I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Friday, August 25, 2006

So wrong that it re-defines "wrongness"

(updated below)

Mark Steyn is a hero to neoconservatives. They consider him a true foreign policy genius and run around drooling with praise, like John Hinderaker in the presence of George W. Bush, every time he releases a new column about the Epic Global War of Civilizations We Must Wage. Yesterday, Steyn's status was cemented as he had the privilege of sitting in Rush Limbaugh's Chair as guest host, something which was celebrated across the Bush-loving world.

While looking for something else, I came across this column written by Steyn on May 4, 2003, in which he laughs about the fact that the U.S. won the war in Iraq so quickly and easily and mocks those who were concerned that it would be a difficult challenge. The column was entitled "The war? That was all over two weeks ago," and here is part of what it said, conveying the prevailing "wisdom" among Bush supporters at the time. Just savor every paragraph of intense, complete wrongness:

This war is over. The only question now is whether a new provisional government is installed before the BBC and The New York Times have finished running their exhaustive series on What Went Wrong with the Pentagon's Failed War Plan. . .

On the other hand, everything that has taken place is strictly local, freelance, improvised. Many commanders have done nothing: they're the ones I wrote about, the ones so paralysed by the silence from HQ that they're not even capable of showing the initiative to surrender; they're just waiting for the orders that never come.

Others have figured the jig's up, discarded their uniforms and returned to their families. Some guys have gone loco, piling into pick-ups and driving themselves into the path of the infidels' tanks. A relatively small number have gone in for guerrilla tactics in the southern cities. . . .

It takes two to quagmire. In Vietnam, America had an enemy that enjoyed significant popular support and effective supply lines. Neither is true in Iraq. Isolated atrocities will continue to happen in the days ahead, as dwindling numbers of the more depraved Ba'athists confront the totality of their irrelevance. But these are the death throes: the regime was decapitated two weeks ago, and what we've witnessed is the last random thrashing of the snake's body.

By the time you read this, Tariq Aziz and the last five Ba'athists in Baghdad may be holed up in Fisk's Ba'athroom, and he'll be hailing the genius of their plan to lure the Americans to their doom by leaving his loo rolls on the stairwell for the Marines to slip on.

But, for everyone other than media naysayers, it's the Anglo-Aussie-American side who are the geniuses. Rumsfeld's view that one shouldn't do it with once-a-decade force, but with a lighter, faster touch has been vindicated, with interesting implications for other members of the axis of evil and its reserve league.

By the time you read this column, Steyn says, only "the last five Ba'athists in Baghdad" will be left. Rumsfeld proved to be a genius because we won so quickly and easily with a small force. There was little resistance because the Iraqis were so scared that they all ran home, too afraid even to surrender. There are a handful of insurgents engaging in guerilla tactics, but the number is so small that -- even as of May, 2003 (more than three years ago) -- they were already in their "death throes." The only thing I have seen that competes with this Steyn column for its mix of pure wrongness and gloating self-celebration over being so wrong is this humiliating April, 2003 screed from Glenn Reynolds.

Despite all of that, Steyn is the person whom Bush followers think is a visionary and prophet whom we should also listen to now with regard to what we should do about Iran and the broader Middle East. Allegiance to the Cause of Good is paramount, and there is thus no price paid by True Believers for fundamental error, grave misjudgment, or just outright deceit. Steyn -- and the long list of Bush loving comrades who mouthed these same pieties -- was painfully, disastrously wrong about the most profound political and military question of our generation. He ought to be too ashamed to continue pontificating and too shunned to be able to do so -- at the very least without his admitting error, recanting and apologizing.

But the opposite is true. The same people who were wrong about everything -- literally -- and who viciously mocked those who were right, now want to use the same mindset and assumptions to guide us into our next war. That really is what Democrats ought to be asking the country this year -- whether they want those who promised quick victory in Iraq, and who proclaimed that we had quick victory, to be able to lead us into more wars of the same kind.

Charles Krauthammer today came out and explicitly said that it is necessary for us to confront Iran militarily, i.e., start a new war against Iran. Democrats should make this election about this question because it is, in large part, what the election is about -- whether the country wants the same people who dragged us into Iraq to do the same in Iran, Syria and beyond.

UPDATE: I was reminded in comments that I previously quoted from that truly unbelievable April, 2003 post by Glenn Reynolds, and when I did, Reynolds replied: "actually I think it holds up pretty well." (And I now see that, in response to this post, Reynolds today added an update to his April, 2003 post saying it's "deluded" to think that the April, 2003 post of his proves that he was wrong; he also links to his March, 2006 reply where he said that his April, 2003 gloating about the war's great success "holds up pretty well").

Just go read what Reynolds wrote in that April, 2003 post (first pointed out by Tom Tomorrow) and then contemplate the level of irrationality and reality-denial necessary to defend those statements as accurate, to claim they "hold up pretty well." Many Iraq war advocates were honest enough to admit that they were wrong, that Iraq was and is falling apart, but the most dishonest of them -- the Steyns, Krauthammers and Reynolds -- prefer to embrace transparent falsehoods than change their thinking about anything or admit that they were wrong about anything. Preventing individuals of this type from leading this country into more disasters is genuinely urgent.

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