Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Triangulation for War


Over the weekend, a spectrum of liberal responses to Cindy Sheehan came into sharper focus.

The message is often anti-Bush… but not necessarily anti-war.

Frank Rich spun out his particular style of triangulation in the New York Times. While deriding President Bush’s stay-the-course stance, Rich also felt a need to disparage the most visible advocate for quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Putting down Sheehan — and, by implication, the one-third of the U.S. public that wants all American troops to exit Iraq without delay — Rich’s column on Sunday mocked “her bumper-sticker politics” and “the slick left-wing political operatives who have turned her into a circus.”

Rich criticized “the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.” Yet, in effect, he was willing to help rubber-stamp continuation of the “misadventure” in the present tense.

The president, Rich lamented, “pretends that the only alternative to his reckless conduct of the war is Ms. Sheehan’s equally apocalyptic retreat.”

Equating what George W. Bush is doing with what Cindy Sheehan is advocating? Is there really an option for non-reckless “conduct of the war” that would be better than ending the U.S. war effort in Iraq?

Rich praised Sen. Russell Feingold’s “timetable theme” — along the lines of getting U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of next year. That would be a “target date,” Rich explained approvingly, “as opposed to a deadline.”

But no realistic explanation is available as to what conditions will exist in December 2006 that won’t exist in December 2005 in Iraq. Are we supposed to believe that all the Americans who die next year — and all the Iraqis they kill and all the Iraqis who die at the hands of other Iraqis incensed by the U.S. occupation — should be ultimately sacrificed so that pundits, politicians and their reliable sources can wait a decent interval before (in Rich’s words) “our inexorable exit from Iraq”?

For that matter, we should question just how “inexorable” a U.S. exit from Iraq is. After all, it’s hardly certain that the worst and dumbest or the best and brightest in Washington will opt for evacuation of the U.S. military bases in Iraq. And can we really assume that the president will order complete withdrawal from a country with so many billions of barrels of oil under the sand?

While many anti-GOP pundits insist that a fast withdrawal is no way to go, numerous leaders of the Democratic Party are even more eager to triangulate. “Senior Democrats sought to distance themselves Sunday from Sheehan’s protest,” the Washington Post reports. On a Fox network show, Sen. Byron Dorgan said: “If we withdrew tomorrow, there would be a bloodbath in Iraq. We can’t do that.” Yet a bloodbath is already well underway in Iraq and shows no sign of abating under the U.S. occupation.

Meanwhile, a more overt pro-war position is explicit from the Washington Post, which seems bent on replicating its blood-soaked history of editorial support for the Vietnam War.

In August 1966 the Post’s owner, Katharine Graham, discussed the war with a writer in line to take charge of the newspaper’s editorial page. “We agreed that the Post ought to work its way out of the very supportive editorial position it had taken, but that we couldn’t be precipitate; we had to move away gradually from where we had been,” Graham was to write in her autobiography. Many more deaths resulted from such unwillingness to “be precipitate.”

In August 2005, while noting the latest setbacks for the U.S. agenda in Iraq, the Post’s editorial on the last Saturday of the month did not waver — and was certainly not precipitate: “There is no cause for despair, or for abandoning the basic U.S. strategy in Iraq, which is to support the election of a permanent national government and train security forces capable of defending it with continuing help from American troops. But it is dispiriting, and damaging to the chances for success, that President Bush still refuses to speak honestly to the country about the challenges the United States now faces, or how he intends to address them.”

This is an inventive proclivity of the Washington Post and many other corporate media outlets that are eager to advise the president on how to build a better war trap.

Meanwhile, by any measure in this country, the summer has brought a grassroots upsurge of insistence that the Iraq war is not suitable for tinkering or for a long goodbye. On Monday, two days after the Post published its editorial claiming that “there is no cause for despair,” a news article in the paper quoted one of the activists who has been working for years against this war. Nancy Lessin, a co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, is working on preparations for bus tours that will soon depart from Crawford and travel various routes to Washington, with activists aboard from MFSO, Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Veterans for Peace.

“The questions that Cindy Sheehan has for George Bush are now questions for members of Congress and decision-makers across the country,” Lessin said. “We are not here to make deals with the lives of our children. We will be calling on all decision-makers to bring the troops home now.”

Commentators who dismiss such a plea as “bumper-sticker politics” have failed to truly grasp the significance of the Vietnam War and its somber memorials, including the one in Washington. Those pundits do not comprehend the writing on the wall.

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of the new book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”



Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
Lara Gardner
Why I’m Not Voting
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017