Let me finish tonight with this.
There’s a scene in Gone with the Wind when all the well-turned-out young Southern boys are throwing their hats in the air and cheering. What’s got them so thrilled is the news that war has broken out with the North.
The bookend to that scene comes at the end when we see the bodies strewn as far as the eye can see of those same young men after four years of bloody civil war—one that would take the lives of 600,000 Americans—killed in most cases by bullets fired in open fields between soldiers who spoke the same language, shared the same religious faiths, the same American history.
What can we do, we often but not always ask, at the end of war: what could we do to have stopped it?
One thing, of course, is a vital free press: men and women able and set on reporting the truth, the motivations of the warhawks, the faults in the intelligence, the alternative paths that the leaders have failed to explore, and, of course, a reasonable estimate of the horrors to come.
Tonight we discussed the good journalism that was done during the Iraq war run-up, and the bad decisions to bury so much of it.