Was George Bush Right?

Some liberals have begun to wonder aloud if maybe George Bush was right all along in his Middle East policy. You can read a gloating summary of what some liberals have said, and how the conservatives are celebrating an alleged victory in an article by Jeff Jacoby, a somewhat libertarian conservative writer for the Boston Globe.

Here’s how his article begins:

"’It is time to set down in type the most difficult sentence in the English language. That sentence is short and simple. It is this: Bush was right."

Thus spake columnist Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star, author of such earlier offerings as "Incurious George W. can’t grasp democracy," "Time for US to cut and run," and, as recently as Jan. 25, "Bush’s hubristic world view."

The Axis of Weasel is crying uncle, and much of the chorus is singing from the same song sheet.

Listen to Claus Christian Malzahn in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel: "Could George W. be right?" And Guy Sorman in France’s Le Figaro: "And if Bush was right?" And NPR’s Daniel Schorr in The Christian Science Monitor: "The Iraq effect? Bush may have had it right." And London’s Independent, in a Page 1 headline on Monday: "Was Bush right after all?"

Even Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show and an indefatigable Bush critic, has learned the new lyrics. "Here’s the great fear that I have," he said recently. "What if Bush . . . has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may . . . implode."

For those of us in the War Party, by contrast, these are heady days. If you’ve agreed with President Bush all along that the way to fight the cancer of Islamist terrorism is with the chemotherapy of freedom and democracy, the temptation to issue I-told-you-so’s can be hard to resist.

"Well, who’s the simpleton now?" crows Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times. "Those who dreamed of spreading democracy to the Arabs or those who denied that it could ever happen?" On the radio the other day, Rush Limbaugh twisted the knife: "The news is not that Bush may have been right," he chortled. "It’s that you liberals were wrong." The gifted Mark Steyn, in a column subtitled, "One man, one gloat," writes: "’I got a lot of things wrong these last three years, but, looking at events in the Middle East this last week . . . I got the big stuff right."

Getting Specific

George Bush was right about what?????

  • We’re not one whit safer than we were before.
  • We’re a whole lot less free than we were before.
  • Not one person, not one group, not one population in the Middle East is freer than two years ago.

The fact that Iraq had an election (as they did under Hussein), or that Hosni Mubarak is thinking about letting some Egyptian run against him and lose, or that a handful of Saudis got to vote for some local tribesmen, or that Lebanon will be having an election soon (they have them regularly already) doesn’t make anyone freer than he was two years ago.

We have no more idea what will happen in those countries than Ronald Reagan, the CIA, and the joyous hawks knew in 1989 that "mission accomplished" Afghanistan was about to sink into a civil war that would leave the country ruled by the Taliban. But this lack of knowledge of the consequences to be unleashed didn’t stop conservatives from celebrating a great victory – prematurely, as always.

(In Jacoby’s defense I must say that he at least acknowledges that the final chapter hasn’t been written yet. But if that’s true, isn’t it a bit deceptive to be celebrating now?)

The Iraqi Lesson

As for Iraq, the election is over, but curfews remain, the checkpoints where innocent Iraqis have been killed are still operating, the devastation of cities hasn’t ended, the barbed wire remains around whole cities, no one has taken responsibility for the torture and so we can only assume it will continue, the censorship is still in force. But we’re supposed to celebrate that "freedom is on the march" – even though Iraqis face the same restrictions they faced under Hussein.

"The chemotherapy of freedom and democracy" in reality means that 100,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, are dead. Is that what George Bush was right about – that the march to freedom must trample over the dead bodies of human beings? Or don’t Iraqis count as human beings?

The Celebrations & the Prospects

Meanwhile, the Bush propaganda machine rolls on – celebrating meaningless events that are supposed to be first steps toward meaningful events. But anyone who has studied the history of government knows that promises and first steps are worthless. I’ll celebrate when some country is actually freer than before.

And I’ll really celebrate if that country is the United States of America.

But since there’s little chance that Afghanistan will be free or peaceful in the near future, very little chance that Iraq will be free or peaceful within a few years, and only a remote chance that any Middle Eastern country will actually be freer next year than it is now, the Bush administration will have to turn our attention elsewhere. And, unfortunately, that probably means invading another country – such as Syria, Iran, or some other country that doesn’t have the ability to put up much of a fight.

Right or Wrong?

If Der Spiegel or Daniel Schorr or Jon Stewart wants to ponder (not proclaim) whether Bush might have been right, it doesn’t change reality. George Bush hasn’t been proven right about anything. He lied us into a terrible war.

And if liberals have been wrong, it has been in going along with too much of the Bush doctrine, and in not standing up for the sanctity of human life.

Only libertarians have recognized that force never produces good results. And so far they are the only ones who have been proven right.

I’ve been wrong many times in my life, and I’ve never found it difficult to acknowledge my mistakes – even in public, if appropriate. But not one thing has happened so far to give me the slightest doubt that I was right to oppose the killing of 100,000 Iraqis, to oppose the killing of thousands of Afghans merely to turn the country back to the war lords, to oppose the imprisonment and torture of Americans and foreigners who have never been tried or even indicted for anything, or to oppose the many steps taken to turn America into a police state.

I’m sorry. Conservatives can gloat all they want. After all, it seems to be in their nature to celebrate as done deals things that are only promised for the future. But there’s no way to avoid the fact that they’re supporting bloody murder, the suppression of American liberties, and a President who has no conception whatsoever of the history and the culture of the Middle East.

Choosing Life or Death

Wouldn’t you think that if you were President, with a $2 trillion budget at your disposal, you could hire the best minds in the world to devise a less violent, more effective way of ending the terrorism war and solving the foreign problems that may actually affect America?

Instead, we have a President who won’t look for a better way because he relishes being the Ruler of the Universe – the man who hears from God what’s best for each nation of the world, and who has the power to crush any country that doesn’t obey his commands.

He may be powerful, but he isn’t right – not about anything so far.

March 12, 2005