Eugene Robinson

Aimlessness:

This is a “war” in which the United States drops two 500-pound bombs with the express intent of assassinating Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group that wouldn’t have existed if Bush hadn’t decided to invade. But when the world learns that Zarqawi briefly survived the bombing, and rumors circulate that U.S. forces shot him dead, officials rush to release an autopsy report showing that the butcher with a $25 million bounty on his head died from blast injuries. An American medic, we are told, was about to administer first aid when Zarqawi mumbled something unintelligible and expired.

Why do your best to kill an enemy leader — a bad, bad man, the worst of the worst — and then try to revive him? Didn’t you want him dead?

In this amorphous, open-ended “war” that we’re spending precious lives and billions of dollars to wage, the rules of engagement seem to be shoot first and apologize later.

We’re sorry if U.S. Marines massacred 24 civilians in Haditha. We’re even more sorry than we were after U.S. military personnel tortured and humiliated those prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Bush’s stalwart ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is sorry if London police, conducting an anti-terrorist raid this month, shot and wounded an innocent man whose only “crime” was to come downstairs in his underwear to see who was breaking into his house. But not as sorry as Blair was after the London subway bombings, when commandos shot dead an innocent Brazilian electrician whom they mistook for a possible, potential, just-might-be terrorist.

Nobody’s sorry, though, about secret CIA prisons or extralegal detention or interrogation by brutal “waterboarding” or an Orwellian blanket of domestic surveillance. After all, we’re at “war.”

The military announced yesterday that the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq has reached 2,500, another of those awful, round-number milestones. It is widely expected that the new Iraqi government will consider an amnesty for some of the insurgents who killed some of those American servicemen and women — drawing a distinction between roadside bombs placed by Sunni Muslims in “resistance” to the U.S. occupation and those placed by foreign al-Qaeda jihadists. If this happens, we’ll have taught the Iraqis well. They’ll be saying “pardon me” just like their American tutors.

A.