Dubya and His Blue Ox
by Karen Kwiatkowski
Bob Herbert at the New York Times wrote recently about the price we are paying for Iraq. He doesn't much emphasize the current and future tax receipts tossed into the maelstrom like so much confetti by a strangely child-like George W. Bush. He refers instead to the carnage and ill-will we have generated by "the war we so foolishly started in Iraq."
In a few powerful words, he paints the unlovely picture of today's and tomorrow's reality in Iraq — a bloody reality that is the "payoff of a policy spun from fantasies and lies." Of course, those who disagree with his gloomy assessment might accuse him of hyperbole.
Like millions of conservatives and liberals in this country who observe reality with their eyes wide open and are well-versed in ethics as well as history, Bob is concerned about the bad path set down by the Bush administration's foreign policy advisors. Specifically those advisors who took a Texas-sized risk with both the facts and our soldiers' lives when they decided, in their infinite wisdom about world affairs and their unique perspective on the Constitution and the value of the lives of American soldiers, that it would be a really cool idea for America's military to invade and occupy Iraq. Seriously folks, there is lots of oil there, OPEC was never meant to deal in euros, and Israel shouldn't be the only gentle and generous friend of democracy and peace in the region.
The latest neoconservative argument for the rightness and justness of our current Iraq venture is articulated by John O'Sullivan in the 1 September issue of National Review. His article, entitled "No Quagmire: How to Avoid One This Time," coalesces on the theme that our ill-planned and ill-motivated invasion of a mid-size Middle Eastern sovereign of multiple ethnicities is not a reality per se, but instead only a "McGuffin." A "McGuffin," O'Sullivan later tells us (and thank goodness he does!), is "the device needed to get the plot going." The "plot" in this case is a left-wing anti-American script that is backward-looking, politically driven, and part of a leftish desire to "turn Iraq into a self-induced American neurosis."
It is interesting that John O'Sullivan is represented by Benador Associates. He shares that connection with such distinguished Iraq war designers, armchair generals and girlishly enthusiastic cheerleaders as Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney, Charles Krauthammer, Laurie Mylroie, Richard Pipes, and Max Boot. This odd neoconservative "lumpen-intelligentsia" (to use one of O'Sullivan's own phrases) sees the U.S. invasion/occupation of Iraq as forward looking, not politically driven at all, and aimed at beefing up America's self-image and self-esteem. In other words, "Bring 'em on!"
Two stories, two points of view. One accurate and heart-breaking, the other more of a tall tale, meant to entertain and impress the impressionable. But really, one wonders why is it so difficult for the neoconservative pom-pom shakers to honestly assess what they have wrought? Them being so smart and all.
We do, as fellow men and women, feel their pain. It is undeniably difficult for all Americans to deal conceptually with the ugly, costly, immoral, and dismal reality of liberated Iraq, our 51st state. But there may be signs of hope. O'Sullivan's National Review article closes with an appeal that "irrespective of whether the decision to invade Iraq was itself sensible," conservatives should be aware that it is "vital for both Iraq and the wider U.S. national interest that America's will to win there be sustained."
Hold up a second! O'Sullivan must have slipped this sentence past the newspeak censors at Benador Associates and the American Enterprise Institute! In suggesting the possibility that the decision to invade Iraq may not have been sensible, he is breaking a foundational rule of the tall tale.
Yes, my dear neoconservative lumpen-intelligentsia, there are rules for telling tall tales. One of them is that the stories "must be of a highly exaggerated, improbable nature and have a theme or plot." You did OK on the pre-war Iraqi threat part — highly exaggerated, improbable as well. But the theme or plot must be present — and it must be consistent. Suggesting that there might be a midstream correction somewhere is a clear violation. To imply that the original neoconservative premise on Iraq was flawed at the midpoint of the story simply ruins everything.
This is truly a sad moment in our cultural history, in more ways than one. You boys and girls of Benador have embarrassed the great state of Texas, besmirched the noble tradition of the tall tale, and you're probably going to be hearing about it soon enough from Dubya himself.
Just as soon as he finishes cutting timber with Babe down on the ranch, he'll be taking giant steps in your direction. In fact, I do believe I feel the ground trembling right here in western Virginia! Gee, I hope nobody gets Gored!
August 22, 2003
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.
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