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Politics: We Ain't Playin'
June 16, 2004
By Dennis Jones

Fellow liberals, we are under attack from the right, both near and far. We're accused of playing politics with judicial nominations, political contributions, the environment, healthcare, the deficit, welfare, religion, social security, motherhood and apple pie. We are veeeeerrry bad people who stand in the way of the Judeo-Christian utopia that the founding fathers wanted for us all. And to top it all off, we are aiding the enemy by playing politics with the war on terror and national security. The only reason that we are not in jail for treason is probably because St. Ashcroft hasn't been able to build enough prisons to hold us all.

The sanctimonious right airily dismisses our arguments as hatred of President Bush, John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld et al. We are gaming the conversation to steal power. Should we succeed, civilization as we know it would end and we would be at the mercy of terrorists and atheists. Friends, this is a giant load of bullshit! Our friends on the right should realize that we mean them no harm. They should also know that WE AIN'T PLAYIN'! We mean business! We are not happy with George W. Bush or his team and we intend to win!

People my age (57) used to have a childlike belief in the presidency too. Growing up I couldn't imagine Ike or JFK deceiving me. However by the time Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon finished with us we learned to question what we were told, especially with regard to war and peace. To this day large numbers of conservatives still believe that liberals prevented victory by questioning that war and the way that it was waged. Sadly, history has shown that we were right. We demanded that people in charge be held accountable. Lyndon Johnson, facing imminent defeat at the polls, decided to head back to the Johnson ranch on his own. Facing impeachment, certain conviction and probably jail Nixon slunk off to his ignominious place in history. Lies were told, mistakes were made and people were held accountable.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. - Thomas Sowell

May I humbly say that the reason that politics is rearing its ugly head in the national security issue is precisely because we think that mistakes have been made and that someone needs to pay the price? We know that Mr. Bush will not quietly return to Crawford on his own. It is doubtful that he has committed an impeachable offense and even if he had it would be too much to expect that Republican lackeys in the House would vote the charges. The ballot box is the sole remedy left to us in this situation and we mean to use it. Therein lays the problem. The warriors of the right say that we don't love our country because we won't support the war in Iraq. They insist that this is just a power grab at the expense of the nation. They argue they we are aiding the enemy and weakening the efforts of our soldiers in the field. We are weak and unworthy of the title 'citizen.'

Look, there is one statement that bothers me more than anything else. And that's the idea that when the troops are in combat, everybody has to shut up. Imagine if we put troops in combat with a faulty rifle, and that rifle was malfunctioning, and troops were dying as a result. I can't think anyone would allow that to happen, that would not speak up. Well, what's the difference between a faulty plan and strategy that's getting just as many troops killed? - Marine General Anthony Zinni

It is our patriotic duty to speak out when egregiously flawed policies and strategies needlessly cost American lives. - Marine Major General William A. Whitlow

I assume that these two generals, no lowly liberals they, are not traitors. I assume that they love their country just as much as the rightest of righties. So for the sake of an intelligent discussion could we just once abandon all of the hyperbole? That means from the left and the right. I won't claim that anyone in the administration is a liar and I won't attribute an almost complete lack of intelligence to the president. In return maybe the mealy mouths of the Bush Brigade could stop saying that single-handedly liberals are going to lose the war, destroy the military and hurl our country into a pit of despair.

I am not a dove in the sense that I would not ever use the power of the military in the defense of my country. In the aftermath of 9-11 I agreed with the strike against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. According to all of the polls most Americans supported that action. I remember no serious opposition, especially from the Congress. The support of our nation around the world was also almost universal. Even to this day most of the important nations of the world are steadfast at our side in our struggle against terrorists. France, Germany and Canada among others all have troops in Afghanistan. Flags flew in front of liberal homes as well as conservative. While there may have been small disagreements about the conduct of the war, they were minor and inconsequential.

Mr. Bush's problems with support started when he turned his attention to Iraq. Very serious opposition in the U.S. and overwhelmingly huge opposition everywhere else in the world seemed not to bother him at all. Significant numbers of Americans including many with much knowledge about the Middle East opposed that war but were dismissed as dovish Machiavellis whose motives for crass political gain were to stand in the way of a valiant leader. I will buy that there probably was some of that - there almost always is. But it might also be said that there were those in the administration whose motives were also not pure.

