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Interviewed at the new WWII monument as Memorial Day Weekend 2004 got underway, former Senator Bob Dole told CNN that "young men and young women make great sacrifices." Funny how the unintended truth comes right out of Washington mouths, if you listen for it and hear it from the right angle, whether hitching a ride on bromides or wrapping itself around the spin cycle like a double helix.
Sometime during the weekend, while the bands played and the commemorative speeches echoed on the mall, and political "enemies" who remained in town for the ceremonies mingled at Georgetown cocktail parties and backyard barbecues, the 800th young man or woman wearing the U.S. uniform, probably someone from the small-town ranks of the poor, became a "great sacrifice" in Bush’s War, preceding in death the thousands of maimed and blinded troops of whom little is heard.
Iraqi civilians, evidently, do not make great sacrifices. They are "unfortunate inevitabilities," examples of the fact that "things happen" in war, like the deaths of seven musicians at an event a military spokesperson says we would be "naive" to call a wedding party.
Whatever one calls it, it is all happening in Bush’s War now, one bloody disgrace after another, and when he appears in public to talk about it, the look on the Boy Emperor’s face is a wonder to behold. Not that you and I will ever behold it up close. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for an ordinary American to get into a Bush event.
It is harder and harder for Bush to find a safe audience, no matter how tight the screening. How will he campaign if he dare not appear in public? Will he speak exclusively at fund-raisers or before military audiences ordered to applaud him? The networks didn’t bother to carry his most recent speech on Iraq. This fact, plus recent polls and Senator John Kerry’s pronouncements on national security (he will bring the troops home "with honor"), all suggest that the shift is already happening. Iraq is fast becoming Kerry’s War.
Just as LBJ’s War became Nixon’s War.
Kerry has already made it clear that he intends to "stay the course." He will do the same thing, but better, he vows. He will do it on a grander scale. He will do a better job of pronouncing the names of the cities we bomb. He will rebuild alliances and get other nations to do it with us. The young men and women of these rebuilt alliances will make great sacrifices, too.
Kerry’s election is by no means a foregone conclusion. Should he win, however, the joys of beating Bush, however intensely felt, could be short-lived. For one thing, whoever takes the oath in January 2005, all signs indicate that the draft is on its way back, meaning that many of the best and brightest, who would have otherwise made "great" sacrifices, will be heading for Canada again.
Among those "left behind," it is not far-fetched to imagine that masses of people who were reluctant to take to the streets in protest of Bush’s War will have no such hesitation with Kerry sitting in the White House. Those who "settled" for Kerry and voted for him, not because they believed in him, but because they thought he could beat Bush, will want to bring forth the issues they suppressed during the campaign. Their ranks will be swelled substantially by Republicans who don’t want to appear disloyal to a Republican president. They are telling each other privately today that Bush’s War is a disaster. They will go public against Kerry in a way that will make Clinton look like a GOP icon by comparison.
The right wing hate machine will be in full throat, but certainly not out of any nostalgia for Bush. Nominated originally for no better reason than because he looked like he could win, he will be despised as a fumbling loser who coughed up not only the ball but an opportunity for permanent Republican rule.
If all this comes to pass, "Someone Else For President," the slogan that will have won the election, may come to ring hollow indeed, and Kerry’s presidency could effectively be destroyed before he takes office, by a war that became his very own the day he voted to authorize it, a vote he shows no sign of repenting, launching us forward into what could well turn out to be a Hundred Year Quagmire.
If a comparison to the Hundred Years’ War seems extreme, ask yourself how soon you can realistically imagine the present troubles winding down, given that the number of people determined to bring down the United States appears to be multiplying daily?
In such a scenario will Kerry, or his successor, eventually require a Kissinger? How many years (or decades) into the war on terror will elapse before top secret feelers go out, seeking a "meeting" with Osama bin Laden or his subsequent followers, assuming they can even be identified by then?
We "cut a deal" in Fallujah, handing it over to people who award 80 lashes and a parade to anyone caught selling alcohol. We have apparently even cut a deal with Muqtada al-Sadr, with the New York Times quoting unnamed Shiite sources as saying that plans are "in the works" to offer him a position in the new government.
What makes anyone think we wouldn’t eventually cut one with bin Laden?
At such a juncture the unthinkable will truly have come to pass, as it did in Vietnam, where only the die-hards still debate the difference between "peace with honor" and surrender.
In any conflict, peace is always the unthinkable, for a while.
"You can crush any country in a matter of weeks," wrote the great poet Willie Dixon, "But it don’t make sense you can’t make peace." If you want a song to join hands and sing outside both conventions this summer, there’s one for you.
DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, just released a scorching new CD, Way Down Here.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com