Friday, June 24

Bobo In Denial-land

Others will say we shouldn't be there in the first place. You may be right. Time will tell. But right now, this isn't about your personal vindication.

David Brooks, June 23, 2005

In the immediate aftermath of the defeat of American forces at the Kasserine Pass in February, 1942, Eisenhower made sweeping changes. The American commander, General Lloyd Fredendall, was sacked. American troops were placed under British command until George Patton could take over. Line officers were cut "cold bloodedly" at Eisenhower's direction.

That was a different American army. It was not the equal in the field of its opponents nor its allies. It did not have the option of endlessly wasting its resources. It did not have the hellish "luxury" of wasting American lives, or the comfortable certainty that as the world's great military power it could defeat any opponent by the application of simple massed strength. This was an American army with full support of the public and the press, and yet Eisenhower knew that if he did not succeed he would be replaced, and quickly. There was no appeal to turning corners or last throes or broken backs. We were at war, and wars are to be won.

But following WWII came the idea of American invincibility, which continues despite the fact that the three major conflicts we've engaged in since then have done nothing to support the notion. The idea was so ingrained that even the defeat of US forces in Vietnam was wished away. There was created a fantasyland of excuses and distortions, which at first served merely to buttress the failed ideal, but would come to be lifted whole and dropped onto any future conflict the Right thought to entertain. The anti-anti-war rhetoric was already in full swing by the time the war began. (Let's remember, Andrew Sullivan was talking about "fifth columnists" on September 12, 2001.)

To a large segment of the public it was simply inconceivable that we could be defeated in Iraq, even if defeat was defined as "not achieving our every last goal", because defeat was only possible if we "weren't allowed to win". And of course this time the traitorous liberal attacks would find no traction; we were united in our new post-9/11 war on terra reality, and our reporters were properly inbeded, Kevlared, and had pom-poms at the ready.

The obfuscation of the real history of the Vietnam war had done its job, and the collapse of the Soviet Union had removed the fetters from the craziest of the crazed. This time Dr. Strangelove imagined he could walk at the start of the movie. The early portents of bad news to come were simply dismissed. The actual bad news was simply denied, in much the same way that Brooks now denies that 60% of his fellow citizens want to withdraw our troops.

Personal vindication? It's beneath contempt, of course, but so much that comes from the right-wing Echo Chamber is that it's now like taking offense at something a three-year-old blurts out. It was clear from the beginning they'd be eating a big shit sandwich on all this someday, though I can't say I realized it would be quite so big. Being saddled with the multiple disasters which are the Bush administration is not revenge on Mr. Brooks, it's merely justice, and justice too long delayed and as yet incomplete. I can tell you he does not want to experience what it would take for me to feel totally vindicated. And the very idea of schadenfreude is erased by the realization of the bad news yet to come, what's going to be visited upon the next generation and maybe the next, when I'm beyond caring, all as a result of the hubristic petty thugs and criminals he told us were saving the world.

No, it's far too late to worry about personal vindication. But it's long past time to be worrying about the fate of the phony excuses that got us in this mess and the hollow platitudes the likes of Brooks trot out now in its defense. It's time now to do what should have been done when it could have made a difference, to act the way Eisenhower did when defeat showed the wrong people were in charge. The Commander-in-Chief needs to cashier those responsible. The guy in the mirror among them.


Ray Bridges said...

The print's so small that I was about two-thirds into it when I realized I was reading something you had written and not an article you were quoting.

Good points, well made. I've harped on the subject at hand a couple of times in the past. I have no apologies for doing everything I could to bring the war in Vietnam to an end. It was being poorly fought and lied about to reflect the poor planning and inability of the officer corps to obtain any meaningful objective.

Anonymous said...

Great piece. And yet, it didn't take me to a happy place. You know, like your post about the drawer full of David Cronenberg props you keep by the sink.