I don't read the editorial section much in the NYT now that Safire's gone. Frankly the in-house conservatives just don't have the heft and well, Krugman, Dowd and Herbert are just...boring. I'm not sure if these three have had a genuinely new and compelling idea in the past 10, if not 20 years. [Does this affliction sound familiar?] Krugman is execrable because he spouts garbage AND is a trained economist. Dowd isn't any better and shares Krugman's habit of grabbing things out of context. However, go back through their columns since 2001 and see if they've written one where there isn't a potshot or rabbit punch against the President.
We've written about Herbert before here, noting his slant, near-slander against the US Army and cavalier attitude about fact-checking. The title of his column today "The Rumsfeld Stain" caught my attention and, well, it isn't any different from the usual dross.
Much of what has happened to the military on his watch has been catastrophic. In Iraq, more than 1,600 American troops have died and many thousands have been maimed in a war that Mr. Rumsfeld mishandled from the beginning and still has no idea how to win. The generals are telling us now that the U.S. is likely to be bogged down in Iraq for years, and there are whispers circulating about the possibility of "defeat."
The military spent decades rebuilding its reputation and regaining the respect of the vast majority of the American people after the debacle in Vietnam. Under Mr. Rumsfeld, that hard-won achievement is being reversed. He invaded Iraq with too few troops, and too many of them were poorly trained and inadequately equipped. The stories about American troops dying on the battlefield because of a lack of protective armor have now been widely told.
The insurgency in Iraq appeared to take Mr. Rumsfeld completely by surprise. He expected to win the war in a walk. Or, perhaps, a strut.
Now the military is in a fix. Many of the troops have served multiple tours in Iraq and are weary. The insurgency remains strong, and the Iraq military has proved to be a disappointing ally.
Mr. Rumsfeld has driven the military into a ruinous quagmire, and there is no evidence at all that he's capable of finding a serviceable route out.
Now, compare this with an editorial from Johns Hopkins scholar Fouad Ajami - who actually goes to Iraq with some frequency:
To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had come their way. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush's words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.
It was Iraq of course that gave impetus to this new Arab history. And it is in Iraq that the nobility of this American quest comes into focus. This was my fourth trip to Iraq since the fall of the despotism, and my most hopeful yet. I traveled to Baghdad, Kirkuk, Erbil and Suleimaniyah.
One memory I shall treasure: a visit to the National Assembly. From afar, there are reports of the "acrimony" of Iraq, of the long interlude between Iraq's elections, on Jan. 30, and the formation of a cabinet. But that day, in the assembly, these concerns seemed like a quibble with history. There was the spectacle of democracy: men and women doing democracy's work, women cloaked in Islamic attire right alongside more emancipated women, the technocrats and the tribal sheikhs, and the infectious awareness among these people of the precious tradition bequeathed them after a terrible history.
By a twist of fate, the one Arab country that had seemed ever marked for brutality and sorrow now stands poised on the frontier of a new political world. No Iraqis I met look to neighboring Arab lands for political inspiration: They are scorched by the terror and the insurgency, but a better political culture is tantalizingly close.
And the NYT wants to charge folks to read this troika??