The Star’s War Machine

From his battle station at 17th Street and Grand, Kansas City Star columnist E. Thomas McClanahan has written dozens of pieces in support of the invasion of Iraq.

Events, of course, have not been kind to this position. U.S. military deaths are approaching 3,000. News organizations are using the term “civil war.” In September, a leaked classified intelligence estimate said the occupation had increased the threat of terrorism.

McClanahan continues to fight the good fight. One of his most recent Iraq columns warned Democrats, who will take power in Congress, not to give up on Iraq the way those pansy Democrats with wide lapels gave up on Vietnam 30 years ago. Unmentioned went the previous columns in which McClanahan had described just how unlike the two conflicts were.

Here’s a sampling of other informed assertions that Fightin’ Tom has made before taking cover each night in Brookside.

March 18, 2003: “If American and British troops uncover large stockpiles of chemical and biological agents in Iraq (actually, this is more of a when than an if), the U.N. inspectors will look like buffoons.”

April 15, 2003: “Iraq has been destroyed as a haven for terrorists.”

October 14, 2003: “In saving the Iraqis from Hussein, we also advanced our own security.”

November 16, 2003: “Many in the current Iraqi security forces are highly motivated to deal with those who enforced the edicts of a vicious tyranny and now seek to destroy Iraq’s chance for democracy.”

January 6, 2004: “The capture of Saddam Hussein looks more like a turning point in the Iraq insurgency.”

March 30, 2004: “Bush has put the United States on the right side in the Middle East — in favor of freedom and democracy, a stance profoundly threatening to the region’s autocratic regimes.”

April 13, 2004: “Last week in Iraq was the worst since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and it was full of ominous portents. Even so, it’s hardly time to panic — and far too early to take seriously the cries of ‘quagmire.'”

September 21, 2004: “True, the security situation is the most pivotal aspect of the Iraq story. But focusing only on violence omits a great deal.”

October 31, 2004: “Those who characterize Bush as a reckless cowboy seem blind to the fact that when you’re in a war, you want the other side to believe you’re reckless and unpredictable and maybe even half-crazy. If the bad guys think the American president is reckless — folks, that’s a good thing.”

January 25, 2005: “Predictions of civil war also seem overplayed.”

February 8, 2005: “This isn’t 1975. There won’t be any last desperate helicopter flight from the U.S. embassy, because we’re not likely to lose this war. For Democrats, that implies a choice: Dump the defeatism or face the prospect of continued decline.”

March 22, 2005: “[E]vents are moving in the right direction, and the strategy of fighting terrorism with democracy is making strides.”

April 13, 2005: “It would be premature to say that Iraq has definitively turned the corner, but the progress of recent months is undeniable.”

April 19, 2005: “This isn’t Vietnam. The insurgents are losing popular support. They’re killing fewer Americans and more Iraqis, and, not surprisingly, Iraqis are fed up.”

July 5, 2005: “What if we had not invaded Iraq? … [T]he idea that U.S. national security would be improved is absurd.”

October 15, 2005: “Despite their campaign of violence, insurgents have been unable to derail Iraq’s political development.”

November 22, 2005: “The whole premise that we’re losing in Iraq is wrong to begin with.”

January 3, 2006: “Democratic Chairman Howard Dean was ready to dismiss Iraq as a lost cause. In one of Dean’s more classic foot-in-mouth utterances, he said: ‘The idea that we’re going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong.'”

March 19, 2006: “Behind the headlines the Iraq story also includes signs of progress. The most important is the growing role of Iraqis in providing their own security.”

Reached for comment, McClanahan concedes that he was “pretty naïve” about the prospect of success in Iraq.

“My record as a prognosticator is not that great, like a lot of pundits,” he says. “My overall perspective is that I think we need to defeat these people there — the insurgents, the terrorists — or the costs of defeat are much higher than what we paid already, in terms of the increased influence of Iran and Syria. At the same time, there’s no denying it’s been close to a disaster. I guess the question now is whether we can keep it from becoming a catastrophe.”

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