Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

It’s Time To Wind Down Our Involvement In Iraq

Any political pundit who might have doubted the extent to which the Iraq War, and specifically, our continuing involvement in it, might play a role in the outcome of this fall’s elections certainly received a big wake-up call from Connecticut last week. Joe Lieberman, an eighteenyear veteran of the United States Senate, and a candidate for Vice President in 2000, lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, a previously unknown challenger, whose sole campaign issue was the War.

Lieberman, now virtually set adrift by the Democratic National Party, Hilllary, included, is in the unenviable position of becoming an Independent spoiler, raising the possibility of a new Republican Senate seat. If anybody really needed to take Connecticut voters’ collective temperature on the Iraq War, good old Joe just volunteered to be the thermometer.

There probably hasn’t been a popular war in this country since World War II, if one can say any war was popular. And, the Bush-Cheney Administration having had legitimate, and well-defined objectives in Afghanistan, on the heels of 9/11, certainly took stretching the truth to new lengths with their Weapons of Mass Destruction
cock and bull story.

Most compellingly, after four years of bloody engagement, we appear to be no better off in terms of securing the country, as insurgent forces roam freely throughout Iraq, including the capital, suicidebombing civilians and military personnel, by the many hundred each week. Perhaps, had the Administration listened to the advice of experienced, battle-hardened military commanders instead of rushing in under the theories of people such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, we might have gone into the conflict with sufficient manpower and the right equipment to have gotten the job done two years ago, with far fewer casualties.

Despite George Bush’s declarations to the contrary, and notwithstanding two free elections, the Iraqi government does not appear ready to govern it’s own people, nor secure its border any time soon. Most Republicans, and many Democrats continue to be reluctant to set a date-certain for withdrawal, fearing it would encourage the warring factions to simply wait us out. By that logic we might never leave that quagmire, fulfilling the predictions of some, early on, that we were headed into another Vietnam.

Predictably, Lieberman’s loss triggered a remark from Dick Cheney, intended to put a ‘guilt trip’ on the two out of three Americans who are now against our continuing role in Iraq. Some day, hopefully, in the not too distant future, a Congressional committee will thoroughly investigate just how much the Halliburton Corporation, Cheney’s nest egg, profiteered on the Iraq misadventure. Who is Dick Cheney to talk about terrorists trying to “break the will of the American People?” Where does this man, who five times evaded the draft during the
Vietnam War, come off trying to speak for the will of Americans?” Most of us who were adults in the Vietnam era have come to recognize that war, for the most part, is all about Big Business, and this war has been
no exception. One of the problems with the prosecution of war by the United States since Vietnam has been it’s effective de-personalization by Congress following the suspension of the military draft in the seventies.

Our so-called volunteer Army has insulated members of Congress, particularly the House, from the personal knowledge of war, as well as the possibility of its impact on anybody especially close to them. Oh sure, every Senator and Representative will spew forth with rhetoric on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, but just look at the continual cutbacks in Veteran’s Benefits, and services over the past six years, as we continue to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into a country that is on the brink of civil war over religious issues that have separated the various factions for hundreds of years. Yet, given the choice, each combatant camp clearly agrees that we are the enemy occupier.

We must not make the same mistakes we made in Vietnam. The power to make war resides with Congress. Similarly, Congress can “un-make war.” The American People must make their will known to their Congressional representatives. Never mind the bunk that suggests that wanting to pull our sons and daughters out of harm’s way, out of a war that is going nowhere fast, is somehow unpatriotic. This Administration has no monopoly on patriotism.

Surely, a president, who went AWOL on his Reserve Unit because he was not ‘clean enough’ to pass a blood and urine test, is not the most appropriate Commander In Chief. Those are not his children coming home in body-bags, or being fitted for prosthetic arms or legs. When one of his twin daughters enlists in the armed services and goes into active combat George W. Bush may have something to say worth listening to.

In the meantime We the People have an obligation to the men and women serving our country, not only in combat zones, but, all over the world. That obligation can only be discharged when we once again think of them in a more personal and compassionate light. There is no escaping the fact that many fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a significant number held for second and third tours of duty, are beginning to show serious signs of battle-fatigue and mental exhaustion.

Recent reports of rape and murder of Iraqi civilians by American servicemen, are a clear signal we must not ignore. They are far too reminiscent of Mei Li and Lieutenant Cali. The time is at hand to set a date certain for our departure, thus placing the elected Iraqi regime under sufficient pressure to shape up their forces and take control.

We are not the policemen of the world. God only knows we have enough urgent issues here at home which our resources, human and financial, would be far better used attending to. Support our troops. E-mail, or write to your congressional representatives and tell them to own up to their responsibilities by insisting on a firm commitment, and date certain for our departure from Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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