Trends: Keep your ear to the ground and your ear gets all dirty...
Michael Scott here digs up a comment from the late H.L. Mencken in The Chicago Sunday Tribune, July 25, 1926:
... No normal human being wants to hear the truth. It is the passion of a small and aberrant minority of men, most of them pathological. They are hated for telling it while they live, and when they die they are swiftly forgotten. What remains to the world, in the field of wisdom, is a series of long tested and solidly agreeable lies.
Maybe so, but this is the week a new narrative started gathering momentum - or maybe it is a meme, a newly accepted axiomatic sense of what is an actual fact.
What would that be? Starting late last week with comments here and there on the net, citing various items in the New York Times and various wire services, followed by barrage of stories in the major papers as the new week started, and coming to a head in a short piece in Newsweek, we have a new given.
We are losing, or have already lost the war. That's the meme on the blogs this week. The majors are pretty much saying it too - building on the Newsweek item and interviews all over with its editors. This does not seem to be coming from the Democrats assailing Bush - but seem rather a simultaneous awakening by news folks and military folks. Things are bad.
Sidney Blumenthal - a former senior adviser to President Clinton and Washington bureau chief of SALON.COM - tries to get a sense of this shift here:
Far graver than Vietnam
Most senior US military officers now believe the war on Iraq has turned into a disaster on an unprecedented scale
Thursday September 16, 2004, The Guardian (UK)
The opening -
The war is already lost?
Who else is saying such things?
Blumenthal gives us a few:
Retired general Joseph Hoare, former marine commandant and head of US Central Command - "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground. It's so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part of the world. The priorities are just all wrong."
Jeffrey Record of the US Air War College, said: "I see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The worst case has become true. There's no analogy whatsoever between the situation in Iraq and the advantages we had after the Second World War in Germany and Japan." And this guy teaches strategy there,
W Andrew Terrill, professor at the Army War College's strategic studies institute - and the top expert on Iraq there - says similar things.
The Blumenthal piece is full of assessments that are, as they say, dire.
The Newsweek item that everyone cited - It's Worse Than You Think - is subtitled "As Americans debate Vietnam, the U.S. death toll tops 1,000 in Iraq. And the insurgents are still getting stronger..."
It is a wake-up call of sorts, and the most cited paragraphs are these -
And it was these "no go" zones - reported in the New York Times the previous week - that seemed to start his ball rolling downhill. It's hard to claim things are going swimmingly when you admit you have decided large areas of the country, including a large part of the capital - Baghdad's Sadr City - are just too danger to enter, even with the tanks and gunships overhead. Report after report seems to indicate only the Green Zone in central Baghdad is secure - were our top guys do their work in Saddam's formal palaces. This does not look good.
And then early in the week the outgoing Marine general in charge of western Iraq says we made a mess with how we handed Fallujah
Key General Criticizes April Attack In Fallujah
Abrupt Withdrawal Called Vacillation
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, The Washington Post, Monday, September 13, 2004; Page A17
What to make of this?
We tried to turn this over to the local fellows, as it is their country now, and they help the bad guys and give them all the guns and equipment we provided.
That is not a good sign.
And here Knight Ridder reports that the anti-American insurgency in Iraq is "growing larger, more sophisticated and more violent," and that many experts believe "the best that can be hoped for now is continued chaos that falls short of a civil war."
The New York Times reports here that our pre-election (ours and theirs) get-tough tactics are backfiring. It seems where we cannot go we send in air strikes - large bombs and such - to blast what we think are places the bad guys congregate - and we kills a lot of the unlucky by mistake. The locals aren't impressed. They seem to see us as murderous cowards.
But we just want to make things better. But that's going sour too.
U.S. Plans to Divert Iraq Money
Attacks Prompt Request to Move Reconstruction Funds to Security Forces
Jonathan Weisman, The Washington Post, Wednesday, September 15, 2004; Page A22
Some things will have to wait (my emphases) -
Well, maybe if the Iraqi people had clean water, electricity, and maybe a sewage system that worked, far fewer of them would be fighting us.
But we cannot get there now.
Okay then. We have made a mess of things and seem to be losing or to have lost this war.
Now what? Since the administration will never say things haven't gone well, we have a dilemma.
A few weeks ago here the idea was this a matter of attitude for that administration. You have to have the right attitude. It is a matter of resolve. The bad things that have happened while we've stayed resolved show that good things will happen if only we stay resolved. That's the line we're fed, which I called the "Tinkerbell Theory" - if we clap loud enough and believe... then Tinkerbell will live.
No. That's a fairy tale.
This seems to be the week people are sensing that this resolve and optimism look a little too much like denial and delusion. There just isn't enough fairly dust to fix this one.
We have alienated most of the world who now see us as the enemy - a great item on that is here - and our dream of building a fine democracy in an Iraqi of fawning, worshipful and grateful folks tossing flowers at us, at virtually no cost, seems, at best, absurd.
Bush's opponent, this Kerry fellow, might make much of this turn in the narrative, this new meme, but probably won't, as Kerry is as dull as he is earnest and well-meaning.
But this new idea - that we've probably lost it all - is snowballing. It may help Kerry whether he likes it or not.
The problem is that if he wins, he has to clean up this mess. Maybe he wants to be beaten.