Listening to so many who opposed the Iraq war, like NPR’s Daniel Schorr, now saying that Bush may have been right, that his invasion of Iraq may have opened the door to democracy in the mideast, reminds me of a story my father told of an experience he had while serving in fighter control during the battle on Leyte Island and in Leyte Gulf in 1944.
Units like my father’s were expected to secure an area, clear it, lay down a metal runway, set up a fuel depot and radio tower, and provide a haven for carrier pilots who could not make it back to the flat-top. Once their initial tasks were completed, they would often have long periods of time with nothing to do.
Dad, seeing all the spare electronics parts lying around, decided to build himself a radio receiver. He was proud of what he had constructed, so invited all of his buddies to the unveiling.
He was sure the thing would work and, when he plugged it in, the set immediately began receiving. Everyone applauded.
But my father was confused. He had plugged the set in, yes–but he had not turned it on. He examined the set, trying to figure out how it was working.
The first thing he did was pull out one of the tubes (this, of course, being the days before transistors). Then another. Then another part. His friends watched, starting to chortle. Soon, my father was surrounded by all-out laughter.
He’d forgotten–they all had (because they lived with it and had for so long) that they were right next to a powerful radio transmitter, right under its tower. Somehow, the vibrations were even in the power line, going from there to Dad’s speaker. The reception he was getting was more like that one hears about from a tooth; it was not reception through the device he had created.
To the end of his life, Dad used this story as a cautionary tale: if something is working and people think you did it, smile and nod. Let them give you the credit, even though you may have no idea of what is going on or why the thing is working.
Bush and his cronies understand that lesson. They claimed credit for the thaw in relations with Libya, saying that was a result of their tough stand vis-a-vis Iraq (even though it was the end result of a process that had started years before).
Now they are claiming that their invasion of a sovereign nation has sparked democracy in the mideast, basing their argument on the fact that they said it would, and that it does seem to be happening.
Well, my father said that radio would work–and it did. But the responsibility was not his.
I think we will find that the reasons for what is going on in Palestine, Lebanon, and elsewhere are not related to the US invasion of Iraq, that there have been many other, more significant, forces at play.
In the meantime, however, Bush is going to take as much credit as he can, deserved or underserved.