Today in 2009 we’re in a lot of ways back to where we were four years ago—able for American forces to start leaving on a high note, confident that they performed their job with skill, and leaving Iraqi leaders with a handshake.Or you could say that in 2009 a tactically exhausted and strategically impotent American army is beginning a pullback, leaving behind a million or two (it is a mark, a stain, a dishonor, a horror that we frankly have no idea) extra dead and displaced Iraqis under the rule of a gangster president who looks ever more like his predecessor, whose ouster we sought at the cost of those hundreds of thousands of lives. You could say that the "high note" on which we depart, having made the world safe for British Petroleum, consists of a level of daily terror and violence, both on behalf of the extant state and on behalf of the various insurgencies, hold-outs, rebels, extremists, and others, that would fracture and destroy any internally peaceful western society. The "job" performed so admirably by American forces was the unprovoked invasion and occupation of a foreign nation, and the fact that the American military has subsequently managed to mop much of the blood from the gutters does not obviate or abnegate these facts. Meanwhile the assurances from the leaders of the various Iraqi factions that it is all now a matter of political accommodation and hard bargaining between them reeks of misinformation. Here, for example, Qubad Talabani, the son of Iraq's new warlord-dictator, tells a series of self-serving and transparent fairy-tale lies to NPR's Scott Simon, who simply cannot imagine that that lovely Oxbridge voice could tell an untruth.
Here, then, you have a generational crime, an act of naked aggression rationalized post hoc as a regrettable and unnecessary event that nonetheless worked out . . . what? A little better than expected. This judgment seems to me to be wholly inaccurate, desperate, and immature. It marks not the glimmer of success but the abjectness of our failure that we comfort ourselves in knowing that the conquered province we leave behind is merely straining, rather than splitting, at the seams.