The dismal scene

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jun 09, 2005 12:00 AM

The nuclear option, Social Security, John Bolton; Paris Hilton selling hamburgers or something; "Deep Throat" starring - masquerading? - as Mark W. Felt. Those topics are consuming the news columns. But what about . . . Iraq?

Let's review.

- The pace of killing goes on - and not only for Americans trying to secure the place. During the past 18 months, comrade Zarqawi and other al-Qaida sympathizers have been dispatching Iraqi civilians at the rate of 20 per day.

- Zarqawi himself may have been wounded in the lung - one of the more hopeful indicators of a general pacification coming on.

- American forces continue to train up Iraqi troops - with mixed results.

- At the governmental level, dignitaries still struggle toward drafting a constitution. Here's to the resulting document binding the Iraqi people more successfully than the constitution of the European Union - consisting of several hundred pages containing 435 annexed protocols - has bound Europeans.

- In the U.S. Congress, two things: (1) The estimable deliberative body has wandered at last toward making the connection between non-enforcement of immigration law and the terror threat: A bill requiring the states to verify whether applicants for driver's licenses are legal immigrants awaits presidential signature; (2) In the House, a measure has failed that would have barred women from Army forward support companies that embed with ground combat units. Hey, hey, ho, ho: We want women in combat roles!

Oh, yes.

- Photos appear worldwide showing Saddam in his Jockey shorts.

- There's the residual roar about American treatment of prisoners - at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, at isolated points in Afghanistan and Iraq. Who will ever forget the consequences of the item written by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff? And Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the only Army general officer recommended for busting in re Abu Ghraib, says it's all a Pentagon setup to make her the fall gal.

- Selected media leaks over several years suggest the International Committee of the Red Cross (emphatically not the same as the American Red Cross), presumably neutral and pledged to confidentiality, has grown ideologized against the United States. With privileged status to inspect conditions for detainees held in the terror war, the ICRC seems to be grinding more anti-American axes than on the night before the Battle of Agincourt.

- President Bush visits Georgia - a former Soviet "republic" featuring deadly Islamist feuds. While in Tbilisi he narrowly escapes an assassination attempt when someone in a sea of people lobs a grenade that fails to go off. Anger at the president venturing to Georgia overwhelms any sense of relief that he wasn't killed.

- Reputed great ones like "Star Wars" maestro George Lucas (at the Cannes Film Festival to receive accolades for "Sith") do cheapen the broader discussion with idiocies such as: The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.

And so, the dismal scene.

Have you noticed? On Iraq, the public is oddly disengaged, distracted, remote from the fight.

We are at war against a jihadist terror that seeks our eradication from the planet. Yet, for instance, regarding Pat Tillman, the pro-football player who gave it all up to join the Army Rangers, the story now is less about his abiding patriotic commitment than about the Pentagon papering over of the nature of his death.

And . . . join up?

In semidormant peacenik precincts worry builds at the merest mention of restoring the draft. Unto the loftiest venues of the federal courts, colleges battle to bar military recruiters from their ivied sanctuaries. All this with Army recruiting spiraling downward not because of any alleged "scandal" contrived by recruiters, but largely because of the terror war.

A retired lieutenant general finds the Army unable to "compensate for a problem of national scope" - the problem being, of course, a public uninspired to connect with the war at hand. He wonders: Has the United States lost its will to survive? What's happened to the Great Satan when so few are willing to fight to defend the country?

The dismaying wonder extends: Does a citizenry so distracted that it cannot even weigh in usefully on the debate - let alone enlist in the confrontation in whatever way on whatever front - deserve to prevail in the wider war?