"Three years, 19 days, and counting." That is the lede on the Sentinel's lengthy editorial today titled simply "Iraq." Then it goes into the cost: the 2300 Americans, the 16000 American wounded, the tens of thousands dead Iraqis, the $400 billion in this nation's hard-earned money.
Then the Sentinel tears into George W. Bush with a vengeance, calling him "intellectually dishonest" and a buck-passer. "What are we to make of the character of a man who drags his country into an unprovoked, foolish and self-destructive war, then says it's up to his successor to clean up the mess?" the Sentinel asks.
It's a beautiful thing. Too bad it took three years and 19 days.
That's how long it took for the Sentinel's editorial board to wake up to this debacle and that's not counting the months-long build-up to the war. The editorial board tries to cover the Sentinel's hind end by quoting from a previous editorial:
These criticisms are not just hindsight. In February 2003, just before the start of the war, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board wrote: "To embark on a war now, with [U.N. weapons] inspectors asking for more time and with so little international support, would seriously damage America's standing as the leader of the free world. For many reasons, including the help the U.S. would need from other nations in any post-war Iraq, that's too high a cost."
Who knew the Sentinel was so prescient? Well, the truth is that it wasn't. During the build-up to war, the editorial board ate up just about every lie put forth by the Bush Administration. In January 2003, after Bush talked about spreading God's freedom around the world, the headline on the editorial page was, "Case for War Gets Stronger."
"The new details about Iraq, including evidence of ties between Hussein's regime and the [al-Qaeda] network of terrorists, may give him the ammunition he needs to begin reshaping public opinion," an unnamed editorialist wrote.
Too bad those "ties" were bunk and people with real knowledge of Iraq knew it. The Sentinel also endorsed the ridiculous Bush Doctrine, which essentially justified starting preemptive wars to protect the nation's interests.
And what about that heroic February 2003 editorial in which the Sentinel took a strong stand against the war? Well, that's bunk too. The sentence they cited was actually altered. The board deleted the all-important word "still" from the beginning of the quote. Here's the actual passage in context:
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"Let's be clear, however. The United States would be justified in launching a war against Iraq at any time it is ready. Iraq's long record of obfuscation and noncompliance with U.N. resolutions, its proven willingness to use banned weapons and its links to terrorists already justify that.
"Still, to embark on war now with [U.N. weapons inspectors] asking for more time ... "
So much for prescience. The editorial board gave the president its point-blank approval to start this war.
Talk about intellectual dishonesty. Still, today's editorial is a step in the right direction -- and a very strong and well-written argument. Hopefully the Sentinel will remember its mistakes the next time a president tries to take America into what the newspaper has finally admitted is an "unprovoked, foolish and self-destructive war."