Now it is 10 years later, and the war is not over. We fight still in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars now without purpose or, in the case of Iraq, reason. Like those students, we got high on war fever and marched off led by men — a president and his vice president — at least as incompetent as the German kaiser or, on the other side, that gaggle of statesmen and field marshals who allowed Europe to be convulsed by a war whose effects are still being felt.
It is the same with the disaster in Iraq. It was not Saddam Hussein who attacked us, and it was not Saddam Hussein who had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons or a nuclear program. None of these existed — not a mere intelligence mistake, as is now claimed, but a mistake caused by preconceived notions, an insistence on seeing a goblin in every shadow, a nuclear program in the weak glow of a watch face, a lust for the head of Saddam Hussein. Oops, we marched smartly off to the wrong war.
This is a melancholy season in Washington, much talk about the decline of America and how our vaunted system has broken down. I won’t quibble. But the most consequential breakdown of our system is exemplified by waging an unnecessary war and then — history, brace yourself — the reelection of the incompetents who had done it. Is it possible that for all the treacly talk about “the fallen” and all our salutes to the troops, we care so little about them that we casually gave second terms to the very people who wasted their lives?
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