The Cup Is Half Full of It

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Back in 2002
when just about every patriot under the sun was itching for a war
with Iraq, Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece called u201CEnough with
the Negotiating at the U.N.u201D He began: u201CThe American people, in
Congress assembled, have given President Bush the authority to use
force to disarm Saddam Hussein.u201D That highfalutin phrase has been
stuck in my craw ever since. Is that how it was? The Iraq War was
the brainchild of the American people? And they enlisted their humble
servant Congress to enlist their even humbler servant George W.
Bush to wage it? Oh please, Charles. After writing what surely rates
as one of the most fatuously, fawningly snake-bellied strings of
prose in the build-up to the war, Krauthammer eventually got to
his point: Screw the U.N., Hans Blix in particular. (u201CWhy should
the United States forfeit to [Blix] — and his proven record of failure
— its freedom of action to defend itself against a supreme threat
to its national security?u201D) Why indeed! Blix happened to know more
than Krauthammer about the u201Csupreme threat to national security,u201D
but alas, as a Scandinavian wimp in pursuit of diplomacy, he was
clearly a failure. Blix dismissed, Krauthammer moved on to rubbish
the French.

The glorious
invasion had taken place but the Mesopotamian worm was already hinting
at an inglorious turn when Mark Steyn wrote a piece for The Spectator
that joined the ball of sour (sauer?) Krauthammer in my craw. u2018Iraq
Has Never had it so Good' it was called. u201CThe glass is at least
5/8 full, and by any objective measure Iraq is immeasurably improved,u201D
Steyn wrote. The more-than-half-full-glass chestnut was immeasurably
desiccated — we'd been instructed to eat it more than 73,000 times
already by the Wolfowitz/Cheney/Rummy/Condi/Bush league. But Steyn
was not content with a lone chestnut — he produced others. There
was the Saddam Is Gone chestnut and the Prewar Potable Water Supply
Is Up chestnut. There was the Improved Healthcare and Child Immunization
chestnut and the mandatory u201CSchool Attendance in Iraq is 10 Percent
Higher Than a Year Agou201D chestnut. (Oh blithesome young scholars
in Halliburton-crafted classrooms affectionately painted by altruistic
troops!) After the chestnut-fest, u201CIraq Has Never Had it so Goodu201D
went on to assert that if you weren't partial to chestnut, it was
doubtlessly because you were an u201Carmchair insurgent.u201D Any criticism
of the war was unfounded and cowardly and obtuse. u201CIn Iraq itself,u201D
Steyn declared, u201Conly 15 percent of the population want the immediate
removal of coalition troops.u201D This comment is particularly intriguing
set beside today's information that more than 50% of coalition troops
want the immediate removal of coalition troops.

Steyn finds
it unseemly that Syria should be run by the son of a former president,
so his article arranged time to heap scorn on u201CBoyu201D (Bachir) Assad.
This seems somewhat rich, whatever Boy Assad's shortcomings, given
the fact that Steyn has been shining the Princeling of Shortcomings'
shoes for the last six years, yet has never seen fit to address
his master as u201CBoyu201D Bush. As young adults on the world stage go,
few seem more Puckish than Dubya. Long ago it was said of Father
Bush that he was born on third base and thought he'd hit a triple.
Boy Bush, born in the corporate boxes behind home plate and positive
he'd hit a grand slam, takes the cake.

Or perhaps
it would be more fitting to say that Princeling takes the u201Cicingu201D
on the cake, which is what Daniel Pipes has recently termed everything
that's befallen Iraq since the demise of the Hitler of the Middle
East (Yet lo! A replacement Hitler riseth even as I write).
u201CWhat is the biggest lesson you have learned from the Iraq War?u201D
Pipes was asked, to which he responded: u201CThe ingratitude of the
Iraqis for the extraordinary favor we gave them — to release them
from the bondage of Saddam Hussein's tyranny.u201D This gracious remark
is from an interview printed in early April of this year, but brought
back memories of Pipes complaining only a few weeks into the invasion
that the ingrate Iraqis didn't u201Cdeserveu201D democracy.

Apart from
their mutual partiality towards Israel and mutual insistence that
they are conservative, not u201Cneou201D-conservative (a breed of rogue
they insist is fictitious), and mutual faith in the rightness of
American might, the most prominent feather these three birds hold
in common is their capacity to sneer. Krauthammer's disdain for
the u201CArab streetu201D has given him years of op-ed joy. The latest Steyn
article to challenge the craw referred glibly to u201Cbarbarous
Islamist sewer statesu201D and Islam's u201Cinstitutional contempt for others.u201D
Steyn is a fine one to preach about contempt, institutional or otherwise
— he's an expert at it. But it is no use at all saying these things.
Steyn may be 5/8 full of shoe-shine, but the balance is largely
arrogance, chutzpah, and craftiness. No logic can check
that infallible jaw — it brays rain or shine. (This said, Steyn
is the best of the bunch — often witty, often articulate, and yes,
often right. Nevertheless, he holds a special place in my spleen.)

Krauthammer,
Steyn, and Pipes, like the administrations they serve, always know
better — still it is instructive to hear them beside alternate (God
forbid!) fonts of wisdom.  Job 12:5 says: u201CIn the thought of
one who is at ease, there is contempt for misfortune.u201D You can believe
that, or you can believe that u201CIraq has never had it so goodu201D. Ecclesiastes
10:8 says: u201CHe who digs a pit will fall into it; and a serpent will
bite him who breaks through a wall.u201D You can believe that, or you
can believe that what's happened in Iraq since the removal of Saddam
is u201Cicing.u201D Lao Tzu says: u201CWhen a nation falls to chaos then loyalty
and patriotism are born.u201D You can believe that, or you can shed
a red, white, and blue tear over inflated rhetoric like, u201CThe American
people, in Congress assembled, have given President Bush the authority
to use force to disarm Saddam Hussein.u201D Leaning toward Lao Tzu,
you might go on to speculate that the chaos in Iraq is a reflection
or projection or complement of chaos in the United States. Such
a thought is not unpatriotic — it's common sense and it bears serious
consideration. Perhaps the proof of its legitimacy is in the contempt
it draws from the school of armchair patriotism. At any rate, it
is now 2006, and the friends of Chaos are itching to announce that
the American people (in Congress assembled) have decided to nuke
Iran.

April
13, 2006

John
Liechty [send him mail]
currently teaches in Muscat, Oman.

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