Observations on the war in Iraq that was

Posted: Apr 29, 2003 12:00 AM

The Second Iraq War recedes now in the rearview mirror.

As the United States seeks to turn on the lights, secure the place and move Iraqis toward democracy, the critics - ever the critics - are out there carping that liberal democracy won't work, can't work, won't ever work and certainly not if the discreet Iraqi people discern the United States has anything to do with it. These are, of course, many of the same critics who sought to prevent the Coalition military onslaught from working to remove Saddam.

These also are many of the same critics who, let's see: (1) oddly overlook the low regard Islam tends to have not only for democracy but for women and for non-Koranic law, (2) continue (with most of the Middle East's non-democratic Arab/Muslim regimes) to hammer the United States to leave Iraq soon and to leave Syria alone, and (3) gravely groan that if we don't find nasty weapons and if we don't find Saddam dead, then the war (as with the war in Afghanistan without the body of Osama bin Laden) will not have been justified. These many critics' implicit logic seems to argue that Iraq would be a better place with the Saddamite regime still there. Perhaps they drift to sleep each night wishing we had for a president not the incumbent but Al Gore.

Generally, much goes well. Yes, there has been evident American assistance (from troops and pressies alike) in ripping off Iraqi historic and artistic treasure. Yes, tension persists among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds - and between Islam and democracy. But: We're rounding up many terrorists and regime big boys, we're learning about what may have happened to the WMDs, and we're hearing repeated stories of the routine intimidation and torture whereby Saddam kept his people cowering in fear.

We hear, as well, these miscellaneous things....

  • Saddam's son Uday, a brutalist and pornographer, ordered the torture of athletes on losing Iraqi teams - for losing.

  • How about that odd circumstance whereby American cigarette manufacturers could not provide their product to American troops (government policy or settlement agreements or something), so soldiers were reduced to paying Iraqis $10 a pack?

  • And how about that call sign of one of the female A-10 pilots flying missions in Iraq, after her initials (K.C.) - "Killer Chick"?

  • The United States is flooding Iraq with dollars quickly to give Iraq an economy based on a stable currency. "Dollarization" long has been a concept advocated in this space for Third World countries with struggling economies and a seeming inability to maintain stability employing currencies of their own.

  • (a) Rebecca Pazmino, a Columbia sophomore who intends to become a Marine officer following graduation, wants ROTC returned to her campus, which she describes as essentially peacenik and "very, very liberal." (b) Regina Herzlinger, a Harvard Business School professor with a son in the Army Infantry, notes that "in 1957, 400 of 750 Princeton men served in the military. Last year, it was three in a class of 1,000. The statistics are depressingly similar in other Ivy League schools."

  • How unsurprising, in the words of a Washington Post staffer reporting on the latest from "leaders of some of the largest national peace groups, (that) the anti-war movement is reshaping itself to become an anti-Bush movement."

And then, these quotes:

  • (a) Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle: "I'm saddened - saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war, saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical to our country." (b) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: "I have absolutely no regret about my vote (against) this war. The cost in human lives. The cost to our budget, probably $100 billion." (The Pelosi quote drew this retort from Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley: "It's becoming very apparent why she's the Minority Leader - it's because her views represent the vast minority of the country.")

  • ABC news anchor Peter Jennings: "There are still a large number of people in the country who are opposed to this (war), realize they cannot stand it, but look to members of the Democratic Party, particularly, to sort of be their port in a storm, their place to manifest their dissatisfaction."

  • Riad al-Turk, Syria's most outspoken dissident, from Damascus (where he spent, under the current autocrat's father, 18 years in solitary confinement): "Iraq had a bloodier system - when we compare the number of victims (of the regime here) to the number in Iraq, it had many, many more. But in substance, (the regimes) are the same."

  • Gary Kamiya, executive editor of the leftist Internet journal Salon: "I have a confession: I have at times, as the war has unfolded, secretly wished for things to go wrong (for the Coalition forces). Wished for the Iraqis to be more nationalistic, to resist longer. Wished for the Arab world to rise up in rage. Wished for all the things we feared would happen. I'm not alone: A number of serious, intelligent, morally sensitive people who oppose the war have told me they have had identical feelings. ... Wishing for things to go wrong is the logical corollary of the postulate that the better things go for Bush, the worse they will go for America and the rest of the world."

  • Regarding the wreckage of the Saddamite regime, consider please the apt "Ozymandias" by early 19th-century British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.