by Edward Wasserman
The Miami Herald
The U.S. war in Iraq ended just before Christmas, and if you blinked you probably missed it. TV news coaxed some seasonal sentiment out of the troops getting home for the holidays, but the Sunday-morning talk shows — where news of consequence is usually autopsied — barely noticed. The Beltway sages had weightier matters to discuss, such as the Gingrich ascendancy and the latest congressional standoff.The silence was understandable because the topic is so awkward. The Iraq war wasn’t a defeat, like Vietnam. But it wasn’t a win either: Saddam Hussein is long gone, but the strategic menace the invasion was meant to thwart was bogus, the installation of democracy seems shaky at best, and the country seems on the verge of tearing itself apart again. Besides, the Iraq victory lap was used up back in 2003 when George W. Bush, in a supreme moment of presidential buffoonery, pranced across a carrier deck in flight regalia to declare peace just as a calamitous civil war was starting.So while the news media might like to imply that the war concluded successfully, that’s a hard case to make, especially with our Iraqi friends referring to it as a “foreign occupation.” And faced with a perplexing moment of historical ambiguity, the media did what they do whenever a clean story line eludes them — change the subject.Our country isn’t unique in making war needlessly, but we may be unique in our insouciance. Attention really should be paid. After all, destroying another country is a big deal. Between 105,000 and 130,000 Iraqi civilians died violently, and half a million more were lost to degraded infrastructure, lousy healthcare and other miseries caused by years of murderous strife uncorked by the U.S. invasion. Some two million Iraqis are now refugees, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary lives have been mutilated.You’d think some sort of examination is in order: Congressional hearings? A truth and reconciliation commission? At least, an extended segment on 60 Minutes?