position is that it’s regrettable that any Americans died. It is
regrettable that they had to die, but I believe they did have to die.
It’s a little too easy and cheap to ask what precisely Gaffney has lost because of this war, not only because I don’t believe you have to have friends in a war to give a fuck about whether that war was a mistake, but also because I don’t think there’s any personal stake that could convince me Gaffney is uttering some kind of profound truth here.
It’s a little too easy and cheap to make qualifications for holding an opinion, like you have to be a woman to take a position on reproductive rights or be black to give a shit about racism or be gay to think marriage shouldn’t be a way to bludgeon your morality into everybody’s world. You don’t have to have someone you love in harm’s way to say what Gaffney said, so I don’t want to go that route; you just have to be a complete and total jackass and that tendency crosses all manner of life circumstances and for the most part political spectra. HAD TO? Really? It’s the blithe nature of the statement that chills and sickens me. Had To.
Had to, why? Because, as Chris Matthews so aptly points out (ack, wash off the cooties I got from writing that), Frank Gaffney needed to feel better. Frank Gaffney and all his warblogger friends and all the people who waved their red white and blue pom-poms around and baked an American flag cake and knitted the troops a scarf, they need to feel better about what they were doing. They need to feel good about it now, especially now, as the darkness is starting to settle in and Bush is on his way out and Marley’s Ghost comes clanking up the stairs after them. No bit of undigested potato this, the karmic bitchslap’s coming and you can hear it in the hopeless desperation in his words: Had To.
Here’s the thing, about being sure you’re saving the world. What you want is to be right, partly because you think that’s the easy way out but mostly because your nightmare is basically what Gaffney’s facing: In over his head, in over the heads of two countries, you can’t let go of the line tethering you to your idea because your idea’s all you’ve got left and if that’s wrong, who are you then? Why did you do what you did, if it wasn’t a question of had to? If you had a choice, if you frame everything you do in your entire life as a choice, and take away all the “had to” in your head, would you do anything differently? And if the answer to that question is yes, then you start wondering what on earth you’re doing, and feeling bad about how much you lied to yourself and everyone around you, and recognizing that you have been a tremendous douchebag making excuses for yourself. Excuses like Had To.
For Frank Gaffney and a lot of other members of the We Love Fucking Freedom So Have Some Shoved Up Your Ass And Like It Corps, that kind of self-awareness isn’t really an option. So they just repeat the excuses louder, until even Chris Matthews, who is the king of going along with whatever the popular storyline is at the moment and making up justifications later, looks at you and says, “I’m going to send you three ghosts, motherfucker, be ready.”