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Iraq Fairy Tales By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Tuesday, June 24, 2008


WORKING out last Monday, I heard a campaign flunky on TV insist that progress in Iraq is an illusion. "The war isn't over until all of the troops come home!" she grumped.

Guess we're still at war with Germany. And Japan. Even Italy. Oh, and let's not forget all of our military bases occupying the Confederacy.

The poor woman knew nothing about warfare, history - or Iraq. She just wanted to see her candidate win in November and wasn't going to let reality get in the way.

And one look told you she didn't even know any "troops."

But after my initial shrug (back to the bench for more crunches), it struck me how wrong I'd been on a point I'd argued for two decades: I claimed that Western societies have an advantage because of their insistence on factual data.

Yet, since 9/11, I've seen and heard no end of my fellow citizens' arguing from blind passion and utterly refusing to ingest facts that didn't match their prejudices (left or right). Since the turnabout in Iraq began a year and a half ago, the rejection of reality has become an outright pathology for the quit-Iraq-and-free-the-terrorists set.

I've watched millions of my countrymen and countrywomen insist that fantasies are real. In a classic through-the-looking-glass reversal last year, Sen. Hillary Clinton told Gen. David Petraeus, the man who turned Iraq around, that his reports of progress were fairy tales. It was the world turned upside down.

Since that woman on TV "explained" victory last Monday, I've thought about the different kinds of people who refuse either to accept that the situation in Iraq has improved remarkably or that quitting now would have serious consequences.

When I break down the "fairy tales can come true" crowd, the first division is into vendors and consumers. Determined to elect the president of its choice, the "mainstream" media has collapsed into outright lies and whopping distortions. And, of course, political hacks will do anything to get their candidate elected.

It's the consumers of fairy tales - those desperate to believe - who are more interesting. They come in several basic flavors, two of which we can quickly set aside:

Protesting university students. Don't worry about them. Once they graduate and get a dose of reality, most of the kids will do fine. The need for liberal-arts undergrads to prance to the left is virtually hormonal.

Hollywood stars and other celebrities. No worries there, either. Just check out the box-office receipts for the dozen or so self-righteous anti-war (anti-military) films. These folks are so far removed from reality that they believe the roles they play give them genuine expertise. Don't get irate - just laugh. (Coming soon: Susan Sarandon on quantum physics!)

But there's another sad bunch:

My generation. Those of us from our mid-50s into early 60s. The florid youth of yesteryear who declared they were going to change the world, made a mess others had to clean up - and the high point of whose lives came in a protest march down University Boulevard, chanting, "Ho-ho-ho Chi Minh! NLF is gonna win!"

The key to understanding the aging activists' bitterness toward the military (disguised as concern for the common soldier) and their obsession with the rights of terrorists is that this cobbled-together cause gives them one last chance to rise above their disappointing lives and to recapture, for one Viagra-assisted moment, their glory days of raised little fists and bell-bottoms.

Reality proved bitter for this bunch. In an infuriating turnabout, it was the nerds in the comp-science classes, the geeks with punch cards in their shirt pockets, who changed the world (and became billionaires). It just doesn't seem fair that the folks with multiple degrees in Comparative Literature ended up, at best, with tenure at an obscure college, serial divorces and a failed book or two.

My generation's sense of entitlement is, of course, legendary. But most of us got jobs and got on with our lives. Only a soured minority never got over that brief moment in the sun before the communes fell apart because someone had to do the dishes (and pay for the penicillin).

Just as no evidence was ever going to convince them that Communists might not all be virtuous, nothing is going to convince them that Iraq is emerging as a better place, for its own people and for us, than it was under Saddam Hussein. They need to believe that our country, having failed to recognize their innate greatness, is wrong.

I'd pity them, if the stakes weren't so high.

If aging activists really want to change the world for the better, facing reality would be a great first step. Magic beanstalks don't really grow into the clouds. That's still a minivan, pal, before and after midnight. Little Red Riding Hood doesn't always make it safely home to the Upper West Side.

And the United States isn't always evil.

Ralph Peters' new book, "Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World," will be published on July 4.


Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


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