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See No Good By: Noemie Emery
The Weekly Standard | Thursday, April 17, 2003


IN AMERICAN HISTORY, there are three dire dates--December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963; and September 11, 2001--that send a collective shudder through our memory. The left also has its own special roster of days not to cherish: December 12, 2000, when George W. Bush became president; November 7, 2002, when that choice was roundly endorsed by American voters; and April 9, 2003 when Baghdad was freed and Saddam's grip was broken in one of the swiftest, most successful, most surgical strikes in war history, to the Iraqis' wild delight. The terrible news that President Bush had pulled off a tremendous success and was being hailed in the streets as a conquering hero has sent the left into a state of despair and confusion from which it has yet to emerge. Moderate liberals engaged in quick rear-covering actions, saying they always knew it would be a walkover (they didn't), and eagerly assuring us it would now get much worse. On the far left, however, they could barely accept it at all. Readers of the Nation, the American Prospect, or of their websites would be at a loss to know anything happened. On April 9, TAPPED, the continually-updated blog of the American Prospect, ran a few lines saying we should all rejoice in this triumph, and quickly moved on to more promising topics. The main American Prospect posting on April 10--when papers showed pictures of Iraqis hugging Americans--was titled Ugly Americanism. What great timing. If this is "ugly," what would "attractive" look like?

Things were still worse at the Nation's website, where the happy events were not mentioned at all. On April 10 a post assailed the failed policies of the younger George Bush, in contrast to those of his father, the suave internationalist (whom the Nation detested when he was in office). This on the day that American forces, hailed once again by ecstatic Iraqis, rolled into two more cities in the North.

Also on April 10 the Nation posted a piece by David Corn, one of its more talented writers, that lamented the fate of Iraqi civilians hurt by American bombs and American fire, and urged that America help them. This was a valid point and a meaningful story: We must never lose sight of "collateral damage." But this was just one of the horrors-of-war stories posted in a week filled with them: stories of Iraqis being forced to the front lines by families held hostage; of Iraqis with tales of terrible torture; of the emptying of an Iraqi jail for small children, whose parents had made the mistake of opposing Saddam. In this deluge of horrors--most of them purposefully committed by Saddam's regime--the only ones the Nation saw fit to note and to criticize were the ones committed by the United States by mistake. This is a mindset determined to showcase America as toxic and menacing.

On April 11, Andrew Sullivan quoted Salon's Gary Kamiya writing: "I have a confession: I have at times, as the war has unfolded, secretly wished for things to go wrong. Wished for the Iraqis to be more nationalistic, to resist longer. Wished for the Arab world to rise up in rage. Wished for all the things we feared would happen. I'm not alone: A number of serious, intelligent, morally sensitive people who oppose the war have told me they have had identical feelings. Some of this is merely the result of pettiness--ignoble resentment, partisan hackdom, the desire to be proved right and to prove the likes of Rumsfeld wrong, irritation with the sanitizing, myth-making American media. That part of it I feel guilty about, and disavow. But some of it is something trickier: It's a kind of moral bet-hedging, based on a pessimism not easy to discount, in which one's head and one's heart are at odds."

And Ron Rosenbaum has this to recount in the New York Observer: "Today, a friend told me a story about a spiritual person, a man of the 'peace' movement. His first reaction, when apprised of early optimistic reports of Iraqi surrenders . . . was to exclaim in anguish, 'Oh, no, this is going to help Bush!'"

To date, few on the antiwar side has come out and actually wished that Iraq would actually defeat the United States, though Jonathan Schell came very close in the April 14 Nation, where he praised game Iraqis for defending their country, and brave little Turkey for not being bullied into letting us invade from its turf. What the peaceniks have been, however, is very explicit in their open desire to see France, Belgium, and Germany win their cold war for the direction of Europe against Britain and the United States.

"Americans must hope . . . we are not at the brink of the American century," writes Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect. "The battle between Europe and America for the power to shape the century . . . is already joined. And may I gently suggest that the best possible outcome for the American democratic republic . . . would be an American (or more precisely Bushian) defeat."

"The French have been better Americans than we have," says Jonathan Schell. Perhaps the America he is referring to is the one once represented by the KKK. Here is Michael Gonzales writing from Brussels for the Wall Street Journal on April 10: "'How did we get here?' asked a former French minister in a newspaper column recently. 'Here' is a situation in which French Jews are being beaten up in the streets of Paris and in which President Jacques Chirac has to write to Queen Elizabeth II to apologize for the desecration of British tombs in France."

Let us recall that one of the first acts of George W. Bush after September 11 was to urge Americans not to misuse or abuse the Muslims and Arabs among us. The mercifully few times that he was disobeyed are played up by this press as examples of our unending bloodlust and bigotry. Perhaps you are waiting for them to utter a cross word in the direction of nos amis in Old Europe. Don't hold your breath.

Which brings us, of course, to the bad part of this story. It doesn't matter much if the left doesn't want to toss flowers to Bush, or even if they portray America as evil and meddling. What does matter is that, because it may make the United States appear good by comparison, they excuse, downplay, or omit completely evils committed by others. Not a word from them on Saddam's atrocities; not a word on the arms and oil deals between Saddam's Iraq and the "peace-loving" governments of France, Russia, Germany, and Canada; not a word on the anti-Semitism rampaging through "peace movements" in Europe (as well as at home in America).

Like April 9, these things never happened.

Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.




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