One lesson of the ferocity of the Saddamite resistance is surely this: who now could possibly, conceivably believe that this brutal police state would ever, ever have voluntarily disarmed? Would a regime that is forcing conscripts to fight at gun-point have caved to the terrifying figure of Hans Blix, supported by the even more itimidating vision of Dominique de Villepin? I’d say that one clear lesson of the first week is that war was and is the only mechanism that could have effectively disarmed Saddam. If true disarmament was your goal, it seems to me that the inspections regime has been revealed, however well-intentioned, as hopelessly unsuited to staring down a vicious totalitarian system.
After Pim Fortuyn, the gay anti-Islamist Dutch political leader was gunned down by an animal rights crusader, hard leftists and even liberals did all they could to minimize the seriousness of what had happened. It’s getting harder. The trial of Volkert van der Graaf is revealing that the assassination was motivated by an attempt to stop Fortuyn’s criticism of Islamist intolerance:
Facing a raucous court on the first day of his murder trial, [van der Graaf] said his goal was to stop Mr Fortuyn exploiting Muslims as “scapegoats” and targeting “the weak parts of society to score points” to try to gain political power. He said: “I confess to the shooting. He was an ever growing danger who would affect many people in society. I saw it as a danger. I hoped that I could solve it myself.”
This was a leftist extremist hit-job, by someone who had absorbed the anti-Fortuyn propaganda of Europe’s liberal elites. If it had been done by a neo-Nazi against a liberal politician, the papers would be full of dire warnings about a new wave of political extremism. But this time, the extremism is from the far left, allied with Islamism.
BAGHDAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Yes, I know they use more quotation marks in headlines than Americans do. But hjow about this subhead: “The US delegation has walked out of the United Nations as Iraq condemns US aggression.” Yep, aggression. Some things are so transparent they don’t need quote marks.
A NEXIS transcript from Fox News Sunday’s March 16 show. Some hawks do bear some responsibility for being too optimistic about a short war. But they weren’t the only ones:
SNOW: And we’re back with Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams. Democrats are holding a convention in California, that is the California Democrats. A number of presidential candidates have come there to speak their peaces. And it raises the question of the Democratic Party’s policy toward Iraq. There seem to be a series of them.
First we’re going to play you a couple of clips. One, former President Bill Clinton speaking to an audience earlier this week in New York City. And also Senator John Kerry speaking in California just a couple of days ago. We’ll start with those, and then the panel will talk about them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This war is going to be over in a flash, so we can wait to do that. You can always kill somebody next week. You can’t bring them back next week, so… (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What I regret is that the United States of America, the strongest military power on the face of this planet, has not had diplomacy that matches it. In fact, it has had some of the weakest diplomacy that we have every seen in the history of the conduct of this nation. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: All right, Bill Kristol, that seems to be a majority opinion among at least California Democrats. But I am interested in your reaction to both quotes.
KRISTOL: Well, Bill Clinton never fails to appall. I mean, the most recent president of the United States, first saying “Believe me, this war is going to be over in a flash.” He doesn’t know that. It’s totally irresponsible to say that. Some of my fellow hawks over the last six, nine months have been saying it’s going to be a cakewalk. I’ve always said we do not know that. And you need to prepare the American people for the possibility that things will go wrong in war. Biological and chemical weapons could be used. This man isn’t just a pundit. This guy is the former president of the United States saying the war is going to be over in a flash. Totally irresponsible. And then he says, “You can always wait to kill somebody next week. You can’t bring them back next week.” So that’s what the war’s about? We are just going to kill people? You know, there are U.S. soldiers sitting there. It’s a serious question in terms of when is militarily the best time to go. And Clinton has this cavalier attitude that, well, it’s going to be over in a flash. We can kill people whenever we want, so let’s just delay. I mean, it’s one thing, as I say, for a candidate to say. It’s one thing for a commentator to say. But for the most recent president of the United States to be so flip and glib when 200,000 American troops are sitting on the verge of war on a wa front is really appalling.
