early in the editorial, it also appears to take cover for its own late-breaking conscience, as if only now that the scales of ignorance are falling off the eyes of a (slim, at that) majority of Americans can the Times come out and say what it refused to say for four years, what it refused to say before the invasion. That this thing should never have happened, for all the reasons now so easily stated behind the comfort of hindsight: Bush had no plan then. He has no plan now. He and Cheney "have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans' demands for an end to this war." But all along they've made things worse: "Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate."

For all that, the Times spends half its 1,700 word apology on prescribing the best way to withdraw—making alliances with Kurds or Turks in the north so the Pentagon could have "staging" areas for withdrawal, having "Congress and the White House […] lead an international attempt at a negotiated outcome" (as if the international community could trust the United States in any leading role regarding Iraq, or any foreign policy initiative, as long as the Bush-Cheney junta is at the helm), pressing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to ante up a few dollars to take care of the refugee crisis. The reality is that this is an unmitigated, and unmitigatable, fiasco, to such a point that the American military is, essentially, surrounded in central Iraq, unable even to find a safe way out of Iraq even if it wanted to withdraw. That's one of the reasons why withdrawal is such a problematic issue at the moment. The other fiasco in the making is, once again, the way Arab countries are dealing with the refugee crisis. Yes, 2 million refugees have poured into Syria and Jordan (without a cent being directed toward those two countries to help), but our "friends" Saudi Arabia and Kuwait haven't taken in a soul.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid is discovering that maybe, maybe, he's let down the people who elected a Democratic majority by not pressing for a withdrawal. "Sensing momentum from the new Republican defections," the Times writes in a front-page piece, "Mr. Reid and other leading Democrats intend to force a series of votes over the next two weeks on proposals to withdraw troops and limit spending. Democrats are increasingly confident they can assemble majority opposition to administration policies."

That's today's liberalism for you. The Times has to wait until the polls show a majority of Americans opposed to the war before opposing it. The Senate majority leader has to wait until enough Republicans have come out against the war before letting his majority follow. And we wonder why the left has no respect.

Pierre Tristam is a News-Journal editorial writer. Reach him at or through his personal Web site at .

© 2007 Pierre Tristam

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