“The action I have taken tonight is indispensable for the continuing success of [the] withdrawal program,” Richard Nixon said in 1970 in announcing his decision to invade Cambodia and increase American involvement in a failed war.
It was five years before that “withdrawal program” was complete.
How many years will the current failure take?
President Bush looked awful and sounded worse when he made his recent speech to the nation. Other than admitting he had been wrong not to send more troops at the start—his version of his mistake in this mess—he had nothing new to say and nothing new to offer.
So what if the country is against him?
So what if the Congress is against him?
So what if Iraqi leaders, whom he claims he is relying upon, don’t want the additional troops?
George W. Bush is going to send them anyway.
How do you stop a president who has lost touch with reality?
The president’s plan is likely to lead to more of precisely what it is we are supposed to be trying to avoid: American involvement in street fighting, sending our kids to die in an urban jungle, putting them in harm’s way in someone else’s civil war. “Young men and women of U.S. forces and coalition forces should not be caught in the crossfire of a civil war prompted by who should have succeeded Mohammed in—what is it?—650 A.D.?” said Sen. John Warner, a Republican from Virginia. The president said merely that we should expect more casualties. But why should we accept them?
Bush’s plan places all of its reliance on the government in Iraq that could not get it together to execute Saddam Hussein without turning him into a martyr in the Arab world, and that would supposedly (according to Bush himself) collapse right now without our support. Too weak to stand, but strong enough to send Americans to die for? Come again? Turning Saddam the war criminal into a sympathetic figure is an accomplishment of herculean incompetence. And this is what George Bush is putting his trust in? Why?
The president’s plan assumes there can be a military solution to what is essentially a political problem. You don’t have to be a Democrat to see how ridiculous a notion that is. Having just met with the Iraqi leaders we are supposed to be depending upon, Sen. Sam Brownback issued a statement saying: “I came away from these meetings convinced that the United States should not increase its involvement until Sunnis and Shiites are more willing to cooperate with each other instead of shooting at each other.” He’s a Republican who voted with the president more than 90 percent of the time in the last Congress.
Consider Republican Gordon Smith’s frank assessment: “This is the president’s Hail Mary pass,” he said after the speech. “We are extending an ineffective tactic to further the status quo.”
What about Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and Republican senator who called the president’s proposal “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam”? “This is sectarian violence out of control, Iraqi on Iraqi,” Hagel told Secretary of State Rice in a post-speech hearing. “We will not win a war of attrition in the Middle East.”
The harder question is how to win the war at home against George Bush.
Democrats have danced around a number of possible ideas for putting the president’s failed policies to a vote. There is talk of nonbinding resolutions, even of putting the speech itself up for a vote. Other ideas, with slightly sharper teeth, include putting conditions on continued funding or caps on overall war expenditures. None of them will stop Bush, which is all the more reason to consider them all.
This is no time for timidity. Subtlety won’t work with George Bush.
A president who isn’t listening must be made to hear. Democrats have to stop worrying that people may think they aren’t supporting the troops, which was the Democrats’ Vietnam problem. You don’t support the troops by sending more of them to die in a war over who should have succeeded Muhammad. The country must be mobilized, as well as the Congress.
The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has threatened a filibuster of even a nonbinding resolution disapproving the president’s action. Let the fight begin. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be short. But with this president and this war, there is no alternative to a long battle at home, as well as abroad.
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