Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Bobo loves Wolfie - enough to lie for him

David Brooks takes Paul Wolfowitz's schlong out of his mouth just long enough to write an embarrassing panegyric to the Apostle of Freedom and Democracy (Anywhere and Everywhere But In America).
Giving Wolfowitz His Due


Let us now praise Paul Wolfowitz. Let us now take another look at the man who has pursued - longer and more forcefully than almost anyone else - the supposedly utopian notion that people across the Muslim world might actually hunger for freedom.

It's not necessary to absolve Wolfowitz of all sin or to neglect the postwar screw-ups in Iraq. Historians will figure out who was responsible for what, and Wolfowitz will probably come in for his share of the blame. But with political earthquakes now shaking the Arab world, it's time to step back and observe that over the course of his long career - in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Central and Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East - Wolfowitz has always been an ardent champion of freedom. And he has usually played a useful supporting role in making sure that pragmatic, democracy-promoting policies were put in place.

If the trends of the last few months continue, Wolfowitz will be the subject of fascinating biographies decades from now, while many of his smuggest critics will be forgotten. Those biographies will mention not only his intellectual commitment but also his personal commitment, his years spent learning the languages of the places that concerned him, and the thousands of hours spent listening deferentially to the local heroes who led the causes he supported.

To praise Wolfowitz is not triumphalism. The difficulties ahead are obvious. It's simple justice. It's a recognition that amid all the legitimate criticism, this guy has been the subject of a vicious piling-on campaign by people who know less than nothing about what is actually going on in the government, while he, in the core belief that has energized his work, may turn out to be right.

I've had only two long conversations with Wolfowitz. The second was the day after the Iraqi vote. I figured that would be an interesting day to get a sense of his mood.

He wasn't nearly as exuberant as I expected him to be, in part because, like everybody in government, he's busy with the constant flow of decisions. He said he spent 75 percent of his time on the Pentagon's budget and administration.

He deflected all my Oprahesque attempts to get him to open up and describe what it's felt like to be him for the past few years. Our tissues remained dry.

But he was eager to think ahead. "It's fascinating how many echoes this is going to have," he said. "The Iraqi election is an inspiration. It's going to be a real challenge to all absolute rulers."
Unless they’re named George W. Bush, that is, of course.
He went on to suggest that American democracy-promotion could now get back onto its preferred course. Iraq, he said, was the outlier. "Iraq is exceptional because of the use of the U.S. military," he observed.
Of course, in the midst of this fulsome hagiography, does Brooks – or Wolfowitz, for that matter - ever - as in even once - make note of the fact that bringing democracy to Iraq was not what we invaded Iraq for? That the entire case for the invasion was based on the threat Iraq posed to us with their weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s responsibility for September 11? A case which has turned out to be 100% baseless? A case which has led to 1500 American servicemen dying needlessly, tens of thousands being horribly wounded, and countless tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis dying? A war which we were promised would pay for itself but has ended up costing us hundreds of billions of dollars?

A war which, if Wolfowitz genuinely thought should be fought for the reason it is now being trumpted, why did he not make this case for it before the invasion? Because he knew – and knows now – and so does Brooks – that the American people would never have been in favor of it if that had been the actual justification. Which is simply was not.

Now that the actual case has turned out to be just so many lies, it is necessary for those who made the fictional case – and those who signed on to promote it, knowing it was fictional – to find some other, more noble, more enduring justification.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing democracy to the world (although it would be nice if the Republicans were willing to permit it here in America). Why not start with Saudi Arabia? Oh, they’re our friends, that’s right. What about North Korea? Oh, we don’t have enough Army left to deal with them, since we squandered so much of it in Iraq.

But the people who lied us into a totally needless invasion of Iraq should not be permitted to then say, Oh, but this is the real reason. Having fucked up so completely, they should be allowed to get away with pleading in the alternative and rewriting history. We did not go into Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East. (So far, we can’t even be sure that we have brought democracy to Iraq.) We invaded to find WMD that we knew even before going in that Saddam didn’t have. Liars can’t be trusted, and their motives can’t be trusted. Paul Wolfowitz may be sincere in his belief that the world should be democratized, but that’s not what he was doing before the invasion and it’s not what he’s doing now.
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