World War Lost
Candide's Notebooks/March 1, 2006
It has come to this: 60 percent of respondents in a world survey believe the invasion of Iraq has increased the likelihood of terrorism. That includes 75 percent of Australians, and between 75 and 82 percent of Brits, Spaniards, Germans, Italians and Finns. Oddly, in Europe , the French were, next to Russia , the least critical of the invasion, with “just” 67 percent thinking it increased the likelihood of terrorism. Maybe Bush should think of vacationing on the Côte d’Azur this summer, when he’s done making fearful visits, measured in minutes, in countries where he still claims democracy is making progress: Americans still see little irony in their president parachuting into Iraq or Afghanistan to claim, gripping and grinning hands left and right and behind walls of security goons and deceptive scheduling (wasn’t that how Arafat used to travel around Lebanon to save his skin, back in the 1980s?), that liberty is making strides.
He sounds like Hitler’s self-deluding generals who, even in 1945, would trundle off to Berlin to assure the Fuhrer that the Third Reich would still prevail. Two invasions, two occupations, two countries hemorrhaging civil war, a world turned against him and feeling less secure, and the man still manages to claim victory. Richard Nixon, too, was no longer tethered to reality in his last two years. But in comparison Nixon’s crimes were minor. The San Francisco supervisors’ resolution to impeach Bush, seemingly ridiculous on its face (and a fat target for the mercenary media of the right), has the ring of necessity, and to many in the trenches and at the receiving end of his hubris’ shards, of urgency.
But wasn’t removing Saddam the right decision? The same world opinion puts those positive responses at 36 percent, withy 45 percent calling it a mistake. The man’s trial is the supreme irony of the war. His era is finished. His meaning is finished. His last laugh isn’t. His trial is both a farce and a coup in his favor. The longer he manages to be in a courtroom, while Iraq shatters and burns outside the court, the more he can claim, without saying a word, that no matter the outcome of his trial, America’s condemnation is complete: The invasion, in this tragic run of ironies, was Saddam’s undoing, but the occupation has been his miserable vindication. It has made the occupier look more like the régime it undid, down to the Americans’ headquartering in the so-called Green Zone, the very place, in Baghdad, where Saddam created his Versailles. The hearts and minds, not only of Iraqis, but of the world, are lost, making something like a global war on terror virtually unwinnable (if it was ever winnable). And still President Bush grins and claims victory. It’s enough to make you wonder whose side he’s on anymore.