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The Politics of Surrender

REP. John Murtha, in a speech that said nothing about his own responsibility in voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq, calls for the immediate redeployment of U.S. forces, on the ground that the war is not going “as advertised.”

Ungrateful for small favors, the White House promptly accuses Sen. Murtha, the first Vietnam combat vet to serve in the senate, of advocating “surrender to the terrorists.”

Such a charge goes well beyond the ordinary rough-and-tumble of politics, even as played by Cheney, Rove and Bush. The significant thing to me is not the sheer routine dirtiness of the attack on Murtha. It is the fact that the administration chose this moment to introduce the word surrender into the debate.

It is as though the urgent question were no longer, did the White House lie the country into war, but rather, should the United States surrender the battlefield, or continue to bear unacceptable losses in a war it clearly cannot win.

It would not be the first time an American administration has accused an opponent of advocating precisely what it would dearly love to do, if it only dared. By many accounts, the Bush White House would like nothing better than to surrender Iraq, assuming it could find anyone to surrender it to.

Notwithstanding the plausibility of arguing that the U.S. effectively surrendered in Afghanistan, when it allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora, let us agree to think about the unthinkable — an American surrender — for a moment or two.

Surrender is as American as Robert E. Lee. Defeat is as American as Custer, who underwent what the late Vine Deloria, Jr. called a “sensitivity-training session” at Little Big Horn.

A clear majority appear to believe that the country would have been better off had it never invaded Iraq. Would Iraq have been better off? Do we presume to know?

If we remain in Iraq long enough, the question will one day be, not should we get our troops out, but can we get them out.

The sad fact is that the real American surrender has already taken place, and many of us don’t even know it. We have surrendered our government to two political parties who both insist that we must “stay the course,” majority will be damned.

We have surrendered the White House to a cretin, the Congress to corporate corruption and cowardice, and control of our armed forces and intelligence services to people who commit torture in our name. Gore and Kerry surrendered elections to Bush, and to this day most leading Democrats shudder at the very thought of being linked to an anti-war movement. “Dupes ‘R Us” seems to be their current mantra.

Apart from Murtha, do you see any Democrats standing up in the well of the House or in the Senate and demanding, as Bobby Kennedy did, “Mr. President, stop this war”? No, they are pleading that they were “misled,” although millions of people in the streets evidently were able somehow to figure it all out before the invasion was launched.

I find nothing to suggest that Iraqis care a whit about weapons of mass destruction, Colin Powell humiliations, unread memos, forged documents, White house leaks, or bad reporting in the New York Times.

What they care about is the fact that our boots are on their soil.

Bob Dylan once said, “I see people who are supposed to know better, standing around like furniture.”

Even today, we seem to be willing to surrender the best interests of the country for the pleasures of a general sort of “get Bush” mentality, as though it matters to the people of Iraq whether Rove resigns, Woodward whines, Libby talks, or Cheney walks.

Yes, it’s a House of Cards. So what? The point is that, even if the House collapses, the deck is rigged!

If Bush resigns, Cheney becomes president. If Cheney resigns, it’s Hastert, if they all resign, who would it be? A Democrat who voted for the war and believes it would be “irresponsible” to “surrender to terrorism.”

This disastrous war has harmed the United States, perhaps irretrievably. It has harmed our standing in the world, and it has eaten at the social fabric at home. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the trouble we are in as a result. Were the war to end today, it might take a hundred years to repair the damage.

The sooner we can get started, the better.

If Bush were to announce a “surrender” tomorrow, calling it whatever he wished, if he were to cut a deal with the insurgents and order the troops home, would we not then at last see the people dancing in the streets, that we told to expect when coalition forces rolled into Baghdad?

The country might well break into civil war, but it would break into rejoicing first.

Perhaps that is the one image, of Iraqis both Shiite and Sunni, letting the hallelujahs roll, praising Allah for the sight of our backsides, that would cause our own country to be surrendered back into the hands of its rightful owners.

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

He can be reached at: davidvest AT springmail DOT com

Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com

 

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DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

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