By: E&P Staff
Even in a time of growing pessimism over the prospects of disengaging from Iraq — and on a day when the U.S. Senate turned back another serious effort to do that ? the comments from Thomas Ricks, military reporter at The Washington Post, on Tavis Smiley?s PBS interview show last night were startling.
Ricks, author of the acclaimed book about the war called ?Fiasco,? has long offered a frank and balanced perspective on the course of the war. He did so again in the Smiley interview, suggesting that in some ways Gen. Davis Petraeus?s recent report on the ?surge? left much to be desired. Then, in closing, he remarked that President Bush?s current strategy was simply to make sure there are at least 100,000 troops left in Iraq when he leaves office in January 2009. Further, Ricks said he wouldn?t be surprised if ?we have troops still fighting in Iraq? when the next president?s term ends.
Smiley, perhaps not believing his ears, asked if he meant the next president?s first term or possibly his second? Ricks said it could be the latter.
Then Ricks added that when he was writing “Fiasco” he recalls watching kids in kindergarten going off to school and the thought occurred to him that one day one of them might very well be fighting in Iraq when they grow up. He added: “And I still think that’s a real possibility.”
Earlier this week, in an online chat at www.washingtonpost.com, Ricks replied to a question about antiwar Americans feeling helpless this way: “This sense of despair worries me. I was on tour last month for the publication of the paperback edition of ‘Fiasco’ and as I gave talks and readings from Massachusetts to Texas to California I was struck by how many expressed this sense that they hate this situation but feel they can’t do anything about it.
“I would say that however you feel about the war, you can have an effect. Talk to your member of Congress. Write letters to the editor of your newspaper. Speak up. Iraq isn’t going to go away anytime soon, so the participation of American citizens could help the situation.”
Then there was this exchange:
Silver Spring, Md. “Why does the media always concentrate on the bad news from Iraq? From what I hear, we are doing great things there, and everybody just wants America to look bad.”
Thomas E. Ricks: “Are you serious?”