Democratic Underground

Bush is not America
September 22, 2001
by birdman

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One of the American political concepts that I have always found nonsensical and annoying is the old saying that "politics ends at the water's edge." This idea is used to promote the notion that in the midst of an international crisis, particularly a war, the government and most visibly the president is above criticism and that for the good of the country America must speak with one voice.

But this is illogical and unrealistic. We are asked to believe that when a President is talking about Social Security lockboxes or farm price supports you can criticize him all you want, but when he is making policy that could get you, me and a whole lot of other people killed we are supposed to shut up and go along for the ride. In fact war policy deserves more scrutiny and attention from the public than any other decision a President can make.

You do your country no favors by supporting bad policies, especially bad policies that kill people. Today most of us recognize that the Vietnam War was a bad idea, a catastrophic mistake in policy that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths - but the people who first recognized that it was a mistake were vilified and abused for speaking up.

It took years and thousands of casualties to erode the Water's Edge Syndrome enough that it became respectable to oppose the Vietnam War. Until the Tet Offensive in early 1968, if you questioned the war you were likely to be called a disloyal American or a Communist or a subversive. In fact there were still remnants of this attitude 25 years later when you heard mumbling about Bill Clinton having demonstrated against the war in England. It was worse, according to the WES, to demonstrate overseas than to do so here because you were showing all those (ugh!) foreigners that we weren't united (gasp).

But when have Americans ever spoken with one voice? There was significant opposition to every one of America's wars, with the possible exception of World War II.

Personally, I think it is almost impossible not to support some kind of punitive action given the atrocity that occurred in New York and Washington last week. The people who did this have to be brought to justice and the military is probably the institution most capable of doing that. But the way our government is framing this conflict as a war to eradicate international terrorism strikes me as a colossal pipe dream. Terrorism will continue to exist because when the small, scrawny kid finds himself in a fight with the big tough guy he's stupid if he fights him straight up. He gets a lot more mileage out of kicking the big guy in the nuts and running like hell.

So we are being told that this "crusade" (as our semi-literate President so undiplomatically called it) may take years. Years of what? Body bags? A depleted economy? $10 a gallon gas? More terrorist attacks? Doesn't it make a hell of a lot more sense to try to eliminate Bin Laden and his network and make an intense international effort to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict that is at the root of the terrorist activity to begin with? The Bush plan seems to be to spend years in a futile effort to get rid of the terrorist cells and then hand the problem off to someone else.

The Water's Edge Syndrome is very strong right now, as it always is at the outset of wars. So if you oppose Bush's open ended "war on terrorism" be prepared to be called an enemy of America, a friend of Bin Laden, a supporter of the Taliban and realize that the new "bloody shirt" of American politics is going to be the collapsed twin towers of the World Trade Center and the tragic victims who died there.

But we donít honor the memory of those people by blindly following a potentially self-defeating policy of an administration that thus far has seemed clueless in its response to the WTC attack. We are under no obligation to do so. Bush is a politician. He is not America.