WILLIAMS: There have been moments when Bill Kristol and I have disagreed about things. I don’t know if you remember any of them. But on this one, I’ve just got to say absolutely right on. I mean, how do we know it’s going to be a quick war? I fear also it’s a, you know, possibilities that would be so sad. And we don’t know. There is a great push in this town to say the administration is going to use sort of such a dominating force in order to get it done quickly for political purposes because the president wants the economy to recover in time and the stock market is suffering only because of the possibility, anxiety over war. But we don’t know. And you can’t put that out there in the way that Bill Clinton did as if it’s a fait acompli.
Here’s an open invitation to any reader who can find any quote from anyone in the Bush cabinet or military who said the equivalent of Bill Clinton’s remark.
A reader monitors the french evening news for me and sends in reports. His latest is the most disturbing yet:
Today’s evening news broadcast on French ratings leader TF1, http://www.tf1.fr (streaming video at “News,” under “Les JT a la carte”), finally has gone over the edge in directly supporting Saddam Hussein against the US and allied forces.-Many, many of the stories center on civilian casualties and hardships.-According to the leading story, the population of Baghdad no longer believes that the air attacks are meant to avoid civilians; the population of Basra is being actually targeted with “illegal” cluster bombs, shown in the video.- (They looked like little canisters to me.) And the military situation isn’t going any-better for the Americans:-Iraqis are proud that their army is matching up with the American forces, explains the broadcast.-The video accompanying all this is filled with angry people on the street shouting in Arabic at the cameras, desperate people crowded around water and food distribution points, and sad wounded children in hospital beds.-Story after story pounds these points home, repetitively, sickeningly, sadly. The strangest part of all this are the contradictions.- The streets of Baghdad’s government quarters are shown as a grey, deserted, and lined with bombed-out-buildings; the residential quarters are shown teeming with people everywhere going about their daily business, most of them angry at the US, says the narration.-As for the-US army, it’s practically losing the war –but Baghdad will be encircled within five or ten days.
De Villepin’s awkwardness when asked whether he actually wants Saddam to be defeated was not misleading. We should realize that the French in their heads know we must win. But perhaps because of that, in their hearts, they want us to lose. They are not an ally.
GAY MILITARY DISCHARGES: Thanks for some challenging emails, many of which challenged my view that the drop in gay discharges is largely due to war. As one pointed out, the numbers go back to October 2001 – long before war with Iraq. One military emailer argues: “The gay discharge rate is down in the military because more gay soldiers want to stay in and they don’t mind keeping their sexuality out of the barracks. And we routinely throw heteros out how can’t keep sex out of the barracks as well.” As i worte, increasing acceptance of “out but discreet” gay soldiers may also be a factor. Another possibility is that discharges doubled under Clinton because the military was trying to make a point against the administration. Inexcusable, of course. But possible. With a new commander in chief, they might be more willing to let this issue die away. None of these explanations is mutually exclusive, of course.
A majority now support the war.
BLAIR’S NEW CONFIDENCE: Good piece in the Times of London about Blair’s new self-confidence and maturity. Is it what happens when a man loses his father? Money quote:
The other man who is feeling the force of Mr Blair’s new-found assurance is Gordon Brown. The Chancellor used to rely on his ability to squish his kid brother, the Prime Minister. He dominated Mr Blair intellectually and played psychological games with him, such as avoiding meetings or refusing to tell him the contents of his Budgets until the last minute. This dynamic is changing. When the Prime Minister wanted to fix a meeting with the Chancellor some weeks ago, Mr Brown tried to make him come to the Treasury (where the Chancellor sits on a chair much higher than that of his guest, who is immediately cast in the role of supplicant). “No, you come over here,” barked Mr Blair down the phone. “I’m the f***ing Prime Minister!”
Yes, he f***ing well is.
