Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Afraid to look in the moral abyss

Afraid to look in the moral abyss
By James Carroll  |  December 7, 2004
Boston Globe
WHY DON'T we Americans look directly at the war? We avert our gaze, knowing that the situation in Iraq grows more desperate by the day. Vaunted "coalition" efforts to "break the back" of the "insurgency" have only strengthened it. The violence among Iraqis would surely qualify as civil war -- except that only one side is fighting. The structures of relief and repair are gone. Whole cities are destroyed, populations displaced. The hope of Iraqi elections is mortally compromised. "Coalition" members are dropping out. The mission of American force is to secure the country, but it can't secure itself. The performance of US intelligence has been consistent: Its strategic failures caused the war, and its tactical ignorance of the enemy is losing the war.
Meanwhile, in America, this, the gravest foreign policy crisis in a generation, source of a crisis of conscience for tens of millions of citizens, is not a subject of political debate. For many months, overt opposition to the war was sublimated in the effort to defeat George W. Bush in the November election. John Kerry's fatal ambivalence about Iraq sealed the war off from the great quadrennial decision, with the result that the voices of those who hated the war were muted, and the uneasiness of those who were troubled by it was never addressed.
Astoundingly, the Democrats cooperated with the Republicans in assuring that the war in Iraq -- the one thing that might have defeated Bush -- was not an issue. That marginalization of the anti-war impulse continues in the suspended animation of a period after the American election and before the Iraqi election.
The new Bush administration has moved to reconfigure itself in most ways but one. The president's affirmation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in combination with his naming of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, reflects a blind determination to "stay the course" in Iraq, never mind that the course is heading off a cliff....