So It’s Victory in Iraq

Sep 1, 10 | 7:43 AM   byMichael Wolff
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It’s been the Neocons who have been, through a constant refinement of the goals and measures, suggesting that we’ve won the seven-year war in Iraq. Now, only slightly more judiciously, the anti-war president and his ever-voluble vice president are suggesting this, too.

Well, people will say anything if it suits.

David Brooks, ever trying to sugarcoat the basic Neocon position, weighs in with an assessment of Iraq in which, all things considered, he finds the seven-year effort admirable and worth it. It cost us nearly 5,000 lives and, he says, choosing the lowest possible figure, $53 billion (for “reconstruction”), but damn if we haven’t built a nation, however fragile.

This is going to be the talking point, not just that we’ve won, but that we’ve done something good: Government, infrastructure, police, incipient democracy, oil business, all up and running because of our dogged persistence.

In this, I’m afraid, the resurgent Neocons are about to score a considerable PR coup. If we’re out of this mess—or that is, if there are no longer any bodies being produced from it—then we’re happy to think the best of ourselves. It’s nice to believe it wasn’t for naught. Even many of the people who came to believe it was for naught while we were fighting it will now come to believe it was reasonably productive after all. We’re going to be left with a model for going to war: a tough slog, but, in the end, a successful one.

There are, of course, the dead, and the vast multiplication of wounded afforded by advances in field medicine, and all the dough (by more aggressive estimates, Iraq and Afghanistan will have cost us $3 trillion), together with the seven years of worry and public conflict (preoccupation has a grievous cost, too), as well as all the sleeping dogs of geopolitical variables that have been aroused.

It would surely have seemed that this is what the president should have been talking about. That all the time he’s been in office he would have wanted to remind us what a bad deal George Bush’s war has been. That we have needed to get out as soon as possible because there is so little positive to accomplish, not that we are getting out because we have accomplished so much that is positive.

Iraq was the president’s teaching moment: a rotten war, that nobody liked, that went on too long and at too great a cost, that ought to have been Exhibit A of what kind of war not to fight. Instead, they’re making it into a good show that we can be quite proud of, offering a prototype for difficult wars to come—like in Afghanistan. Jesus.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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