May 21, 2004,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article appears in the May 31, 2004, issue of National Review.
It's the crude sado-masochistic elements that bother me. Not in the photos, but in the ensuing ballyhoo. To witness an entire culture media and political toss all other business aside for a non-stop ritual self-flagellation session is a remarkable privilege. I use the term "self-flagellation" because, though many Democrats and pundits fancy themselves in the sado-dominant role and clearly enjoy flaying Bush, Rumsfeld, and Co., it is in the objective sense an act of masocho-submission, at least for America. Take, for example, Senator Edward M. Kennedy: "On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked, 'Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open?' Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management: U.S. management."
Sad to say, Senator Kennedy, along with Senator Clinton, is the only elected U.S. official other than the president whom the rest of the world has heard of. That's what I mean by self-flagellation: When the most famous name in U.S. politics slanders his country and its military, around the planet it's America that's diminished. For all the bloviating, for all the Vietnam nostalgia, for all the quagmired speechifying, what does the senator actually want for Iraq?
I know what I'd like: Iraq, circa 2010, is a functioning confederal state, not a perfect democracy, but a respectable one not New Hampshire, not Norway, but not Zimbabwe, either. Think Singapore or Belize. It has a growing economy, an enlightened education system, a free press, and an expanding middle class. Its representative at Arab League meetings votes with the King of Morocco more often than with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Its presence as a free society in the heart of the region changes the dynamic, encouraging reform in some of its neighbors (Jordan) and shriveling the dictatorships in others (Syria).
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