On balance, a happy anniversary

"On balance, a happy anniversary" Continued...

Issue: "What is art?," March 20, 2004

Thanks to surgical strikes and a lightning-fast ground assault, U.S. forces drew few casualties in the actual fighting. Iraqi towns and villages survived largely intact. American soldiers have absorbed big hits in the last 12 months but never have been pinned down. Casualties peaked last summer, again in November and January. Last week the number of U.S. combat deaths was one.

3» It's hard to remember that one year ago the conventional wisdom warned against war because Saddam would use chemical weapons if his survival depended on it. No one on either side of the war debate counted on an empty WMD arsenal. Today, despite the assertions of former lead inspector David Kay, the jury remains out. Earlier this month a U.S. weapons analyst in Iraq, Douglas Hanson, chided Mr. Kay for "unfocused and uncoordinated" search operations and said that "until a properly coordinated search effort is completed, no firm conclusions about [WMD] presence or absence can be reached. The case remains open."

Now the war speculation must give way to that other near-fatal disease, election-year fever. The next year will tell not only the future of Iraqi leadership but also British and U.S. heads of state. Prime Minister Tony Blair told Labor Party members earlier this month: "The truth is disarming a country, other than with its consent, is a perilous exercise." In a lengthy and passionate defense of the war, he stated, "This is not a time to err on the side of caution; not a time to weigh the risks to an infinite balance; not a time for the cynicism of the worldly wise who favor playing it long.... Prime ministers don't have the luxury of maintaining both sides of the argument. They can see both sides. But, ultimately, leadership is about deciding."


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