Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Apple polishing. The New York Times' R.W. Apple Jr. has been taking a pounding from the likes of Slate's Jack Shafer for prematurely predicting a "quagmire," then trying to walk away from it with no fingerprints.

Well, today Johnny Apple weighs in with something that should disturb those who might be called patriotic antiwar liberals -- a group that includes Media Log and, one would have thought judging from his previous pieces, Apple himself. He writes:

[T]he antiwar forces, who have had to contend from the start with the widespread belief that their position is unpatriotic and unsupportive of American troops engaged in deadly combat, must now bear the additional burden of arguing with success. American losses are relatively small: 96 dead to date, compared with 200 a day at the height of the Vietnam War.

As Greil Marcus once said, What is this shit? Responsible war critics never thought the US was going to lose, or even suffer many casualties. Rather, the danger was that we would unleash chaos in Iraq, inflame the Arab world by inflicting civilian casualties (which we have certainly done), and cause terrible problems for ourselves down the road, such as creating a new generation of revenge-seeking terrorists.

At the moment, we don't know how many civilian casualties we've caused. Many, judging from today's dispatch by the Washington Post's Anthony Shadid.

We have to hope for the best, obviously. It appears that the fighting is almost over. The New York Times website has a minutes-old story by Dexter Filkins and Jane Perlez reporting that some Baghdad residents, at least, are beginning to throw of the shackles off three-plus decades of Baathism and are actually greeting American troops as liberators. That's something the US can build on.

But "arguing with success"? Please. Johnny Apple's problem isn't just that he's consistently wrong. It's that he tries on a persona-a-day, and expects us not to remember or care what he wrote just days before.

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