Associated Press Iraq Bureau Chief Steven Hurst asked these questions during a journalists’ forum in New York last week. The discussion focused on the challenges of covering the war in Baghdad and other parts of that civil-war-torn country.
“I think clearly, though, that when the United States begins to leave, if there hasn’t been some sort of miraculous turnaround there — there’s no sign of that — that there is going to be a lot of violence. A lot of violence,” Hurst said. “You’ll probably end up with a much more radical style Shiite-led government in at least part of Iraq, if it isn’t partitioned completely. — It’s probably an outcome that had the American public known about, going into it, there would have been a lot less fervor and support for the war.”
Hurst overestimates the American people’s faith in the foresight of those experienced in foreign policy. Before the war, there were voices of opposition and warnings that American occupation of Iraq would lead to just the type of resentment and insurgency that began nearly four years ago — after major combat supposedly ended.
There were voices urging caution, urging further diplomacy, urging that America back down from its belligerence and arrogance and give the United Nations a chance to work on Iraq.
Those voices were eclipsed. Those voices were ignored. Those voices were ridiculed by politicians and commentators, taunted by pro-war groups and savaged by talk radio hosts. Those voices were shouted down by country music singers who came up with patriotic lyrics about putting boots in people’s asses and renaming food items in the Capitol cafeteria. Pouring French wine down sewers in front of restaurants after the French refused to get on board with our plans of shock and awe — remember that? That’s what we were listening to back then.
It wasn’t that we didn’t know, a blog commenter wrote after I first mentioned the forum last week. It was that we didn’t care.