Sacrifice Is for Suckers
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Friday 06 July 2007
On this Fourth of July, President Bush compared the Iraq war to the Revolutionary War, and called for "more patience, more courage and more sacrifice." Unfortunately, it seems that nobody asked the obvious question: "What sacrifices have you and your friends made, Mr. President?"
On second thought, there would be no point in asking that question. In Mr. Bush's world, only the little people make sacrifices.
You see, the Iraq war, although Mr. Bush insists that it's part of a Global War on Terror[ , a fight to the death between good and evil, isn't like America's other great wars -- wars in which the wealthy shared the financial burden through higher taxes and many members of the elite fought for their country.
This time around, Mr. Bush celebrated Mission Accomplished by cutting tax rates on dividends and capital gains, while handing out huge no-bid contracts to politically connected corporations. And in the four years since, as the insurgency Mr. Bush initially taunted with the cry of "Bring them on" has claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and left thousands more grievously wounded, the children of the elite -- especially the Republican elite -- have been conspicuously absent from the battlefield.
The Bushies, it seems, like starting fights, but they don't believe in paying any of the cost of those fights or bearing any of the risks. Above all, they don't believe that they or their friends should face any personal or professional penalties for trivial sins like distorting intelligence to get America into an unnecessary war, or totally botching that war's execution.
The Web site Think Progress has a summary of what happened to the men behind the war after we didn't find W.M.D., and weren't welcomed as liberators: "The architects of war: Where are they now?" To read that summary is to be awed by the comprehensiveness and generosity of the neocon welfare system. Even Paul Wolfowitz, who managed the rare feat of messing up not one but two high-level jobs, has found refuge at the American Enterprise Institute.
Which brings us to the case of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr.
The hysteria of the neocons over the prospect that Mr. Libby might actually do time for committing perjury was a sight to behold. In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled "Fallen Soldier," Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University cited the soldier's creed: "I will never leave a fallen comrade." He went on to declare that "Scooter Libby was a soldier in your -- our -- war in Iraq."
Ah, yes. Shuffling papers in an air-conditioned Washington office is exactly like putting your life on the line in Anbar or Baghdad. Spending 30 months in a minimum-security prison, with a comfortable think-tank job waiting at the other end, is exactly like having half your face or both your legs blown off by an I.E.D.
What lay behind the hysteria, of course, was the prospect that for the very first time one of the people who tricked America into war, then endangered national security yet again in the effort to cover their tracks, might pay some price. But Mr. Ajami needn't have worried.
Back when the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity began, Mr. Bush insisted that if anyone in his administration had violated the law, "that person will be taken care of." Now we know what he meant. Mr. Bush hasn't challenged the verdict in the Libby case, and other people convicted of similar offenses have spent substantial periods of time in prison. But Mr. Libby goes free.
Oh, and don't fret about the fact that Mr. Libby still had to pay a fine. Does anyone doubt that his friends will find a way to pick up the tab?
Mr. Bush says that Mr. Libby's punishment remains "harsh" because his reputation is "forever damaged." Meanwhile, Mr. Bush employs, as a deputy national security adviser, none other than Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair. Mr. Abrams was one of six Iran-contra defendants pardoned by Mr. Bush's father, who was himself a subject of the special prosecutor's investigation of the scandal.
In other words, obstruction of justice when it gets too close to home is a family tradition. And being a loyal Bushie means never having to say you're sorry.