Monday, June 20, 2005


Here's two self-identified liberals with very different responses to the Downing Street Memos. Both follow politics closely; both were deeply attentive during the run-up to the Iraq war.

Praktike, whom I respect, says:

I have to admit that I'm having some trouble understanding why the DSM, however, would make more people want to call for an American withdrawal from Iraq, especially since (a) it was already old news that the Bush administration was determined to oust Saddam by military means and that its WMD case was weak, and (b) the official reasons for the war being, er, [no] longer operative doesn't mean that the case for withdrawal is any stronger.

To reiterate my position, I believe we have a moral obligation to stay in Iraq in some capacity as long as a legitimate government (in concert with Sistani) wants us there. That doesn't mean I think that everything is hunky-dory, or that I'm pleased with US policy. While I'm relieved that 15 rather than 2 Sunni Arabs will be participating in the constitutional process, I'm certainly dismayed by ongoing reports that the Kurds are engaging in ethnic cleansing in Kirkuk, though I've assumed that's been happening for over a year. But I think we have to ask ourselves: would that a many other similar situations be more or less calm without an American presence? I think that, even though the American military has limited ability and will to put a stop to such behavior, the gloves would really come off were we to leave. And so on.

Here, on the other hand, is Molly Ivins:

But when I read the first Downing Street Memo, my eyes bugged out and my jaw fell open. I could not believe what I was reading. It was news to me, and as I have tried to indicate, I'm no slouch at keeping up. Yes, it has long seemed to me the administration had been planning the war for months before it began its pubic relations campaign to scare a skeptical public.

But she wants the big newspapers to go whole hog with the story, and with the Democratic Party line on it.

So what accounts for the difference? Well, in the short term, Molly is miffed by Tom Friedman's recent column, "Let's Talk About Iraq," in which he wrote:

Conservatives don't want to talk about it because, with a few exceptions, they think their job is just to applaud whatever the Bush team does. Liberals don't want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed.

I imagine plenty of conservatives would take umbrage at their part of the statement, but it seems to have been the liberals who went ballistic. Molly's one of them. She writes:

Here are some aggravating factors. Tom Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote that "liberals" no longer want to talk about the war because we were against it to start with and probably hope it ends in disaster. Good Lord, who does he think we are? Does this man actually think we are out here cheering every time another American is killed?

Mr. Friedman, real, actual, honest-to-God American liberals are out here in the heartland, and we know the kids who are dying in Iraq. They are from our hometowns. We know their parents. That's why we hate this war. That's why we tried to tell everybody else it was a ghastly idea.

She wears her "heartland" "hometown" address like the price tags on a Minnie Pearl hat. No, I don't think she cheers when Americans are killed. Neither does Friedman; that's not what he wrote. But I don't think she weeps, either. If she regards the soldiers, I suspect it with the execrable pity of the self-righteous for the mudsill "victims" who were lured into the military by a lie. Mainly, to her, I suspect every flag-draped coffin that rolls off the plane at Dover is another dart in the heart of the politics of George W. Bush, her bête noire. And another grain of sand in the scale-pan of public opinion that, she hopes, someday tilts her way and convinces the Fox News-watching American booboisie they should have been listening to her all along.

Let's say the devil popped up from a burning Texas sagebrush and made Molly Ivins an offer: not a single American dies in Iraq from this day forth, and democracy takes root there, and Condoleezza Rice wins the presidency in 2008 and the Democratic Party sinks further into irrelevance. "Or," Old Nick smiles, with a twinkle in his eye, "the butcher's bill continues to mount, the American public reaches its tipping point, and your chicken-fried prose pushes them over it. Bush, Rummy and Cheney go to the Hague in the 'war criminals' docket. And you never see another Republican in the White House or a GOP majority in either branch of Congress for the rest of your life."

A key difference between "Praktike" and Molly Ivins is that he sees the war from a whole-world perspective, which includes -- centrally -- the people of Iraq. And he is aware of the blowback potential of a failure of American will in that country. Molly? She doesn't give a prairie hog's ass what happens in Iraq after we come running home, according to her wishes. She doesn't pretend to have a plan for what we ought to do next. Her world-view seems to end at the edge of her readership. It might even stop at the edge of herself.

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