Bush and the Bushwhackers

It’s plain to see what the president is up against when you reflect on the whoop-de-do at Cannes. Left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore the other day won the prestigious film festival’s top prize for a “documentary” oozing hatred of George W. Bush. The audience went wild with rapture.

The best I can figure, nothing Bush could have said about Iraq in his Army War College speech this week would have contented the Bushwhackers. Apart from the words “I hereby resign as president.”

Then, as it dawned on the Bushwhackers that Dick Cheney was suddenly in charge, the frothing and snarling would have recommenced.

You have to wonder how we’re ever going get out of this one, with people like Michael Moore to all intents and purposes pulling enthusiastically for Moktada al-Sadr to run us out of Iraq. And winning acclaim for it in organs like The New York Times, whose editorial writers, following Bush’s Monday speech, sniped: “(T)his president is never going to admit any shortcomings, much less failure … an aspect of Mr. Bush’s character that we have to live with.” (An aspect rather resembling the Times‘ own character.)

I mean, what’s to be gained — militarily, diplomatically, you name it — from relentless focus on what we all now see — aha! oh, yes, plain as day! — as the strategy that should have guided us from the start?

Hindsight experts have come to outnumber the cicadas now plaguing Washington, D.C. It’s one consequence of the international media’s inability, or its ideologically rooted refusal, to distinguish the big picture (what are we trying to do here?) from the little one (how many naked Iraqi prisoners does it take to make a pyramid?).

Is it that the war has been going too well, and a buoyant president needs taking down a peg? That would be a joke, if murder and misery had their funny side.

No, things haven’t been going well in many respects. What’s the matter with a bunch of prison guards who see the humiliation of captives as just one of life’s little pleasures? And when will the general run of Iraqis stand up to be counted as friends of their own freedom? Are they waiting on June 30? On the January elections? Their hesitancy merely encourages those hindsight experts who can’t see why we got so worked up over Saddam Hussein in the first place.

And yet … and yet most of Iraq is peaceful (by comparison at least), Moktada is losing ground, and the June 30 handover of American authority remains on track. The United Nations is helping lead the way. An Anglo-American Security resolution endorsing the transfer is before the U.N. Security Council. The Germans are receptive, the French not actively contemptuous.

Bush was at pains Monday night to point out — accurately — that “Our coalition has already helped Iraqis to rebuild schools and refurbish hospitals and health clinics, repair bridges, upgrade the electrical grid, and modernize the communications system. And now a growing private economy is taking shape.” Michael Moore could have done better? John Kerry, for that matter?

If only the vast hindsight lobby would face up to the starkness of the choices at hand. There are two: the choice to see this thing through to completion and the choice to back out apologetically — oops, sorry for the commotion.

It’s either the new Iraqi flag, or it’s the white flag. Which do we truly desire to see flapping over Baghdad?

When it comes to American policy on Iraq, nuttiness and confusion increasingly set in: a whirr of competing voices and viewpoints, a blur of images under the media microscope.

Maybe, if we’re going to be kicking Bush around, that’s what it should be for: failing thus far to keep common sense and clarity at the forefront of the Iraqi debate.

Anyhow, here’s his chance, honorably commenced at the war college. What a task! But what stakes, too!