Nevertheless, the president took the almost universal support that he had in the war against terror and squandered it in what I believe was a very dubious effort in Iraq. Those of us who opposed him were told that politics were supposed to "stop at the water's edge." Excuse me Mr. President, but the burden for support rests upon your shoulders, not on ours. It is your job to persuade us that the action which you propose is wise and necessary. The fact that you did not is your fault, not ours. In all your self-righteousness you proceeded and when things started to go wrong and questions started to be asked you and your minions claimed that it was just "playing politics." May I humbly suggest sir that on the contrary, we are asking for accountability and we do not intend to allow you to besmirch our character or lay your failures at our feet?

Devon Largio, a student at the University of Illinois, has done a wonderful paper on the reasons cited for going to war in her Senior Honors Thesis. After compiling the utterances of all of the key players in the administration she found that 27 reasons had been advanced at one time or another. Of those, six seemed to be in the forefront. They were: lack of inspectors; prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; Saddam is evil; the war on terror; liberation of the Iraqi people; and regime change. Secondary reasons were: because we can; unfinished business; disarmament; connections to al Qaeda; and the safety of the world. There were many others such as a war for oil, revenge, the relevance of the United Nations and for the sake of history. By the time she finished Ms. Largio concluded that it was almost impossible to discern exactly what the real reason was for going to war with Iraq. Imagine that! Who was playing politics then?

Lack of inspectors obviously fell by the wayside early on because we did have inspectors in the country. They took the information that we gave them and they found nothing. We were told that they would be useless because it was too big a country and Saddam would never cooperate with them anyway. After the fact, of course, we have still found nothing of any significance. I don't consider this that big a deal. The President correctly points out that Bill Clinton, the French and German governments, indeed most of the world thought that he had WMDs. I thought that he had them. By itself, I don't think this is particularly damning of the administration but it doesn't speak too well of the CIA. However, when the argument about WMDs is combined with others put forth it becomes much more dangerous.

That Saddam was evil, there is no doubt. But only a moron would argue that that was sufficient for taking the country to war. By combining that fact with a supposed connection to al Qaeda we were asked to believe that we were imperiled and that a mushroom cloud over one of our cities might be the result of our inaction. May I say that this argument was crap, is crap and always will be crap? There was no real connection to al Qaeda and if anyone in the administration seriously believed that they should be relieved of command immediately. But it was a great selling point.

The garbage about the liberation of the Iraqi people and the gift of a democratic government to the Middle East has only come to the forefront because all of the other reasons have proven to be bogus. Those of us who opposed the war are constantly asked if we would rather that Saddam still be in power. Because the obvious answer is that we would not we are airily dismissed as weak and partisan for our arguments. As grand a goal as liberation and democracy might be, does anyone really believe that the mess in Iraq was really worth it for Iraqi liberation especially at a time when we are under attack by real terrorists? Only the sycophants of the right continue to buy it.

I believe that the real reason we went to war with Iraq is a combination of three: because we can; regime change; and the war on terror. Hardliners in the administration believed that it wouldn't be too difficult to overthrow Saddam and that the noble aspiration of a democratic government would be welcomed by the people of Iraq with open arms. By removing the obviously evil dictator and affecting regime change in an easy war our great leader would be shown as strong and decisive in the war on terror. They pushed Iraq into that war to make George Bush look good. Predictably because it proved to be a much more dubious prospect we are left with the democracy in Iraq argument.

Fellow players, this is the reason that 6000 casualties and hundreds of billions of dollars have been expended in this awful war. Mr. Bush has alienated most of the rest of the world at a time when we need them in the real war on terror. His lieutenants have disparaged France and Germany for opposing his folly. They have derided Mexico and Canada for not meekly falling in behind. Canada for God's sake! If you thought about it forever you wouldn't be able to come up with a better neighbor than Canada. He has polarized the American people at a time when we should not be and then blamed it on our lust for power. He has arrogantly asked that we overlook the obvious mistakes in this folly and return him to office to continue with the struggle.

Politics it may be, but there is no play here. George W. Bush has shown that he doesn't have the good judgment to be president. He has gotten us into a conflict that we must not lose and we may very well not win. We desperately need to start working with our partners around the world instead of demonizing them. Regime change in America is the remedy. Politics is the only way that we have of holding him accountable for his incredible ineptitude.

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