When President Bush addressed the nation on Sept. 11, he recalled the worldview that emerged to him five years ago from the hot ashen murk of Ground Zero.
Back then, he said, "we resolved that we would go on the offensive against our enemies, and we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor or support them."
That world view was black and white -- you're with us, or you're against us -- perfectly matched to an epochal war against jihad terrorism.
Listening to his speech this week, I realize the president's basic outlook hasn't changed. He still sees the war in the same stark tones. He looks at the overthrow of the Taliban five years ago and sees Taliban, black, overthrow, white. He looks at the overthrow of Saddam Hussein three years ago and sees Hussein, black, overthrow, white. So do I. He looks at the ongoing war in Iraq in black and white: Sunni-dominated insurgency, black, Shiite-dominated democracy, white.
Hmm. That's where his palette clashes with mine. It's hard to see a white hat, for example, atop the black-turbanned head of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite guerilla fighter, who, even as he is accused of operating death squads and battling American and Iraqi troops, leads the faction that holds more seats than any other in Iraq's parliament and controls four ministries. Indeed, as one observer put it to The Washington Post, it is difficult for the United States "dealing" with the popular al-Sadr "without undermining (Prime Minister Nouri al-) Maliki's government that relies on him."
Then there's the Sunni side of Iraq. There, Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists are described in a recent intelligence report as being nothing less than an "integral part of the social fabric."
It's not that this mottled reality is better expressed in a more "nuanced" spectrum of "complex" grey -- usually just a metaphor for inaction or retreat. But there's something half-blind about looking at Iraq and seeing forces of evil to one side ("the insurgency") and all sweetness and light to the other. Iraq may be, as we are continually reminded, a young democracy, but its constitution enshrines sharia, and its parliament, among other things, unanimously condemned Israel in its war against Hezbollah -- neither of which fits the presidential color scheme.