The Blog

See No Good

In the aftermath of April 9, lefty publications couldn't bring themselves to recognize the good coming from American policy.

11:30 AM, Apr 16, 2003 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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IN AMERICAN HISTORY, there are three dire dates--December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963; and September 11, 2001--that send a collective shudder through our memory. The left also has its own special roster of days not to cherish: December 12, 2000, when George W. Bush became president; November 7, 2002, when that choice was roundly endorsed by American voters; and April 9, 2003 when Baghdad was freed and Saddam's grip was broken in one of the swiftest, most successful, most surgical strikes in war history, to the Iraqis' wild delight. The terrible news that President Bush had pulled off a tremendous success and was being hailed in the streets as a conquering hero has sent the left into a state of despair and confusion from which it has yet to emerge. Moderate liberals engaged in quick rear-covering actions, saying they always knew it would be a walkover (they didn't), and eagerly assuring us it would now get much worse. On the far left, however, they could barely accept it at all. Readers of the Nation, the American Prospect, or of their websites would be at a loss to know anything happened. On April 9, TAPPED, the continually-updated blog of the American Prospect, ran a few lines saying we should all rejoice in this triumph, and quickly moved on to more promising topics. The main American Prospect posting on April 10--when papers showed pictures of Iraqis hugging Americans--was titled Ugly Americanism. What great timing. If this is "ugly," what would "attractive" look like?

Things were still worse at the Nation's website, where the happy events were not mentioned at all. On April 10 a post assailed the failed policies of the younger George Bush, in contrast to those of his father, the suave internationalist (whom the Nation detested when he was in office). This on the day that American forces, hailed once again by ecstatic Iraqis, rolled into two more cities in the North.

Also on April 10 the Nation posted a piece by David Corn, one of its more talented writers, that lamented the fate of Iraqi civilians hurt by American bombs and American fire, and urged that America help them. This was a valid point and a meaningful story: We must never lose sight of "collateral damage." But this was just one of the horrors-of-war stories posted in a week filled with them: stories of Iraqis being forced to the front lines by families held hostage; of Iraqis with tales of terrible torture; of the emptying of an Iraqi jail for small children, whose parents had made the mistake of opposing Saddam. In this deluge of horrors--most of them purposefully committed by Saddam's regime--the only ones the Nation saw fit to note and to criticize were the ones committed by the United States by mistake. This is a mindset determined to showcase America as toxic and menacing.

On April 11, Andrew Sullivan quoted Salon's Gary Kamiya writing: "I have a confession: I have at times, as the war has unfolded, secretly wished for things to go wrong. Wished for the Iraqis to be more nationalistic, to resist longer. Wished for the Arab world to rise up in rage. Wished for all the things we feared would happen. I'm not alone: A number of serious, intelligent, morally sensitive people who oppose the war have told me they have had identical feelings. Some of this is merely the result of pettiness--ignoble resentment, partisan hackdom, the desire to be proved right and to prove the likes of Rumsfeld wrong, irritation with the sanitizing, myth-making American media. That part of it I feel guilty about, and disavow. But some of it is something trickier: It's a kind of moral bet-hedging, based on a pessimism not easy to discount, in which one's head and one's heart are at odds."

And Ron Rosenbaum has this to recount in the New York Observer: "Today, a friend told me a story about a spiritual person, a man of the 'peace' movement. His first reaction, when apprised of early optimistic reports of Iraqi surrenders . . . was to exclaim in anguish, 'Oh, no, this is going to help Bush!'"