Whether It's Iraquagmire, Iraq-Nam, or Bush-Nam...
Sunday morning I heard an exchange on Meet the Press which caused me to roll out of my chair and and replay my Tivo.
Tim Russert was interviewing Senator Chris Dodd, who is a good man campaigning for an office above his level of competence. Dodd was accurately describing the current failure and paralysis of American policy in Iraq and Russert was doing his level best to skewer the Senator's failing candidacy. The exchange went like this:
I came to the conclusion almost a year ago—in fact, I was here, having just come back from, from Baghdad. We talked at this table. And I met with young soldiers over there who said this is just not working. We need to change this policy. I think we want some decisive action here, we want some clarity on this. We’re not getting it. In my view, we should be changing the fundamental policy. . . . I think we’re, we’re deluding ourselves in believing that $10 billion a month, almost 4,000 lives lost, almost 29,000 injured, 80 to 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives, four million have left the country. Listen to the ground—troops on the ground. They will tell you over and over again, despite the fact their willingness to serve, this is not going well at all, and it’s affecting us everywhere else in the world, Tim.MR. RUSSERT:
You said the other day, “All that loss for what?” Do you believe that the troops have died in vain?SEN. DODD:
No, I don’t. And I don’t think it’s a question of winning or losing. Baker-Hamilton, other reports have pointed out there was no military solution here. You can’t win or lose where your goal was never to have a victory here. Our, our operation was to create the space for the Iraqis to be able to come to some reconciliation, both politically and religiously. The American president, the vice president, leading military figures, members of Congress have begged the Iraqi leadership to reconcile their differences. This past summer they took a month-long vacation after, once again, we plead with them to try and work things out and come together. I don’t think we can arrange that for them any longer.MR. RUSSERT:
But answer that question. “All that loss for what?” What did they die for?SEN. DODD:
Well, listen. I don’t think soldiers who do their job every day die in vain. They were asked to do a job here.MR. RUSSERT:
So what did they die for?In the end, Dodd was doddering. He couldn't answer the question. Which candidate could? Super-fortified Clinton? Quick-thinking Obama? I'm not sure even he could have done it. Mercifully, Russert finally broke off this line of interrogation when he saw the candidate's blood in the water.
It's deja vue and back to the future.
In fact, Russert's malicious question has been answered once before in American history.
Not sure if my Reader(s) is/are old enough to remember. But there was the same malaise just about 40 years ago. All of the arguments about America’s unstanched wound known as Vietnam had been settled by 1967. Lyndon Johnson saw the futility of continuing the war in stark enough terms, that he decided not to run for re-election. In 1968, an assassin’s bullet cut down Robert F. Kennedy on the day after he won the California Primary; had that not happened, the '68 election would have decided the issue of war and peace. In the years between 1968 and the war’s end in 1975, we Americans lost 37,794 KIA – more than half of our total casualties in the war. We had yet to endure additional years of Richard Nixon’s duplicitous ‘Secret plan to end the war’ which – it turned out – was nothing more than a criminal escalation to prolong the war.
After returning from the Vietnam War, Lieutenant John Kerry became a prominent critic of the war. He testified before the Senate in 1971 and told how U.S. troops had been assigned to fight an un-winnable and unjust war. He called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops (my editing of names to spotlight our current perps has been added):
I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of the feelings these men carry with them after coming back from
As a veteran and one who felt this anger, I would like to talk about it. We are angry because we feel we have been used in the worst fashion by the administration of this country.
In 1970, at West Point, Vice President
Some glamorize the criminal misfits of society while our best men die inand this was used as a rallying point for our effort in
Asian rice paddiesMiddle Eastern deserts to preserve the freedom which most of those misfits abuse.
In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in
. . . . We found most people didn't even know the difference between
. . . . . We saw first hand how monies from American taxes were used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. . . . We saw
We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a
We learned the meaning of free-fire zones--shooting anything that moves--and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of
We watched the United States falsification of body counts, in fact the glorification of body counts. We listened while, month after month, we were told the back of the enemy was about to break. . . . We watched pride allow the most unimportant battles to be blown into extravaganzas, because we couldn't lose, and we couldn't retreat, and because it didn't matter how many American bodies were lost to prove that point, and so there were
Now we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of
Each day, to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of
We are asking Americans to think about that, because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in
We are here in Washington to say that the problem of this war is not just a question of war and diplomacy. It is part and parcel of everything that we are trying, as human beings, to communicate to people in this country. . . the hypocrisy in our taking umbrage at the Geneva Conventions and using that as justification for a continuation of this war, when we are more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva Conventions; in the use of free-fire zones; harassment-interdiction fire, search-and-destroy missions; the bombings; the torture of prisoners; all accepted policy by many units in
We are here to ask, and we are here to ask vehemently, where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership? We're here to ask where are
We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped away their memories of us. But all that they have done, and all that they can do by this denial, is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission: To search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric
It was patently feckless of Russert to ask such a question of a presidential candidate. This kind of question is only appropriate for returning servicemen as was Kerry 40 years ago. Increasingly, American and British soldiers will give you the direct answer
Russert thought he wanted. Like this anonymous, senior British officer this week:
We are tired of firing at people. . . We would go down there dressed as Robocop, shooting at people if they shot at us, and innocent people were getting hurt. We don't speak Arabic to explain and our translators were too scared to work for us any more. What benefit were we bringing to these people?Your answer, Russert, is that Bush and Cheney have sentenced our 1st class armed forces to the ignoble mission of an occupation which is military malpractice.