Thursday, December 15, 2011

And so this is Christmas

I doubt there will be any iconic pictures of sailors planting lusty kisses on nurses snapped in Times Square today.

The bars won’t be packed with victory celebrants. Instant history lessons won’t be imparted over the school PA systems. If Americana artist Norman Rockwell were alive, he’d probably leave his easel and go shopping.

And so this is Christmas and the Iraq war is over.

It’s not even on the front page of my newspaper.

I’m already hearing critics declaring our departure after 9 years of interminable war “hasty.”

I wish the people who are in such a precious snit about our departure had shown half as much thoughtfulness cheerleading all the shock and awe that got us in.

The gloat-free high-road way of assessing the war, the one chosen by President Obama, is to say “history will judge” the wisdom of the decision to go to war in Iraq.

Well, allow me to cut to the chase:

Oops! Can we get a do-over on that one?

By coincidence, my wife and I just watched “The Devil’s Double,” the true story of Latif Yahia, who by a more grim sort of coincidence had the misfortune to be born a dead ringer for Uday Hussein, the psychopathic son of the Iraqi dictator.

Latif becomes the body double for the sadistic Uday, who is depicted -- by all accounts accurately -- as one of the most evil men to walk the planet.

It’s maybe the only movie where Saddam Hussein could come across as a voice of moderate reason.

Featuring two brilliant performances by Dominic Cooper -- I wonder if he got paid double -- playing both Uday and Latif.

The movie shows harrowing decisions Latif must make until he at long last seizes the only sensible escape to all the killing and madness.

He gets the hell out of Iraq.

U.S. troops sent Uday to hell in 2003; his father was in 2006 hanged at the hands of rival Shiite Iraqi troops who shouted the taunting name, “Muqtada!” in his ear seconds before the trap door was sprung.

He was the radical anti-U.S. Shiite cleric who is now a leading religious figure in the Iraq we’re leaving behind. I guess he’s like the Iraqi Pat Robertson; he says a lot of crazy and hateful things, but he has a large following that can not be dismissed.

Richard Engel wrote what I thought was an insightful report about how when Saddam was in power, he and his fellow minority Sunnis were riding high. Now, that the pro-Iranian Shia are calling the shots, the Sunnis are now beleaguered and fearful of deadly Shiite retribution.

Without U.S. troops standing between them, sectarian violence seems assured with Iran being the chief beneficiary.

The Middle East cycle of violence over centuries old ethnic and religious hatreds grinds on.

And so this is Christmas.

That’s why I don’t feel like going out to celebrate today that war is over. Anymore, our wars are never over.

Instead, I feel like going to the airport.

I saw reports this morning showing our soldiers talking about the friends they’d lost, the high cost of war and whether it’s all been worth it.

I was struck by the one guy who’d been there since 2007 saying, heck, he was just happy he was going to be spending Christmas with his wife and four kids.

I’d like to see the guys like him getting off the planes. I’d like the see them scooping up the euphoric little children in their big strong arms that have been aching for hugs. I’d like to see the expressions on the faces of the men and women who made it home safe for a Christmas when finally no one’s shooting at them.

It’s likely the only celebration America’s most ill-advised war will ever yield.

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