Spinning Tales

Times columnist's mission of quoting a war critic is only partially accomplished

So Galbraith, the scholar and diplomat, has a lot more to say—and a lot more nuance and reality—than Brooks showed in his column. There are no neat and tidy solutions here, no facilely conjured light at the end of the tunnel. I am in no way suggesting that the quotes in Brooks's piece weren't authentic, just incomplete and, in the end, misleading.

In response to my request for comment, Brooks called me back last Friday to say he thought my criticisms were "unfair." He explained, mistakenly in my opinion: "You know that a single column only deals with one idea"—and pointed out, accurately, that in other columns he had described himself as an "ardent war supporter" who had made misjudgments and now had "doubts."

Brooks said his August 28 column, which he had just filed, calls the military side of the Bush policy "a failure." He also cited an April 17, 2004, column, titled "A More Humble Hawk," in which he wrote: "The first thing to say is that I never thought it would be this bad." Then, after listing his failures to foresee the fierceness of the resistance to U.S. occupation by both insurgents and ordinary Iraqis, and how this would come to "overshadow democratization," Brooks concluded: "Despite all this—and maybe it's pure defensiveness—I still believe that in 20 years, no one will doubt that Bush did the right thing."

My purpose in this column is to note that because the air in America is already politically toxic, it becomes especially important—whether in opinion columns or news stories—to stop airbrushing out the unpleasant realities. This whole mess began with the telling of distortions and falsehoods about a clear and present danger to the country's security that didn't exist. Now the public is confused and troubled over how to resolve the mess.

The president and his supporters are still clinging to their distortions—indeed, trumpeting them anew in an effort to improve their political party's chances in the 2006 midterm elections. How does this serve the nation?

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