But the reality on the ground - the one that actually exists - is just the opposite. By now, most people who bother to read newspapers or blogs or who watch television or listen to radio know that the National Intelligence Estimate has said that our invasion of Iraq has increased terrorism. We've destabilized Iraq and turned it into a successful recruiting station for international terrorists who are offended to have non-Muslim Westerners occupying that country.
Most people are also familiar with Bob Woodward's book State of Denial, which says that the Bush Administration has consistently painted an overly optimistic picture of progress in Iraq.
Nobody, however, has yet to state the obvious. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the dumbest, worst strategic blunder that could have been made in the region. The trouble is that Hussein was such a genuinely bad man that it's hard to conceive that no good could come from his being ousted.
But as bad as he was, those now running wild in the streets of Bagdahd are so much worse.
I've harped for months about the difference in the situation of women. Under Hussein, women enjoyed relative freedom. They dressed in Western fashion, styled their hair, went to beauty shops, wore makeup, held down jobs, traveled, were educated. In short, they lived what we would call normal lives.
Since the invasion and the overthrow of Saddam, women are veiled. They are afraid to walk the streets, they seldom go places unchaperoned. In short, the fanatic Shiite leaders with whom we have replaced Saddam, have turned Iraq from a modern country into one as backward as Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. One more sad place where women's freedom does not thrive. Does not even exist.
But the latest casualty of Iraqi Muslim extremism is Christianity. As this article in today's New York Times shows, Muslims have seized upon the recent remarks by Pope Benedict as an excuse to throw still another temper tantrum against anyone not Islamic enough by their fanatic standards.
I'm not going to defend Benedict's remarks. They were insulting. But Pope Benedict is the same man who engineered a document, Domine Iesus, that declared the Protestant faith deficient. Lots of Protestants were offended. But you didn't see Baptists and Episcopalians rioting in the streets and burning down their neighbors' churches. They wrote letters to the editor like sensible people.
I don't know if anybody else on the left is getting as damned tired of Muslim rage as I am. But this quote from the Times about sums up the intolerance of the situation:
Muslim fury over Pope Benedict XVI’s public reflections on Islam in Germany a month ago — when he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as calling Islam “evil and inhuman” — has subsided elsewhere, but repercussions continue to reverberate in Iraq, bringing a new level of threat to an already shrinking Christian population.
Several extremist groups threatened to kill all Christians unless the pope apologized. Sunni and Shiite clerics united in the condemnation, calling the comments an insult to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. In Baghdad, many churches canceled services after receiving threats. Some have not met since.
“After the pope’s statement, people began to fear much more than before,” said the Rev. Zayya Edward Khossaba, the pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary. “The actions by fanatics have increased against Christians.”
Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.
Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country’s largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
They have long been a tiny minority amid a sea of Islamic faith. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s million or so Christians for the most part coexisted peacefully with Muslims, both the dominant Sunnis and the majority Shiites.
But since Mr. Hussein’s ouster, their status here has become increasingly uncertain, first because many Muslim Iraqis framed the American-led invasion as a modern crusade against Islam, and second because Christians traditionally run the country’s liquor stories, anathema to many religious Muslims.
Over the past three and a half years, Christians have been subjected to a steady stream of church bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and threatening letters slipped under their doors.
Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from the tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.
I know that was a long quote. And I'm not one to usually cut and paste without commentary. But it's so important to get back from the alternate reality of Republican ideology to the accurate reality on the ground over there. It's time to state the obvious.
No, we are not better off with Saddam out of power. The world is worse off with the fanatics that we have put in his place. Bush's father and Brent Scowcroft and James Baker III all understood this. That's why when they invade Iraq in 1990, they left Saddam in power. They left him in charge but severely constrained. The first Bush Administration understood the power vaccum in Iraq and they didn't dare leave that country with extremist Shiites in charge.
We are not better off now. And certainly the Christians of Iraq, some of whom are descendents of the earliest Christians, are far less well off. And that's not wishful thinking or an alternate reality.
It's the only reality we actually have. The true one.