Commentary blogger Abe Greenwald picks up today's New York Times and reads a front-page story in a rather peculiar way:
Question: What is the most extraordinary thing about the following extraordinary sentence?
BAGHDAD -- After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.
Answer: It is the lead of a story in today's New York Times. The paper of record ... is now acknowledging the realization of the most ambitious goal of the Iraq War: the de-radicalization of Muslim citizens....
It is impossible not to infer that the Bush Doctrine and the commitment of the men and women in uniform has facilitated this shift.....
If I were in the Bush administration or one of the troops, I'm not sure I'd want to be praised this way. Here's what the story actually says about how this religious disillusionment came to pass:
... Fingers caught in the act of smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force-fed to its wearer. In that laboratory, disillusionment with Islamic leaders took hold.
... "When they behead someone, they say 'Allahu akbar,' they read Koranic verse," said a moderate Shiite sheik from Baghdad, using the phrase for "God is great."
...Zane Mohammed, a gangly 19-year-old with an earnest face, watched with curiosity as the first Islamists in his Baghdad neighborhood came to barbershops, tea parlors and carpentry stores before taking over the mosques.
... Then, one morning while waiting for a bus to school, he watched a man walk up to a neighbor, a college professor whose sect Mr. Mohammed did not know, shoot the neighbor at point blank range three times, and walk back to his car as calmly "as if he was leaving a grocery store." ...
This is what happened after the U.S. invaded, and now it's terrifying and infuriating Iraqis, and Greenwald thinks it's something the Bushies should be proud of. It's not a bug -- it's a feature! It was our brilliant freedom plan!
Far from "creating more terrorists" as the failed cliche goes, the war has helped to nurture an appreciation for liberty among Iraqi youth. A 24-year-old Iraqi college student is quoted as saying she loved Osama bin Laden at the time of 9/11. Now, after seeing the efforts of religious leaders to curtail her daily freedoms, she rejects extremism entirely.
Here's what she actually says (emphasis mine):
"I used to love Osama bin Laden," proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths abstract.
... "Now I hate Islam," she said, sitting in her family's unadorned living room in central Baghdad. "Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing."
Greenwald actually read that and said it disproved the notion that the war created more terrorists. I guess some of us just see what we want to see.