Sunday, February 06, 2005

Taking Both The Left And Right To Task On Iraq

Lately, a huge proportion of the commentary I’ve been hearing across the political spectrum regarding Iraq has ranged from the disingenuous to the despicable and it’s time to set some things straight. On most blogs you only get one side of the story but here at VOR we don’t discriminate.

I’ll begin with the absolutely craven attitude exhibited by many on the Left.

The day after Iraq’s election, one of the first things out of John Kerry’s mouth during an interview with Tim Russert was, “No one in the United States should try to overhype this election.” Overhype? The Iraqis have their first democratic election in over half a century, in the face of huge terrorist opposition, and this is how he chooses to characterize it? Would it have been so much for him to simply say that the election was a great achievement, even though it in some way validates Bush’s policy? Even though Kerry has continually said “wrong war, wrong time,” couldn’t he have acknowledged that the election was an important victory against the anti-democratic elements in Iraq who will stop at nothing to derail the political process. (To be fair, Kerry did go on to say a number of pretty sensible things in the interview)

Not to be outdone, Ted Kennedy also had to chime in with more of his ridiculous calls to withdraw troops just when they’re starting to accomplish something tangible. The irresponsibility of this man amazes me, and gives credence to those on the Right who believe that the Left simply does not take issues of national security seriously.

Keep in mind, we’re not talking about Michael Moore and Al Franken here, but two of the Democrats most influential leaders, one a recent presidential candidate and the other a senior senator.

Lest you think the rank and file of the Left have been any better these past couple of weeks, all you need to do is read some of the comment boards on such popular Lefty sites as DailyKos and The Washington Monthly. R.C. and I have had numerous back and forth exchanges with those who are incapable of separating their hatred of Bush from an honest desire to see Iraq be successful. If they just came out and said, “I want Iraq to fail to show up Bush and all those neocons” it would be bad, but at least honest. Instead, they call anyone who mentions anything positive about Iraq and the election a right-wing apologist and go on and on about “quagmires” and “puppet governments.” These people fuel that other great stereotype about the Left; that it thrives on bad news since it has no affirmative vision of its own. These people are so intent on never acknowledging anything positive that is remotely related to GOP-led policy that even an Iraq with Scandinavian-style stability wouldn’t please them. They’d probably complain about the color of the flag or something.

All you Lefties, don’t worry, it’s now time to shine the spotlight on the Right.

First off, I want to let all those who think Bush is a visionary who personally coined the term freedom in on a little secret; he’s a fake. Do you expect us to believe for a minute that if stockpiles of WMD had been found in Iraq or links with Saddam and Al Queda had been established, that we’d be hearing all this talk of freedom and liberty in Iraq? Please, if you do I have a bridge to sell you at a great price. This whole freedom and liberty spiel is to cover-up the fact that the main rationale for the war turned out to be bunk, and the GOP knows that America’s attention can be diverted by simply repeating freedom and liberty a few dozen times, regardless of the context or the messy details. Think I’m wrong? I went back and read the section of the 2003 State of the Union in which Bush laid out the case for war with Iraq. In all of 48 paragraphs, 203 lines, and over 3000 words (the roughly half of the speech dedicated to foreign policy), Bush mentions liberty only once, near the end, and mentions the word freedom only once in the context of Iraq as well. He mentions the word “weapons” 27 times. That’s right, liberty 1, weapons 27, and Bush doesn’t say a single word about how a democratic Iraq is going to spread freedom around the Middle East and bring an end terrorism (by the way, the entire rationale behind this “domino theory” is kind of bizarre and I still don’t quite get it- maybe R.C. can comment on this at a later date- in the meantime see Richard Clarke’s new piece in the NYT).

Bottom line: Freedom for the Iraqi people was an afterthought, no more, no less.

And please don’t act surprised. Bush is the same man who in 2000 strongly criticized Clinton for what amounted to essentially unilateral action in Kosovo, in which the then president came to the aid of Muslims and ousted a tyrannical regime. Sound familiar? And don’t forget that among Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and all the rest of the neocons, not a single one of them fought for freedom and liberty when they had the opportunity; they always had some other “priority” to attend to. Tyranny makes a lot more sense to these guys when you they send other people’s kids to die for the cause.

While I’m at it, I feel compelled to make mention of Cheney’s voting record as a Congressman. This is a guy who didn’t even believe it was ok to peacefully sanction the apartheid regime of South Africa in order to get them to change course, but now believes it’s ok to forcefully invade countries in the heart of the Middle East (which just so happen to sit atop the world’s largest oil resources, a coincidence surely). He also couldn’t even find it in his heart to vote for a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., the man who more than anyone was responsible for ending the legacy of domestic terrorism that plagued our country for way too long.

In summary, in the last couple of weeks many (notice the word “many”, not “all”) on the Left have exposed themselves as outrageous pessimists too cowardly to admit that they want Iraq to go badly in an effort to make Bush look bad, while many on the Right are little more than opportunists of the worst kind who have the audacity to portray themselves as freedom’s new messiah.

So where does this leave us?

For starters, no one in this debate has the moral high ground, so please drop it whatever side you are on. Second point, let’s all take a step back and try to think of what’s best for the Iraqi people. These are people who have endured some of the harshest conditions for many decades and have been ravaged by numerous wars. At VOR, I initially opposed the war while R.C. supported it, but we are both committed to supporting the completion of the U.S. mission now that the stated aim is a stable and free Iraq and we seem to be making progress towards that goal. Just about everything coming from the Iraqi people as well as the government make it clear that the majority want us to stay, so talking of troop withdrawal is simply unconstructive. When the Iraqis are better able to defend their own country from the insurgents then we can start thinking along those lines. Even talk of a timetable for withdrawal is premature as the democratic process is just getting underway.

I suggest that we all support the effort in the best ways we know how, which include paying attention to all the details and holding our politicians accountable for the promises they make. It certainly doesn’t mean being an ideologue, letting your biases get in the way of reason, or blindly believing that military force is the answer to all of our problems. And please realize, supporting the democratic process in Iraq does not mean supporting the rest of the Bush agenda, much of which will be critiqued in future pieces.

J.S.

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