As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool’s errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic. But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.
In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Jimmy Carter did.
The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government’s conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me. It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican President.
I turn 40 next month – middle aged at last – a time of discovering limits, finitude. I expected that. But what I did not expect was to see the limits of finitude of American power revealed so painfully. I did not expect Vietnam.
As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war. I had a heretical thought for a conservative – that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word – that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot – that they have to question authority.
On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn’t the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely? Will my children, too small now to understand Iraq, take me seriously when I tell them one day what powerful men, whom their father once believed in, did to this country? Heavy thoughts for someone who is still a conservative despite it all. It was a long drive home.