The day after the president’s televised plea for national patience, the New York Times echoed what more than a few liberals, centrists and honest conservatives have advocated for some time: that Bush’s “critics … put aside, at least temporarily, their anger at the administration for its hubris, its terrible planning and its inept conduct of the war in return for a frank discussion of where to go from here.”
That’s a reasonable request with which even more liberals, centrists and honest conservatives would comply, I think, if only we had a reasonable administration. But there’s nothing reasonable about it or this entire mess. Instead, we have an immovable White House fighting an illogical war and huckstering tired and deceptive excuses to a disgusted public.
Not only are the administration and its powerful supporters still linking this war of choice to 9/11, they have clearly decided to redouble their efforts along those deceitful lines. Bush cited 9/11 no less than five times Tuesday night as the causal foundation for the Iraq invasion. And the next morning, as just one example, CNN treated us to a right-wing congressman swearing that sure there are links between 9/11 and Iraq -- many, many links that “we” are privy to -- though he failed to cite any. (I guess the many, many links are very, very privy.)
If the Big Lie stops working, the radical right’s reasoning goes, then don’t stop lying or even switch lies. Just pound harder than ever with the old one.
These are the people with whom war opponents are to have “a frank discussion”?
A key passage in Bush’s speech spotlighted the old lie’s new emphasis: “Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.”
There you go. The buffed-up, new-and-improved Old Big Lie version. The “murderous ideology” of Islamist extremism is the link between then and now, them and these guys.
So this war wasn’t about War Objective Take 1 -- WMD. It wasn’t about War Objective Take 2 -- humanitarianism. It wasn’t about War Objective Take 3 -- regime change. It wasn’t about War Objective Take 4 -- freeing an oppressed people. It wasn’t even about the latest advertised war objective, the selfless objective to end all war objectives, which would be War Objective Take 5 -- establishing Middle East democracy.
But, and you’ll just have to take their word for it, the war really, really is about extinguishing Islamist extremism -- War Objective Take 6.
If I may, perhaps the administration should have explained this more than a year ago. On the other hand, that would have presented an entirely new host of public relations problems, since achieving War Objective Take 6 requires the invasion of at least a dozen other nations embedded with those human links to 9/11: Islamist extremists.
And here, of course, is where War Objective Take 6 meets Impossible Dream No. 1. No number of troops for any number of years occupying any number of nations will eradicate Islamist extremism, any more than a Nation magazine subscription for Pat Robertson would cure Pat of his Christian extremism.
But the Bushies know that. They were only looking for a new twist on the Big Lie, and when this twist flops, as did Nos. 1-5, they’ll just twist again.
In short, good faith is to Bush Inc. what a fair plea bargain is to the Gambino family. So when the NYT suggests engaging the administration in a “frank discussion of where to go from here,” we -- liberals, centrists and honest conservatives -- are left only with this unilateral insistence on one direction: