Pick almost any date on the calendar, and it'll turn out that the United States either started a war, ended a war, perpetrated a massacre or sent its U.N. ambassador into the Security Council to issue an ultimatum. It's like driving across the American West. "Historic marker, 1 mile," the sign says. A minute later, you pull over and find yourself standing on dead Indians. "On this spot, in 1879, Major T and a troop of U.S. cavalry beat off … "

            Last Sunday, I was in a used paperback store in a mall in Olympia, Wash., flicking through Tina Turner's side of the story on life with Ike. It was 3 in the afternoon, March 18, one day short of the anniversary of U.S. planes embarking on an aerial hunt of Pancho Villa in 1916; of the day the U.S. Senate rejected (for the second time) the Treaty of Versailles in 1920; of the end of the active phase of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002; of the 10 p.m. broadcast March 19, 2003, by President G.W. Bush announcing that aerial operations against Iraq had commenced.

            My cell phone rang. It was my brother Patrick, calling from Sulaimaniyah, three hours' drive east through the mountains from the Kurdish capital of Arbil, in northern Iraq. He gave me a brisk précis of the piece he'd file the next day. Every road was lethally dangerous; every Iraqi he met had a ghastly tale to tell of murder, kidnappings, terror-stricken flights, searches for missing relatives. Life was measurably far, far worse for the vast majority of Iraqis than it had been before the 2003 onslaught.

            Remember that with 13 years of sanctions -- a horrible international onslaught of the health and well-being of a civilian population, enthusiastically supported by liberals in the United States and Europe -- Iraq's plight was already dire. When the war began, Baghdad had 20 hours of power a day. Now it's down to two. Not thousands, not tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. Not hundreds of thousands, but two million people have fled the country, mostly to Syria and Jordan. It's the largest upheaval of a population in the Middle East since the Palestinian Naqba of 1948. Dawn after dawn rises over Iraq to reveal tortured corpses in the river beds, on the rubbish dumps, by the side of the road: bodies riddled with bullets, punctured by drills, whipped with wire cable, blown apart.

            The United Nations says that in the two months before this last Christmas, 5,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. The months since have probably been as bad. Saddam dragged his country into ruin. Then the United States took it from ruin to the graveyard, plundering the corpse as it did so.

            There's plenty of blame to go around. You'd think these days that the cheerleaders for war were limited to a platoon of neocons, as potent in historical influence as were supposedly the Knights Templar. But it was not so. The coalition of the enablers spread far beyond Cheney's team and the extended family of Norman Podhoretz. Atop mainstream corporate journalism perch the New York Times and the New Yorker, two prime disseminators of pro-invasion propaganda, written at the NYT by Judith Miller, Michael Gordon and, on the op ed page, by Thomas Friedman. The New Yorker put forth the voluminous lies of Jeffrey Goldberg and has remained impenitent till this day.

            The war party virtually monopolized television. AM radio poured out a filthy torrent of war bluster. The laptop bombardiers such as Salman Rushdie were in full war regalia. Among the progressives the liberal interventionists thumped their tin drums, often by writing pompous pieces attacking the antiwar "hard left."

            As Iraq began to plunge ever more rapidly into the abyss not long after the March 2003 attack, this crowd stubbornly mostly stayed the course with Bush. "Thumpingly blind to the war's virtues" was the head on a Paul Berman op ed piece in February 2004. Christopher Hitchens lurched regularly into CNN's studio to hurl abuse at critics of the war.

            But today, amid Iraq's dreadful death throes, where are the parlor warriors? Have those Iraqi exiles reconsidered their illusions, that all it would take was a brisk invasion and a new constitution to set Iraq to rights? Have any of them had dark nights, asking themselves just how much responsibility they have for the heaps of dead in Iraq, for a plundered nation, for the American soldiers who died or were crippled in Iraq at their urging ? Sometimes I dream of them -- Tom Friedman, Hitchens, Rushdie -- like characters in a Beckett play, buried up to their necks in a rubbish dump on the edge of Baghdad, reciting their columns to each other as the local women turn over the corpses to see if one of them is her husband or her son.

             Liberal interventionism rolled into a crest with the onslaught on Serbia. Liberal support for the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were the afterglows. Now that night has descended and illusions about the great crusade shattered for ever, let us tip our hats to those who opposed this war from the start -- the real left, the libertarians and those without illusions about the "civilizing mission" of the great powers.

            Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.