The cruel war is over, and Iraq very soon will be on its own. It has cost the American people about 4,500 lives and about $1 trillion and faith in our institutions and the good will of many in the Arab world and the advantage we once had in Afghanistan — hard to be in two places at once — and so much more. But in the Republican debate last night, the war was hardly mentioned. On to Obamacare and Newt Gingrich’s weird scheme to crack both the courts and the Constitution in one blow by allowing Congress to subpoena judges to have them account for their decision. The man is a Rorschach: If you think he’s sane, then you are not.
But on to the war. It lasted nine years. This is longer than World War II, and it cost us a bundle, and we are now, more or less, broke. We certainly could use the $1 trillion that went into the war, and we certainly could hold George W. Bush accountable for not raising taxes and for squandering Bill Clinton’s surplus. The biggest crater created by the war is at the Treasury Department. This is worth noting.
But little of this was noted in Sioux City, Iowa. The Party of the War, the Republican Party, breezed past the last nine years as if nothing much had happened. The candidates did not rue their support of the war — as I do and did — and they did not say what they had learned from their mistake, and they did not bewail the lies and exaggeration or Dick Cheney and the jaw-dropping incompetence of President Bush and the stunningly wrong statements of Condoleezza Rice.
Appropriately enough, the debate was sponsored by Fox News and broadcast on that network. Fox was the semi-official voice of the Party of War, the enforcer of political conformity when anyone doubted the wisdom of the cause. Their correspondents naturally enough did not question the candidates on the war nor, for that matter, the role their own network had played in the debacle. This was Roger Ailes’s war, and in all fairness he should take a bow.
Just one question would have sufficed: What did you learn from the war, Newt? — or Mitt or Rick or Michele or Jon or Ron or Rick again? Is there a lesson there for the rest of us? Does it make you cautious about promising war with Iran and aligning yourself too closely with Israel’s right-wingers? Have you learned something about the limits of air power or about upsetting the balance of power? Have you visited the amputee ward of a VA hospital and seen the pain — the constant, throbbing pain? Have you looked into the eyes of a wounded man or woman and said, “Sorry, we’re moving on.”
This cruel was is over, and now we have to debate whether Newt Gingrich was or was not a lobbyist.