Just my rotten luck, you’re thinking he’s thinking, to have two milestones — or is that millstones? — arrive so close together. Five years of a war that wasn’t going to take more than a month or two. Four thousand brave Americans dead.
Just his rotten luck.
Or maybe he isn’t thinking that at all.
Maybe he’s thinking the timing is good, considering everything — get both of those nasty numbers out of the way and move on. One great burst of patriotic rhetoric and it’s over. Besides, this time will be the last time, at least for him; the next anniversary, the next big turn of death’s odometer, will be on somebody else’s watch. Somebody else’s problem.
So maybe he’s OK with it, considering everything.
Maybe he even believes what he’s saying — all those stirring words about noble cause and worthy sacrifice. How invading Iraq has made the world safer. How democracy is taking root in the Middle East. How future generations will give thanks. How none of the four thousand died in vain.
There’s every chance he believes it, you realize. It’s not as if he’s surrounded by people with differing points of view. The White House echo chamber is as effective as it’s ever been.
And there’s this, too: The sounds from outside the echo chamber are strangely muted this time around. The full-throated opposition of the run-up to war? Of the early years? A spent force — and it’s hard to blame them. When a country’s leaders seem persuadable, there’s every reason to keep trying to persuade them.
But when a country’s leaders seem oblivious — contemptuous — what’s the point?
This president, and his vice president, have achieved the almost unimaginable: Where Iraq is concerned, they’ve made their obstinacy so clear, so central to who they are and how they operate, that they’ve succeeded at convincing the very people who hired them that resistance is futile.
So why shouldn’t the president believe what he’s saying?
There’s even a small measure of comfort in that, you find yourself thinking. Compared, at least, to the alternative.
The alternative, you see, is almost too horrible to contemplate.
Here’s the alternative: That somewhere in his brain, or in his gut, George Bush knows that what he’s saying is wishful thinking. Is fantasy. That all those stirring words about noble cause and worthy sacrifice are simply the things he needs to say, and to keep saying, so that he never has to acknowledge the breadth of his miscalculations, and the depth of his folly: the wrong war, in the wrong place, against the wrong enemy.
That somewhere in his brain, or in his gut, George Bush understands that this fifth full year of war, and this latest thousand dead, were every bit as avoidable as the years, and the thousands, that preceded them. As the years and the thousands that are almost sure to follow.
That the costs and the dangers of our blunder in Iraq continue to mount because of one thing and one thing only: George Bush’s unwillingness to admit a mistake.
Better not to think about it.
Rick Horowitz is a nationally syndicated columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.