Shame, America, Shame! Now, Do Something!

11 Jul

I’m repeatedly incensed by the gulf between the very real pain Americans are feeling about the Iraq War and the complete lack of a responsible debate on what next to do. People have to get on with their lives, but Americans, both Democrat and Republican, just hurl stones at each other. Both Democrats and Republicans, as well as the White House, have settled into a very short-sighted obsession with General David Petraeus’ and Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s September report on the Iraq situation. Nowhere do I hear a debate about what to do in the long-term, after over 4 years of mismanagement leaves a shambles in West Asia, how to take care of service-members and their families, or how to repair the legal and diplomatic damage wrought by scandals related to the war’s prosecution.

Fred Kaplan describes an automaton, President George W. Bush:

A half-hour passed—and the cable news channels cut away to an incident at the Oakland airport a couple of times—before he came to the main point, the reason they were carrying the speech live: to articulate his latest views on Iraq.

And the startling thing about these views is that they haven’t changed a bit.

This is the case, despite the serious Republican defections—and the urgings by the most senior of these Republicans that the president shift his strategy and draw down some U.S. troops or see Congress cut off funds and end the war altogether.

This is the case, despite news of a forthcoming administration report—to be delivered to Congress this week—that concludes the Iraqi government has met none of the political or security “benchmarks” that Bush himself once urged them to meet in exchange for continued U.S. support.

This is the case, despite the fact that nearly everyone around him is at least very skeptical of the surge’s prospects. (One must assume that Dick Cheney is an exception, and perhaps the only exception necessary.)

Unlike earlier talks of this sort, in which Bush’s speechwriters at least assembled some stray facts and passed them off as evidence of progress, this speech—which seemed entirely improvised—was founded on nothing but faith.

“We can accomplish and win this fight in Iraq,” Bush said at one point in the speech. “I strongly believe we will prevail … that democracy will trump totalitarianism every time,” he said later, as if the war in Iraq is somehow about democracy and totalitarianism.

It’s also clear the Bush administration is setting up General Petraeus as its fall guy.

“I call upon the U.S. Congress,” Bush said, “to give Gen. Petraeus a chance to come back and tell us whether his strategy’s working, and then we can work together on a way forward.”

Notice that, suddenly, the surge is “his” strategy—the general’s, not the president’s. Is Bush’s plan to hold back, stay the course, demonstrate his firm commitment and good intentions—until the chief commander in the field tells him that the chances for military success look grim, mainly because the Iraqi politicians aren’t pulling their weight?

It’s good politics, for the White House. And then, capping it off is an allusion to Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, its resurgence, and the president, Harry S. Truman, who gets the credit now. What a tool!

And, . The demonization of the president was entertaining for about ten minutes. Now, it’s a distraction from the business of agreeing upon a new strategy.

Then, there’s . Whether it’s pandering for subscriptions and advertisements, or…well, some other form of slovenly behavior, the NYT defined cowardice in 1, 734 words. Firstly, and preeminently, the argument is as arrogant—perhaps masochistically contrite, the mirror image—as the Bush administration’s obsession with democratization. On one hand, the Bush White House refuses to admit it was wrong; on the other hand, the NYT just wants to grab its toys and run home.

Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

America needs to make its decision to go to war, a war America, not just the Bush administration, started, right. The partisan squabbles stop at the water’s edge when it’s no longer a Democratic or Republican mistake. A majority of Americans, taxpayers and Congressional leaders alike, made the decision to go to war. No one is innocent.Welcome to the new America!

The only argument with which I agree concerns honoring our commitment to those Iraqis who helped America the most, and who believed the most in America’s promises.

Secondly, political settlement precedes military decisions and the question of basing. Whatever an American majority decides to do next, American troops, unfortunately, cannot redeploy yet.

Thirdly, blaming the Iraqi leadership is too easy a stunt for guilty Americans to try to pull off. America caused this situation, and America has to deal with what it spawned. Where’s all that arrogance about doing a better job than the UN now?

Fourthly, the Bush administration and future presidents have to convince allies and other skeptical governments, that their plans deserve attention. After the Bush administration’s abject stupidity, I doubt any world leader would trust or find compelling an American argument. There are no more unilateral options now.

Lastly, I’m very tired of this rhetoric:

This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.

What America needs is to stop blaming each other, and just fix the problem together.

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