MY CHAGRIN: An emailer writes:
Thursday you said: “I’m chagrined at my own optimism in this regard.” Don’t be. You’re immersed in the war and you’re going through the same changes as the soldiers. Everyone has to be optimistic at the outset. If a soldier ever saw a vision of what lay ahead of him, he’d never get off the boat. And then learn that war is not title bout that ends with a knockout or a bell at 15 rounds. It is an endurance contest in which the healthiest attitude is to prepare for everything but expect nothing. It ends when it ends. That’s what Mr. Bush was trying to tell us this morning. If you have time, you might read Gleaves Whitney’s piece in today’s National Review Online. In his e-mail, Ms. Whitney’s son in Kuwait writes: “Everyone finds ways to deal with the fear, pain, and suffering. I too have found a way. My life is not back in Michigan. It is here, now.” I had that same moment during the 1968 Tet Offensive. My father described having it sometime after St. Lo, as he recovered from his wounds; my grandfather, somewhere on the Mexican border chasing Pancho Villa, with World War I still ahead of him. What counts is the moment: This is what happened today; these things are likely to happen tomorrow. (And if they don’t happen, something else will.) That’s not much of a philosophy to live by, but then war isn’t life. Quite the opposite. Hope this helps.
Yes, it does.
There is something truly creepy about the unanimity on France right now, where Saddam Hussein’s war crimes and terror are far les worrisome than those “murderers,” Bush and Sharon. French intellectual Pascal Bruckner nailed it in an interview with Le Figaro this week. It’s translated by blogger, Cinderellabloggerfeller. Money quote:
I am not “pro-war” but “anti-Saddam Hussein”. If we had been able to overthrow the latter by peaceful means I would have been overjoyed. But all the pacifists wanted to do was to attack Bush, whom they called “that scabby, mangy [dog]” in order to avoid ever incriminating Saddam Hussein. We have just gone through several weeks of almost Soviet anti-interventionist unanimity, in which the internal French debate over Iraq has consisted in maintaining, throughout the media, that war is the supreme evil. All the French moral and intellectual authorities thought they were obliged to speak up and assure the prince [i.e. Chirac] that he was right to oppose Washington’s war machine. In this affair, it’s the “nice” left […] which has set the tone. But to end up where? To propose, as the only solution for Iraqi misery, the reintroduction of the status quo. Pacifism is an old French passion. It can be picturesque and derisory. What can you say, on the other hand, when “anti-war” protesters chant, without causing a scandal, the slogan “Bush, Sharon, murderers!” but forbid themselves mentioning the name of Saddam Hussein even occasionally. All these young people have begun to speak “Le Pen’s text” without knowing it, it’s this which has prompted me to put the stakes of the Iraqi conflict in terms which are the opposite of the consensus within France.
We sometimes forget what happened in the last French election. And how it’s still driving French policy today.
Reading the news the last couple days, three quotes struck me. They’re unrelated, but they all vividly highlight different aspects of the war. I loved the statement yesterday by the soldier quoted in the New York Times, trying to smoke a cigarette in a sandstorm. “Sometimes,” he said, “you have to embrace the suck.” It’s a military expression – and a great one. Embrace the suck. (No snickering in the back there, please.) Then there was this today in the NYT (John Burns has singlehandedly got me reading it again):
Colonel Saylor added: “They come, they keep coming. They get up and they come.” “This isn’t the varsity,” he added. “Is this going to stop us? No, not on a bad day.”
I guess these guys have nowhere else to turn. But it may also be true that some of us have again under-estimated something: the power of a totalitarian cult over its enforcers. The guys fighting us are the equivalent of the SS. We’re invading a milder version of Nazi Germany – only after eleven years of relative peace. These guys have barely been softened up at all. Why did conservative hawks like me not believe our own rhetoric about the horrors of totalitarianism? The point about such systems, as Orwell showed, is not just their brittleness and evil, but their success in indoctrinating and marshalling the shock troops. I’m chagrined at my own optimism in this regard. I should not have been surprised by the ferocity of the elite’s defense of itself. The final quote that leaped out of me was from Bush and Blair. Actaully, not a quote, a pronoun:
Both Bush and Blair addressed the lack of support among many traditional allies in war. “There are many people on our side, there are those that oppose us,” Blair acknowledged. But he also said, “I have no doubt that we are doing the right thing, I have no doubt that our cause is just.” Bush insisted, “We have plenty of Western allies. We can give you a list.”
“We have plenty of Western allies.” But isn’t Britain a Western ally? Bush’s pronoun simply bespeaks a fact: that Britain and America are being soldered together by the soldiering together. Just as in the Second World War, this bond is getting deeper the rougher the waters. Events often create a politics more than anyone’s lone decision. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a new world alignment. The Anglosphere is getting entrenched.
