"Most of us know, now, that Rousseau was wrong: that man, when you knock his chains off, sets up death camps. Soon we shall know everything the 18th century didn't know, and nothing it did, and it will be hard to live with us." - novelist and poet Randall Jarrell.
If not apocryphal, the quote of 2003 came from an unlikely Spec. 4, only 19, standing over a surrendering Saddam Hussein: "President Bush sends his regards." Iraq was so much the year's dominating story that everything else came in close to last. President Bush led the way, with key congressional Democrats supporting him yet seeking to weasel out of that support later as they sought the Democratic presidential nomination. The United Nations, which some insisted be given the job, got going (out of Iraq) when the going got tough - and is having trouble even considering returning because it deems the place too dicey.
Right in there with the UN in the cowering department was a coterie of continentals combined with an aggregation of Arabs such as our abiding friends the Saudis. Iraq gave the vocabulary WMDs, shock and awe, embedding, coalition of the willing, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), asymmetric threat and MOAB (the Mother of All Bombs). It also gave us the uncommon valor of American forces (more than 450 of whom lost their lives), three dozen allies, lost artifacts later mostly found, and Donald Rumsfeld at his zenith. Though guerrilla atrocities persist, the war freed Iraq, ended the Saddamite terrorization of the Iraqi people, and will lead to self-government.
Elsewhere abroad, the year was SARS, the Saudi bombings, the Middle East road map and the Israeli Fence. It was Slobodan Milosevic and other Serb executioners on trial. It was steadfast Britain, Australia, Poland and Spain. It was Canada freaking out.
Stateside, 2003 gave us a federal judiciary - even a Supreme Court - confused, with Senate leftists insistently refusing to confirm judicial nominees who would inject the courts with sense. The macabre loss of the shuttle Columbia may have killed not only seven venturesome astronauts but U.S. manned space flight. An adamant homosexuality rattled our live-and-let-live moralism and shook some of our most estimable institutions.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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