Thomas Cushman Response

Thomas Cushman Response

As someone who supported the war in Iraq, I am often asked these days—in some cases tauntingly and with a touch of Schadenfreude—if I have changed my mind. Even when asked politely, the question is vexing and, in any case, my opinion is of little consequence in relation to the tragic turn of events in Iraqi history. Throughout the war, the liberal case for it mattered little to those in power in the United States or to those who were critical of U.S. power. It mattered most to those powerless agents in Iraq who mostly did support the war and did see it as an act of liberation. It still matters to millions of liberal-minded Iraqis who threw their energies into building a democratic and free society, but who have been thwarted by the abject failures of the Bush administration, the willful indifference and even hostility displayed by the global left, and the barbaric fundamentalist and fascist terrorists who use indiscriminate mass murder as their weapon of choice.

The war has now been labeled by left-liberal political elites and the intelligentsia as a “failure.” Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) recently trumpeted the central belief of the Democrats: “The administration’s policy on Iraq has failed. It failed yesterday, it’s failing today, and it will fail tomorrow.” There is nothing new in this rhetoric. It has been evident throughout the war and had a life of its own, ignoring evidence when things were going well and amplifying evidence when things went badly in order to fulfill leftist prophecies of doom. Critics of the war now would like us to believe that the war is over, that we have lost, that any further presence in Iraq is a waste of blood and treasure.


What might a liberal defender of the war say to critics at the present moment? My answers are simple and even plaintive: if you stood in solidarity with the Iraqi people enough to support them in their decades of struggle against Saddam’s terror, if you bore witness to and championed them in the heady days of their free and democratic elections, if you affirmed the efforts of the Iraqi labor movement and women’s rights organizations, and now things are taking a turn for the worse, you ought to redouble your effort to stand in solidarity with them. The last thing—the very last thing—you would say to them is that on March 1, 2008, we will surrender to the enemies that are butchering you now and who are emboldened by the arguments of defeatists in the U.S. Congress and by candidates for president.

Such arguments fall flat among those on the left who never showed solidarity with the Iraqis during the early days of the war and who refused to listen to them when a substantial majority indicated that they supported the coalition war to depose Saddam and create a democratic Iraq. They fall flat among those on the left who willfully ignored any and all good news coming out of Iraq for several years before things took ...

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