My intemperate language earlier today is informed by my seeing "No End In Sight" last night. Day after day of observing the inexcusable can render one numb after a while. You can forget the trajectory of the deception and incompetence and recklessness of the last six years, and focus, as we should, on what can be done now, how to make things better in practice, how to rate the options in front of us. But at times, it's worth looking back in anger.
The documentary is not perfect; it is not as polished as, say "Taxi to The Dark Side"; it gets bogged down in a few places. But it is worth seeing again what Baghdad was the morning after it was liberated: still a viable city, still a place where sane, non-sectarian Iraqis with education and decency could see, if only dimly, a way forward. You see and hear also from the many good people who did their best in this effort across the government and, of course, in the military; and the many Iraqis who were eager at first to join hands and build a new country. Even then, it would have been very, very hard. We'll never know for sure if it was going to be impossible. But we do know that, with this president and vice-president and defense secretary Rumsfeld, what chance we had was consciously, arrogantly, recklessly, criminally thrown away. The toll in human life, in American honor, in American power, in financial waste, and in the war on terror will be up to historians to measure. But it is immense.
For the United States to invade a country and then allow it to be destroyed - against our interests, against their interests - remains one of the more unforgivable acts of governmental negligence in modern times. It is unthinkable that a group of men with this record should have been re-elected to a local school-board, let alone the leadership of the free world. But, of course, they were. We can pray that somehow, out of this dark, long tunnel, something might be salvaged. But even if it is, it will never detract from the fact that this administration made the most colossal intelligence mistake since Pearl Harbor, ended two centuries of moral leadership by the United States on the treatment of prisoners of war, sunk what may soon be more than a trillion dollars into creating anarchy in a region where vital interests are at stake, and cost the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women and children in an occupation of such fathomless negligence it is close to a war crime in itself.
This coming election is about the candidates, the issues and the parties. But it is also a verdict on these past six years. Was it a mistake? Or was it a catastrophe? How far do we need to go to expunge this deep stain on the reputation and honor of the United States? That, for me, is the primary question. Everything else is a function of willful amnesia.
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