On Friday, I spent some time watching CNN with my grandfather. It's been a while since I indulged in televised news and I found it a little frustrating that I couldn't run to my computer and immediately get more background on what I was seeing and hearing. My Papa and I watched in silence for a little while and then we talked about something he said to me a few weeks ago.
"Son, you know I was a radio operator in the War," he said, meaning World War Two, "I never had to kill a man and I'm grateful that I've gotten to this part of my life without ever having to do that, whether in war or in a car accident or anything."
I nodded, thinking about the generation of young Americans in Iraq who will not be able to say the same thing, if and when they live to be 87 like my grandfather.
"War is a drain on mankind," he said, "We fought in Europe and the Pacific hoping that it would be the last time America had to fight that kind of war. It disappoints me to see that we haven't learned a thing."
The thing that struck me watching the news coverage of the catastrophic eruptions of violence since Thanksgiving Day was the deep and fundamental divide between what we were seeing on the screen and how the various pundits and talking heads were talking about it. John King, who was subbing for Wolf Blitzer on Friday's Situation Room was asking people (honestly) what the U.S. has to do to win in Iraq.
Do what, now? "Win in Iraq"?! John, John, John…that train left the station in 2004! We have already lost the War in Iraq. And all this talk of "sectarian violence" is only a nice, sterile-sounding euphemism for a civil war that started months ago.
KATHLEEN KOCH: Michael, the Iraqi government and the U.S. military in Baghdad keep saying this is not a civil war. What are you seeing?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, firstly, let me say, perhaps it's easier to deny that this is a civil war, when essentially you live in the most heavily fortified place in the country within the Green Zone, which is true of both the prime minister, the national security adviser for Iraq and, of course, the top U.S. military commanders. However, for the people living on the streets, for Iraqis in their homes, if this is not civil war, or a form of it, then they do not want to see what one really looks like.
This is what we're talking about. We're talking about Sunni neighborhoods shelling Shia neighborhoods, and Shia neighborhoods shelling back.
We're having Sunni communities dig fighting positions to protect their streets. We're seeing Sunni extremists plunging car bombs into heavily-populated Shia marketplaces. We're seeing institutionalized Shia death squads in legitimate police and national police commando uniforms going in, systematically, to Sunni homes in the middle of the night and dragging them out, never to be seen again.
I mean, if this is not civil war, where there is, on average, 40 to 50 tortured, mutilated, executed bodies showing up on the capital streets each morning, where we have thousands of unaccounted for dead bodies mounting up every month, and where the list of those who have simply disappeared for the sake of the fact that they have the wrong name, a name that is either Sunni or Shia, so much so that we have people getting dual identity cards, where parents cannot send their children to school, because they have to cross a sectarian line, then, goodness, me, I don't want to see what a civil war looks like either if this isn't one.
Of course, why should I be surprised at the massive gap in Americans' understanding of the war? Just a few months ago, we had Laura Ingraham declaring that all of the journalists who have been risking their lives living and working in Iraq for years need to just get out more and see the "Real Iraq" and stop being so gosh-darned negative all the time.
Lara Logan, who has been bravely working in Iraq for the last three years addressed that well, I thought, when she said the following:
LOGAN: I really resent the fact that people say we're not reporting the true picture here. That's totally unfair and it's really unfounded. You don't think that I haven't been to the U.S. military and the State Department and the U.S. Embassy and asked them over and over again, "Let's see the good stories, show us some of the good things that are going on"? "Oh, sorry, we can't take you to that school project because if you put that on TV then they're going to be attacked, the teachers are going to be killed, the children might be victims of attack"? Or, "Sorry, we can't show that reconstruction project because then that's going to expose it to sabotage. The last time we had journalists down here the plant was attacked."
The anchor goes on to play Logan the clip of Bitch Troll from Hell Laura Ingraham braying away about how she captured the essence of the real Iraq in her heroic eight days there as an embedded correspondent. The look of disgust on Lara Logan's face is priceless, and indicative of so much that I feel at this point about all the Iraq War cheerleaders and their persistent, shit-for-brains approach to the realities on the ground there.
Iraq is burning. That nation has imploded. There is nothing "we" can do now to stop that process. Our military personnel are being slaughtered in vain.
Chuck Hagel, of all people, seems to realize this (via WaPo):
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis — not the Americans.
The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation — regardless of our noble purpose.
We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
The Iraq Study Group is merely going to be another exercise is delusional bullshit. It will be Conservative Yoga, that rarified practice in which the participants have dedicated years of their lives to learning how to tie themselves into intricate ethical and semantic knots while simultaneously blowing smoke up their own assholes. And the Preznint is purportedly (via Noron at C&L) already making contingency plans to ignore their advice in case he doesn't like what he hears.
O'DONNELL: Well, the Iraq Study Group, the first draft will be ready this weekend, it's going to be debated next week, it could go the President and the Congress very soon.
MATTHEWS: Is that a leak or is that official–coming out?—Are you getting a copy early?
O'DONNEL: No, but they've got their first draft. We'll see if everybody agrees to it, but the Pentagon is already developing an alternative to give the President an out if he doesn't like the recommendations.
There is only one right answer for Iraq, and that is to pull our troops out right now. Whatever is going to happen there is already happening. We can leave our fighting men and women tied to the tracks in the path of that train or we can pull them clear. All this happy crap about "cut and run" and "it'll only get worse if we leave" is a steaming pile of hooey based on a passel of prideful delusions about this country's place in the world, not to mention about our actual military capabilities.
I knew in 2003 that the invasion of Iraq was a massive strategic blunder, but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the cascading sets of errors that followed. This misbegotten war is going to be a lasting stain on our nation's character. We have set in motion a series of events that have created a literal hell on earth and led to the senseless murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents.
Thank you, Republican Party. Thank you, spineless Dems who enabled the bloodthirsty NeoCon butchers to "engineer" our national disgrace. Thank you, Pox News for blindly and uncritically "catapulting the propaganda" to an overly credulous and frightened public. And a very, very special Fuck You Very Much to Judy Miller and the Reich Wing Blog Brigade for making lies and distortions a staple of the informational diet of so many Americans. I hope you're all very proud of yourselves for the base, craven, heedless way in which you have behaved and that you're as satisfied with the results as the rest of us.
I used to be disgusted.
Now I'm just ashamed.