Wednesday, February 02, 2005

David Brooks Thinks He Owns Their Courage 

The mild-mannered, good conservative faction is heard from on the Iraqi election, and provides some measure of just how up-side-down our American political discourse has become when an intelligent centrist like The Moose, if I read his satire correctly, insists that Howard Dean is too extreme and too left to lead the Democratic Party, while David Brooks gets away with portraying himself as anything but a right-wing propagandist.

Unless you've heard elsewhere, I'm guessing you'll be surprised when I tell you Mr. Brooks, while watching those TV images of Iraqis voting, couldn't help his thoughts from turning to....wait for it...Whitaker Chambers.

So densly packed are the absurdities in this particular column, I'm not even going to deal with his take on Chambers and why Chambers' post-communist life was lived in a kind of hell. The connection between Chambers and Iraqis?
These Iraqis are people who, like Chambers, have spent their lives in hell and cannot have been unaffected by it. They have touched pitch and witnessed or participated in man's capacity for violence and treachery. They must be both damaged and toughened.
Bathed in condescension, the rest of the column is a revisionist history of the American occupation of Iraq in which the damaged people of not-quite-ready-for-primetime-democracy Iraq are subtly given primary responsibility for most of the problems they've encountered while occupied. No Soviet apparatchik could do it better. (One trait the radical right shares with communism, both are never wrong because their ideas are so correct, so pure, so, well, so idealistic; it's why both are so bad at history)

And after the "dense evil of Saddam," these poor damaged Iraqis were thrust into an occupation in which they had to endure "haphazard" violence from both foreign terrorists and stubborn Baathists. Gee, I wonder how that could've happened? Who was it again, in the Summer of 2003, who said "Bring 'em on."? Which occupying army pretended it wasn't an occupier and in the march to Baghdad left stores of arms unsecured?

As for the chaos into which Iraq was plunged immediately upon our entrance into Baghdad?
When Saddam was first toppled, liberty turned immediately into anarchy. But as Michael Rubin, who has spent much of the past two years in Iraq, observed yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, gradually the habits of moderation have begun to develop - the habits of self-regulating liberty, compromise, tolerance and power-sharing.
Like Dick Cheney was saying the othe day, we underestimated the damage Saddam had wrecked upon the Iraqi psyche. But thank-God we were patient with the poor dears, because the bright light of compromise, tolerance and power-sharing shone so brightly from the oval office that it has begun to heal the oh-so-damaged-just-back-from-hell Iraqi people.

Here's the simple truth that is uncontradicted by anyone who is able to recite a straightforward narrative of Mr. Bush's Iraqi policy. Liberty turned into anarchy because the American power that overthrew the civil authority and infrastructure under which the 25 million people of Iraq lived, was unprepared to to offer any immediate substitute, although they had been warned again and again that they had better damn well be prepared to. They didn't even offer martial law, allowing weeks of looting, which literally destroyed civilian life in Iraq.

Something that is too often missed in these discussions of Iraq's readiness for democracy. Iraqis were not passive in the early days of the occupation; in fact, they did something better than throw flowers and dance in the street; within days of Saddam's overthrow, they began organizaing political parties, they began printing newspapers, and perhaps most remarkable of all, the Shia reinstituted a religious pilgrimage by thousands of Iraqis to Karbala, previously banned by Saddam, and carried it off, providing water and all other necessary facilities, without a single hitch. Iraqis also made immediate plans for local elections, of which General Garner approved, which may be why he was replaced in favor of Mr. Bremer of the many first names, who promptly cancelled all elections. The only people I'm aware of who were saying, by both their words and their actions, that Iraqis weren't ready for democracy were in the Bush administration.

Why bother with Brooks? Because you will hear these same lies and distortions spread through the SCLM. What to do to counteract it? You tell me. Maybe start writing to elected Democrats who have some chance of getting in front of a camera somewhere to ask them to start to take on a column like this.

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