You know what? To the American public, for whom the news is a story that unfolds over the course of years rather than hours, Iraq isn't this writhing chimaera of moral equivalence that it's been dolled up as by Michael Moore and the MTV scene; it's not about IEDs and speeding Italian reporters and plastic turkeys and tote boards listing how many WMDs have been found and of what type and whether any of them have Osama bin Laden's autograph on them. It's about Gulf War 1. It's about Kuwait. It's about SCUDs versus Patriots. It's about no-fly zones. It's about Clinton firing in cruise missiles. It's about the comedians of the 90s who urged us to worry more about Saddam Hussein than about stained blue dresses. And it's about mass graves. Lots and lots of mass graves.
We knew, in our collective souls, by the evening of 9/11 that the face of the Middle East would have to change, and that we'd be the ones who would have to do it. We sat down to somber dinner imagining the grim job ahead of our military, the one we knew we'd ask them to undertake. We knew that routing some medieval theocrats from a comically faraway country in the mountainous outskirts of the old Soviet world wasn't going to be the end of the story begun with those planes and those fireballs and those falling monoliths. We knew a lot more countries than just Afghanistan were going to have to learn to fear the living crap out of us. And Iraq, we knew, was a damned good place to start.