"In 'turning the page' on Iraq, the Great Speechifier could find no words with which to give meaning to our epic struggle there," writes Powerline's Paul Mirengoff. "Let's give Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume this is because he thinks the struggle had no meaning, except as it related to domestic politics in the U.S. But then why give a speech about it?"
Our "epic struggle" was a long quagmire of a war in search of a reason for being. When Obama said we had to "turn the page," he was giving people like Mirengoff an out. "I'm mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home," the President said. "Here, too, it's time to turn the page." This is an argument these people had lost long ago. If you guys want to trot out non-existent WMD and fabricated ties to al Qaeda and the smoking gun coming in the form of a mushroom cloud, it's your funeral. President Obama basically said, "Look, what's done is done. It's over with now and we can't change the past. We could talk about the lies and the incompetence and the brainlessness of the Bush administration and their neoconservative allies in the media, but that won't change anything. We've got bigger fish to fry right now."
If people like Mirengoff want to discuss the merits of sending thousands of Americans off to die, of killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, of spending insane amounts of money on a snipe hunt for Saddam's deathray, I welcome that discussion. That they still don't see why this was all just a stupid, tragic, criminal waste of time and lives and resources points to just how far-removed from reality these people are.
A more realistic take comes from Washington Monthly's Steve Benen:
On Iraq, Obama approached descriptions of the war with real caution -- "Mission Accomplished" was obviously not going to be on the menu, but there was also no talk of "victory." The "surge" was not mentioned, and references to George W. Bush were brief, polite, and inconsequential. I was a little concerned that Obama might try to sugarcoat the misguided conflict, but he clearly did not. Indeed, the president made little effort to characterize this war as having been worthwhile, or even having made America safer, which I found reassuring, since the war's proponents have been wrong on both counts.
Instead, Obama heralded the achievement with workmanlike efficiency -- U.S. troops performed brilliantly; "we have met our responsibility"; we're following the withdrawal plan Obama helped establish; and we'll be around to play a support role but the ball is in Iraq's court now.
Maybe the right has tried to confuse supporting the troops with supporting the war for so long that they don't see the difference themselves anymore. Or maybe they believe there's still hope for turning public opinion around on Iraq and getting history to slap the "good war" label on the whole boondoggle. It can't be that they want to assuage their own guilt over the tremendous and pointless waste of life that they actively egged on and tried to prolong -- and I say that because I've come to believe that the war's last supporters are people without conscience. They simply see a political battle that they're unwilling to lose to the despised liberals and peaceniks. Whatever the reason, if you take a spin around the rightwing blogosphere, you'll see one complaint offered most: that Obama didn't celebrate the Great Victory and declare George W. Bush the Hero of the Surge. The man who ran as an anti-Iraq war candidate is being run down for not being enthusiastically supportive of the war he's ending.
They should be happy that he didn't go through the history of the war -- the lies, the attacks on people's patriotism, the fearmongering, and the crimes -- but rather let them off easy by saying he wasn't interested in the stupid argument anymore. And, if this president were as politically-minded as these people seem to believe he is, he would've done exactly that; going into the midterms, he would've made the idiocy of the Iraq war an issue all over again, would've retried the whole case for war, would've spelled out how many lives and how much money we left buried in a hole in some godforsaken desert for no good reason, along with the shreds of American credibility. If they want to have that argument all over again, then they can lose that argument all over again.
But the president didn't do that. It would've been a distraction from the problems we face today. Part of me wishes he had, though. These morons can't be pounded into the ground like tent stakes over this often enough. Not for my taste, anyway. Since their consciences refuse to haunt them, let people like me do it. Let the last thing they hear in this life be "Iraq was a tragedy and you're a warmongering fool." Since I don't believe in Hell, I feel it's the least we can do.
In the end, you can boil all the criticism down to one point; Barack Obama refuses to be a neocon. The critics seem to forget that this was one reason we elected him.
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