Bill Murchison

Couldn't we just turn off "The Dick Clarke Show" for a little while and reflect that, contrary to widespread belief, there's a war on?

Because there is, and people are dying, and the thing is profoundly serious and the outcome far from visible. And yet, amid it all, the "prestige media" and the Washington establishment have tied themselves in knots over what the president said to his terrorism adviser in 2001, what the experts thought about al-Qaeda and Iraq, whether the national security adviser should testify under oath, and so on.

My brothers and colleagues, my anointed leaders and counselors, would you all just kindly shut up?

You won't? That means I'll have to speak louder, concerning matters like

the 20/20 hindsight our Washington friends have suddenly developed.

The Clarke-Rice-Bush-9/11 commission fistfight is ludicrous. The reason comes in two parts.

Part 1: We're re-fighting, as it were, the Civil War. The Yankee brethren who have lived but a short time among us history-minded Southerners cannot know of what I speak. They cannot fathom the propensity we once exhibited for trying to straighten out, rhetorically, the Late Unpleasantness. Why, if ol' Peg-Leg Hood hadn't gone off into Tennessee ... and if Jeb Stuart hadn't been killed at Yellow Tavern ... and ...

Well, maybe. Who knows? But who can do anything about it at this vast remove? And what's the use of going on and on save for the high purpose of emotional relief? Or -- as I suspect in the present case -- political malice?

What you can't do anything about, it's unhealthy to go on and on about. (I note that our Southern proclivity for raking the historical coals never got the verdict of Appomattox reversed.) Better surely -- in Bill Clinton's phrase -- to "move on" and do something about what you can do something about. Which brings me to:

Part 2: That war that's currently on, the "war on terror" -- what a bracing way to fight it. Instead of laying into the terrorists, we lay into each other. What a bracing way, you might say, to lose such a war or at any rate to prolong it while sharply accelerating the costs, both human and material.

If the accompanying spectacle -- Americans with their hands around each other's throats -- seems unedifying at home, then in places like the Sunni Triangle, it must exhilarate.

Americans have a well-earned reputation for going through this sort of thing at intervals. We did it in the '70s for sure: slugging it out over Watergate and the apparent vindication of George McGovern's "Come Home, America" foreign policy.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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