THE LEGACY PROJECT SPINS IRAQ…. Over the weekend, the president made his last “surprise” visit to Iraq, in what was supposed to be something of a victory lap, showing off how much better conditions in Iraq are now than before. When Muntadar al-Zaidi threw his shoes, and became a cause celebre, the victory lap apparently took a detour.
But it’s nevertheless hard to miss the public-relations offensive — presumably as an extension of the Bush Legacy Project — in which prominent administration officials and/or Bush allies push the notion that the war in Iraq really was a great idea, reality notwithstanding.
Just over the last few days:
* Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice inexplicably told the AP yesterday that no “American money” was lost to corruption in Iraq.
* Far-right commentator Frank Gaffney insisted on MSNBC yesterday that Saddam Hussein was a “mortal threat” to the United States and while it was “regrettable” that U.S. troops had to die, they “did have to die.”
* Several conservative media personalities have condemned Iraqis as “ingrates” this week, for failing to thank the U.S. for our efforts.
* Vice President Dick Cheney, for reasons that defy comprehension, argued on Monday that Saddam Hussein “still had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction” prior to the U.S. invasion.
* Bush, when confronted with the fact that al Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq until after the U.S. invasion, said the development was irrelevant, asking, “So what?”
The intensity of the spinning is impressive, but wholly unpersuasive. Yglesias’ take on the war yesterday rang true:
[I]t’s crucially important not to allow these positive sentiments about soldiers and marines to deteriorate into sentimentality about the mission they were undertaking in Iraq. The Iraqi people didn’t ask to be liberarted conquered and occupied by a foreign power that destroyed their country and then immediately set about meddling in Iraqi politics and until just a month or so ago was struggling mightily for the right to permanently station military forces on Iraqi soil contrary to the will of the Iraqi public. Not only did Iraqis not ask for such services, but nobody anywhere has ever asked for them.
The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it’s seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world. But it’s impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it’s clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it’s vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they’re seen and understood by people who aren’t stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.