There's a bumper sticker I see around town now and then. It reads: "Quagmire Accomplished!"
The allusion is clear. It's a play on George Bush's famously wrong declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in May 2003 and a commentary on the increasingly obvious parallels between Iraq and the "quagmire" of the Vietnam War of a generation ago.
Oddly, Bush was in Vietnam last week. In a speech to that country's leaders, he declared that the "lesson" of Vietnam was that we should have stayed the course there. It was a weird thing to say, considering his audience. In so many words, Bush was declaring: "We should have stayed around and killed more of you and kept you from taking over."
What a brilliant diplomatic move.
It was also odd hearing Bush talk about the "lessons" of Vietnam. Seems to me the only lesson he and the others in his adminstration learned from that conflict was how to dodge the draft. They sure as hell didn't learn any of the larger lessons of Vietnam, such as: Don't get involved in another country's civil war; don't try to force democracy on a culture that doesn't want it or isn't prepared to handle it; and don't overextend your military in a half-baked foreign adventure on the other side of the world.
In Vietnam, of course, there was a bona fide civil war. We chose one side to fight for and spent 10 years and 50,000 American lives learning the hard, bloody lessons that this administration so cavalierly ignored in the name of an academic neoconservative theory.
Now, in Iraq, Shiite and Sunni death squads take turns assassinating and executing and blowing each other up. Meanwhile, moving into the void we created by destabilizing the country, al-Qaeda factions backed by Iran have taken over significant portions of Iraq. It's a civil war with at least three sides, and they're all shooting at us. It's like a bloody poker game, and we're using our soldiers as chips, trying to stay in as long as possible before folding.
There is no chance of "controlling" Iraq at this point. Getting out is inevitable, whether you call it "cut and run" or "cut your losses" or "declare victory and leave." Six months, three months, a year -- it doesn't matter when we leave, except to those getting shot at. Iraq is an unmitigated disaster now, and it will be the day we get out. Why prolong the agony?
Time moves in one direction, memory in another. — William Gibson
This week, an old friend sent me a photo of myself, circa 1978. In the picture, I was thin, long-haired, and standing barefoot on the porch of an old farmhouse where we lived, just outside of Columbia, Missouri. It was a shock to see it. I don't remember my friends and I taking many photographs, and I didn't remember this moment ...
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."