Rare Rachel Maddow Show Acknowledgment of Progress in Iraq

Is "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" still around? If so, have I got a submission for them. On second thought, they'd probably consider it too implausible.

New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright, author of "The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," was among the guests on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" Monday night.

Maddow and Wright talked about the American military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and how far into the future we can expect the missions to continue --

MADDOW: In terms of the, I guess, the thinking about how far is too far and when you start having diminishing returns with a military presence, is there reason to believe that an extended, indefinite, long-term US military presence in Afghanistan and in Iraq would be something that al Qaeda would see as to their advantage?

WRIGHT: Oh yeah, I think that there's no question that al Qaeda sees this as a rallying point, both of these countries, for recruits. And unfortunately, you know, from their point of view, Iraq hasn't turned out so well, but they're migrating now into Afghanistan and into the tribal areas of Pakistan, and we're following them there. 

(Follow this link for video of discussion; quotes cited above are found 5:42 into the clip) 

"Unfortunately" indeed, albeit from "their point of view." Curious use of the word "migrating" by Wright, not one often used to discuss military tactics. It does serve nicely, however, as euphemism for another word -- "retreat."

I've been watching Maddow's MSNBC show since its debut in September and this is the only time I recall host or guest acknowledging, albeit sideways, that the United States and its allies are winning in Iraq, while the conflict "hasn't turned out so well" for al Qaeda and insurgents. 

Such an assertion, even less artfully phrased, could have been uttered earlier on the show had Maddow not abandoned her initial inclination to invite guests who actually disagree with her. Guests like this are now seldom seen on Maddow's MSNBC show (and rarely on Maddow's Air America Radio program), except for the occasional appearance by Pat Buchanan, a conservative whose views on Iraq just happen to align with Maddow's.

Wright's claim of Iraq and Afghanistan as "rallying point" for al Qaeda could be more accurately stated of another political entity, at least pertaining to Iraq -- the Democratic Party. Think of what's happened with Democrats since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It was Howard Dean's unequivocal opposition to the war that animated his insurgent campaign for president from mid-2003 onward and made Dean an early favorite to win the Democratic nomination.

Dean's initial success forced other Democrats to shift their views on Iraq leftward, especially John Kerry, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt, all of whom voted in favor of congressional authorization for force against Iraq in October 2002.

Kerry, who won the nomination due to keen awareness among liberals of their quadrennial vulnerability on national security issues, barely lost the 2004 election.  But as the pre-surge conflict in Iraq went badly over the next two years, Democrats won big gains in Congress in the 2006 mid-terms, followed by another opponent of the Iraq war, indistinguishable in his politics from Dean, winning the presidency in 2008.

This is not the first time Democrats have "rallied" in opposition to a wartime president -- they did the same during Lincoln's presidency, going so far as to nominate one of Lincoln's listless early generals, George McClellan, as their party's nominee in 1864. Old habits are hard for them to break, regardless of the stature of commander in chief.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts