Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Having The War Both Ways

By Donald Kaul

John McCain was firm of voice and steady of gaze as he looked out into the crowd and said: “We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat, and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.” He was talking about Iraq, oddly enough.

The audience, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was appreciative, which was unsurprising. After all, the VFW was appreciative six years ago when Vice-President Dick Cheney came to them to announce that there was “no question” that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The VFW is where politicians go to lie---and receive uncritical support for any war that’s going on at the moment.

Senator McCain has done a terrific job of having it both ways on the question of Iraq. He is a staunch supporter of the war---always has been---as well as a severe critic of its conduct. In other words it would have been a perfectly lovely war if only we had fought it better. And, since we’re now doing that, the future looks bright.

He brushed by the fact that, even as he spoke, the violence level in Iraq was spiking, casting doubt in the minds of the public as to whether the Surge was working. But not in the minds of administration officials, never that.

McCain has said, famously, that he’d be willing to keep troops in Iraq “for a 100 years,” if necessary. When that drew fire he quickly retreated to the position that he meant that only in the sense that we still have troops in Japan, sixty years after World War II. “Only if American troops aren’t being shot at or killed,” was the way he put it.

Oh, that’s OK then, said the wise heads who tell us what to think. So long as they stop killing us we have no objection to staying.

That really begs the question, which is this: How long are you prepared to keep troops in Iraq if they are being shot at, if they are being killed?

When, if ever, will it be time to say “Enough. We’re out of here.”

McCain has no answer for that and neither, apparently, do Gen. David Petraeus or Ambassador Ryan Crocker who are running the show for us in Iraq.

The pair of them appeared before Congress last week and presented an absolutely pathetic argument for keeping tens of thousands of troops in Iraq at a cost of $12 BILLION-A-MONTH!

Asked again and again by Senators and Congresspersons to give a hint as to how we will know, finally, that we’ve won in Iraq and when that great day might be expected, they had no answers. None.

All they could tell us was that things, as bad as they are now, would get worse if we leave.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing to come out of the Petraeus-Crocker hearings was Crocker’s statement: “In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came.”

If you believe that, you probably voted to re-elect George Bush.

I was reminded “how we came” to Iraq last month by PBS’s brilliant four-hour documentary “Bush’s War.”

To watch it was a grinding, infuriating experience. Our path to Iraq was paved with willful ignorance, false assumptions, self-delusion and outright lies.

At every turn strong evidence that argued against our attack on Iraq was ignored in favor of much weaker evidence that supported the Bush-Cheney mania for war.

The show is not an anti-war polemic; it is a carefully balanced, thoroughly documented record of how we got into this mess. And it is a shameful story of duplicity and hubris.

In a nation that took democracy seriously George Bush and Dick Cheney would have been impeached, not re-elected.

And now some analysts are saying that John McCain, a true believer in the war, might be our next president.

That100 years in I

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