The most evocative news photo to come out of the liberation of Baghdad may be one of a young Iraqi man, dressed in a denim jacket, holding a homemade poster celebrating the "Hero of the Peace" -- George W. Bush -- and kissing the president's faintly smiling photo.
Something about this picture seems more significant than even the shot of Marines taking their ease in a presidential palace parlor. And something about it is almost more meaningful than the picture of the giant, deposed statue of Saddam Hussein heading, much to the obvious delight of the Baghdad throng, for history's ash heap.
Maybe it's the kiss itself, reminiscent of all the fairytale kisses that break evil spells, or maybe it's the expressive face of Iraqi gratitude toward an American president who has awakened a nation from a nightmare of brutality and repression. Or maybe it's something else entirely, another face, one not present in the photograph, but easily imagined: the contrasting face of chagrin and disappointment on the anti-war Left (best personified by the professorial radical at the forefront of anti-war protests everywhere) twitching at the prospect of having to face up to a popular, American-led coalition victory.
After all that has been said about Mr. Bush and the war -- not to mention shrieked, spat and gnashed -- this won't be easy. In fact, even as the president's unwavering commitment to disarm Saddam Hussein has put liberty within reality's grasp in Iraq, it seems unlikely to put reality within academia's grasp in America.
This is clearer now than ever, and not just after reading the inflammatory rantings of Nicholas De Genova, the Columbia professor who, at a teach-in, expressed a wish for the military tragedy of "a million Mogadishus" to bring about his vision of world peace. (He later claimed to have been quoted in a "remarkably decontextualized ... manner.") The deepening disconnect between academia and reality is also apparent in the relatively dispassionate comments appearing in a New York Times story about the "role reversals" the war has revealed "between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of September 11, 2001."
"Professors protest, as students debate" went the story's headline. "Even in anti-war bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown," it said. "At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, 'Shut it down!' under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco (not the student campuses of Berkeley), and the crowd was grayer."