By Robert Scheer
Here we go again: A new secretary of defense and yet another call for ending the war in Iraq by escalating it. What are they smoking in the Bush White House?
Even as government statistics now show marijuana is America’s No. 1 cash crop, it is important to remember that militarism is the most dangerous drug threatening our sanity. Yet even formerly sober folks—first Colin Powell and now new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—get a contact high from cozying up to the walking hallucinogen that is our president.
Succumbing to the Bush fantasy that freedom is fertilized by firepower, a vision that has mucked up Iraq beyond recognition, Gates told CBS that “as the president has made clear, we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for generations to come.”
This from a man who recently made sense, during his confirmation hearings, when he told members of Congress that we are not winning this war, despite having committed, proportionally, as many troops as we did in Vietnam. But now, as a rising chorus of obsessed hawks calls for a “surge” in U.S. troop deployment in Iraq—a call echoed even by some prominent Democrats—Gates endorses the staying-the-course strategy for compounding the Iraq failure rejected by the voters. A member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) who had apparently supported its unanimous findings that the military strategy was bankrupt is suddenly blinded by Bush’s Iraq victory myopia.
In a sign of just how out there Bush is on Iraq, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff are in “unanimous disagreement” with “White House officials aggressively promoting the concept ... . [T]he Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission [in Iraq].”
All this despite the fact that the ISG report correctly underscored that the real failures in the Mideast have clearly been political, not military. The accurate subtext of the report is that the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq is the key source of chaos in the region—inflaming religious fanaticism from Beirut to Baghdad and leaving the United States dependent on the tyrants in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia to now bail us out.
So with Bush rejecting the sage advice of a commission headed by his father’s secretary of state to cut our losses is there any hope the Democrats who now control Congress will stop playing the role of enabler to these war junkies? After all, it was the Democratic congressional leadership that provided Bush with bipartisan cover for his irrational “anti-terrorism” invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Some, like John Kerry, now recognize that folly, and even Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, in her appearance on NBC’s “Today” show Monday, finally expressed her regrets for supporting the war and opposed a “surge” in U.S. troops for Iraq.
But other Democrats continue to play the dangerous game of supporting Bush’s escalation. Particularly alarming were the remarks on Sunday of incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsing a buildup as long as it aims at getting the troops home by 2008: “If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we’ll go along with that.”
Reid’s strategy is as obvious as it is opportunistic: This is a Republican war, goes the thinking, and the Dems will give the Republicans all the rope they need to hang themselves in ‘08. This seems a deeply cynical position, when you consider that the Pentagon just announced that attacks on American and Iraqi targets are at their highest levels, with a 22 percent leap from just this summer. The difference between taking a position and positioning oneself is what determines leadership; if the Dems fail to provide real leadership on ending this war, they will deservedly lose the next election.
The convenient lie behind all of this is that U.S. military occupation is the indispensable agent of Mideast enlightenment. No, we have become the enablers of Iraqi madness, be it in the form of torture or the ascendancy of religious tyranny in Iraq, where daily life has been reduced to an unmitigated horror.
Yet, like a junkie who needs one more hit to get his life in order, Bush is hooked on the drug of military might. If the Democrats continue to feed his dangerous habit they will only help Bush visit greater mayhem upon Iraq while undermining the core values of our own country.
AP Photo / Ron Edmonds
President Bush, left, congratulates Defense Secretary Robert Gates after swearing-in ceremony for Gates at the Pentagon, Monday, Dec. 18, 2006.