Reports from yesterday afternoon’s Supreme Court oral arguments seemed to have gone well for those arguing against the criminalization of private, consensual sex. Here’s the most thorough – and occasionally funny – account I can find – Dahlia Lithwick’s account in Slate. I have to say that reading Antonin Scalia’s brusque and bizarre interjections is a surreal experience. For my own part, here’s an essay I wrote for The New Republic on the history and morality of sodomy laws. It’s not a short piece, clocking in at around 6,000 words. Money paragraph:
As a simple empirical matter, we are all sodomites now, but only homosexuals bear the burden of the legal and social stigma. Some studies have found that some 90 to 95 percent of heterosexual couples engage in oral sex in their relationships; similar numbers use contraception; a smaller but still significant number practise anal sex. We don’t talk about this much because we respect the privacy of intimacy, as we should. The morality of sex in today’s America and Western Europe is rightly one in which few public moral judgments are made of any sexual experiences that are private, adult and consensual. Within these parameters, non-procreative sex is simply the norm. But to say they’re the norm is perhaps too defensive. The norm is also, many have come to understand, a social, personal and moral good.
The case in front of the court is about the right to privacy, equal protection and so on. The case I make is something related but more fundamental. I try to argue that sodomy – i.e. non-procreative sex, whether heterosexual or homosexual – should not merely be defended negatively. It needs to be defended positively. It can indeed be an absolute moral good. I may persuade you. I may not. But I hope you’ll at least engage my take on some of the most basic questions related to this subject.
Whom to believe? The Washington Post has a good and long analysis today of what the war so far teaches us about the future. There are two scenarios – a sudden collapse of the regime after some more pounding from the air and some successful skirmishing on the ground; or a more protracted affair in which we wait for more troops, keep Baghdad surrounded, deal with guerrilla warfare in the South, and then engage in brutal urban warfare for the remainder. The first is still possible and would make this war amazingly successful. But you’d have to be more of an optimist than I am to believe it’s the more likely. So this regime, this despicable regime, is not over yet. Our own over-confidence may have contributed to a reversal in the expectations game; and perhaps the “months long” line now being peddled by some is designed put the expectations game into reverse. But a failure of expectations is not a failure of war. And this past week’s emotional gyrations might even, if we’re lucky, prompt Saddam to make mistakes. He might listen to the BBC and think he’s winning. He won’t. But his over-confidence – I don’t know how else to interpret sending thousands of Republican Guard soldiers into the exposed desert – could help.
KEEP ON HAMMERING: If the war is more protracted, that makes the home front much more important. The propaganda organs against this war will fight hard to weaken American resolve. They are Saddam’s only real hope – that Americans will tire of casualties, lose confidence, and make some sort of deal with the devil. With this president, that won’t happen. But heaven knows, the anti-war right and left will do all they can to derail a war they so fiercely opposed. They will use even the slightest civilian casualties, however tiny in relative terms, into an hysterical campaign to foment regional unrest and sap morale at home. We have to counter and challenge their every argument. And the White House needs to be clearer now than ever, as Safire points out this morning, that we intend to win no matter what, and that winning means unconditional surrender of the regime. We have to reiterate tirelessly that we are morally in the right; that a regime that is sending its own troops into battle at the point of a gun deserves to die; that a gangster’s mob cannot and will not be allowed to terrorize a country and a region for much longer. And at some point, if Saddam’s terror mob doesn’t crack, we have to live with the higher numbers of civilian and military casualties that a less squeamish battle to destroy it might require. We’re not at that point yet – far from it. We’re actually still within reach of an amazingly casualty-free victory. But if it comes, and I deeply hope it doesn’t, we must simply aim at victory. If we have to live without a perfect scenario – regime collapse, infrastructure intact, civilians spared to an historically unprecedented degree – we have to.
A classic simple summarizing sentence. No political or military context. Just post-bombing pro-Saddam propaganda:
Britain and the US are now seen by ordinary Iraqis as having made victims of those they say they want to liberate.