Liberal columnists who were reliably opposed to Republican presidents warring against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (see Bush I and II) often do an about-face and strike up a martial tune when it's a Democratic president dropping bombs. Ask former New York Times columnist and good liberal Anthony Lewis, who pushed the Clinton administration to intervene in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The reliably dovish Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote from Cairo on Thursday to take the pro-war side in Libya - “Hugs From Libyans” - announcing that (to coin a phrase) we’re being welcomed as liberators in Benghazi.
This may be a first for the Arab world: An American airman who bailed out over Libya was rescued from his hiding place in a sheep pen by villagers who hugged him, served him juice and thanked him effusively for bombing their country.
Even though some villagers were hit by American shrapnel, one gamely told an Associated Press reporter that he bore no grudges. Then, on Wednesday in Benghazi, the major city in eastern Libya whose streets would almost certainly be running with blood now if it weren’t for the American-led military intervention, residents held a “thank you rally.” They wanted to express gratitude to coalition forces for helping save their lives.
Doubts are reverberating across America about the military intervention in Libya. Those questions are legitimate, and the uncertainties are huge. But let’s not forget that a humanitarian catastrophe has been averted for now and that this intervention looks much less like the 2003 invasion of Iraq than the successful 1991 gulf war to rescue Kuwait from Iraqi military occupation.
Kristof eventually addressed the obvious question - his fierce opposition (see third item) to the 2003 invasion of Iraq - while dismissing the concerns over constitutional propriety so vital to liberals during the Bush years.
I opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion because my reporting convinced me that most Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein but didn’t want American forces intruding on their soil. This time my reporting persuades me that most Libyans welcome outside intervention.
(Kristof merits a significant footnote in the debate over Iraq – it was a May 6, 2003 Kristof column, which used serial anti-war misleader Joseph Wilson as a then-anonymous source, that eventually led to Plame-gate, the so-called scandal that served as convenient tool for the media against the Bush administration and the war effort before it fizzled out into nothingness.)
Kristof also wrote Thursday:
Some Congressional critics complain that President Obama should have consulted Congress more thoroughly. Fair enough. But remember that the intervention was almost too late because forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi were already in Benghazi. Indeed, there was a firefight on Sunday right outside the hotel in Benghazi where foreign journalists are staying. A couple of days of dutiful consultation would have resulted in a bloodbath and, perhaps, the collapse of the rebel government.