Kathleen Parker

What was that whimpering sound? Oh that. It's just the "Yes, but" crowd formerly known as the "anti-war pundits." Ignore them.

Saddam's statue had barely hit the ground in central Baghdad before America's armchair doomsayers began harrumphing a new caveat in which to couch this unseemly turn of events. One might almost think they didn't want Saddam to fall.

You couldn't help noticing the careful balance the antis tried to strike between reluctant admission and preachy admonition. The formula goes something like this: "Yes, we defeated Iraq, BUT . let's not get too carried away, it ain't over yet."

No one exercised this template better - or more oddly - than New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Here are a couple of snippets from her column the day Baghdad collapsed:

"Victory in Iraq will be a truly historic event, BUT (my emphasis) it will be exceedingly weird and dangerous if this administration turns America into Sparta."

And this: "There remains the unfinished business of Osama bin Laden. BUT (my emphasis) the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom should not mark the beginning of Operation Eternal War."

Hardly anything to argue with there. But, Sparta?

Reading the myriad yes-butters, I keep free-associating to the final scene of "Sleeping With the Enemy," after actress Julia Roberts has shot her loathsome, raping, tyrannical husband. The audience titters in dread, hoping he's truly dead but suspecting a final terrifying lurch from near-death to unleash a fatal blow.

Here's the connection: While those who supported the coalition assault on Iraq really do hope Saddam is dead and cautiously celebrate the demise of his regime, the anti-war gang, we suspect, is tittering hopefully that he will yet spring again from near-death and make us wrong after all.

Nah, no one really wants Saddam to return to power. He was, to mimic Dowd's vernacular, such a meanie-weanie. Still, the Bush-bashers have plenty of reason to wish for something less spectacular than a free and happy Iraq festooned with flowers and sloppy with kisses for trench-scented soldiers. It's hard to admit you were flat wrong.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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