Proud to be a stupid Cassandra

In vino veritas, “In wine, truth.” The same could be said of adversity. You never really know someone until you see them through tough times. And what tougher time than a war? The Weekly Standard is a Washington-based neoconservative rag, published by William Kristol, one of the co-founders of the now-defunct Project for a New American Century (PNAC). I’ve seen Kristol on Book TV a few times. I think he’s a simpering, condescending jerk, who never misses a chance to let everyone know how smart he is. Well, as Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” In bellum veritas, “In war, truth.” The truth is, Kristol can’t do it.

Frankly, I don’t find war mongering attractive. War should be a last resort. Going to war is a clear indication of vast intellectual failure. Yet in Bill Kristol we saw a self-proclaimed intellectual fairly begging for war. Even worse, Kristol, through the Weekly Standard, gloated at our “victory” in Iraq, way back in 2003, overlooking the human costs incurred on both sides. War is the consequence of human failure. In the context of a purely defensive war it makes sense for the victor to celebrate. The war — and the killing — have ended. As everyone knows now, but should have known before it began, this war was unnecessary. Except, perhaps, for people like Bill Kristol, who needed the war to reinflate their flaccid egos. Nationalism is a poor substitute for a self-confident personality. Some people can’t be proud of their country unless it is out on the battlefield, laying waste to all comers.

We who opposed the war even before it began, took a drubbing from these bullies. One example, from the pages of the Weekly Standard itself, is an article it published on April 21, 2003, titled “The Cassandra Chronicles: The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers.” That’s right, we were stupid, no match for geniuses like Bill Kristol. A collection of quotes by journalists and commentators, interspersed with supercilious comments by the author, the article presents what even Bill Kristol now realizes were accurate analyses. Here are two examples.

“Visions of cheering throngs welcoming them as liberators have vanished in the wake of a bloody engagement whose full casualties are still unknown. . . . Welcome to hell. Many of us lived it in another era. And don’t expect it to get any better for a while.”

–James Webb, in the New York Times, March 30, 2003

The Weekly Standard calls Webb “your war novelist, phoning it in from his experiences in Vietnam, 30 years ago.” James Webb is now the newly elected Democratic Senator from Virginia.

“If history is a guide, you cannot subdue a large and hostile city except by destroying it completely. Short of massacre, we will not inherit a pacified Iraq. . . . To support ‘the groundwork’ for this effort is to support a holocaust, quite soon, against Iraqi civilians and also against the troops on both sides. That is what victory means.”

James K. Galbraith on the American Prospect website, April 1, 2003

Galbraith is a PhD economist with impressive credentials, but that doesn’t prevent the Standard from trivializing him and his work.

Had it been written by a high-school sophomore, the Standard article might be precociously annoying. But the Weekly Standard is the beacon of Neoconservatism, the guiding light for the Bush Administration’s Iraq War strategy (not having a strategy is a strategy). This is what the men and women who dragged us into the Iraq War have been reading; the ones that actually read, anyway. Three years, 25,000 American casualities and $300 billion later, though, they still don’t get it.

William Kristol

William Kristol

Unlike Bill Kristol, we stupid Cassandras can feel no joy in being right. As the article concludes, “Here, indeed, we are witnessing some of the worst wartime (self-)destruction ever recorded in human history.” Indeed, indeed, and Kristol (I’m sure he prepared the article) telegraphed the ultimate outcome in his choice of title. Cassandra was a character in Greek mythology. Loved by Apollo, she was granted the gift (?) of unerring prophecy. In return, she had to become Apollo’s lover. But Cassandra changed her mind about Apollo. Enraged, Apollo did not take away her gift, he only ensured that no one would ever believe her prophecies. And so, it seems, Kristol knows no more about Greek mythology than he does about Iraq, war or much of anything else. For a high-school sophomore he’s a pretty good writer. Too bad he’ll be 54 years old this month.

One Response to “Proud to be a stupid Cassandra”

  1. James Galbraith Says:

    Thank you. It is an honor to be remembered alongside Jim Webb.