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“[T]he collision of the public’s clarity of mind, the president’s relentless pursuit of defeat and Congress’s anxiety has paralyzed us.”
Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, The Washington Post, February 11, 2007
As the people’s elected representatives in the House and Senate engage in their favorite pastime of apparently endless talk and counter-talk, the ravenous monster created by reckless politicians and their hustlers continues to tear apart bodies, minds and lives in Iraq. Consider the following reasons for prolonging this “relentless pursuit of defeat.”
1. The Pentagon. The United States’s military/industrial/privatization “complex” wants a major funding increase to replace the tons of high-priced equipment used in Iraq’s cruel and grinding theater of operations. In addition, the Pentagon wants a major increase in enlistments. The longer the conflict over there, the greater the chances will be that Pentagon dreams can come true. Some players see it as the duty of military personnel in combat to sacrifice their time and their lives to maintain the nation’s military might. This growth fertilized by cannon fodder means the growth of new Defense Department arms and legs, unlike the circumstance faced by men and women relentlessly put in harm’s way.
2. Democrats. Anxiety on the part of some Democrats is related to a wish that the Iraq debacle will continue (and continue to deteriorate) into the next election, giving their party an even bigger win in November. When pressed about the tepid effect of passing a non-binding resolution, the standard response from party leaders: this is only the beginning of an unspecified process. Democrats are characterized as fearful of cutting off funding for the Bush-instigated war escalation, worried that they will be smeared with allegations of not “supporting the troops.” Democratic leadership seems reluctant to make the self-evident case that terminating funding for the “surge” supports the best interests of our men and women in uniform and will save money and lives.
Out campaigning, Hillary Clinton has avoided renouncing her vote to support what she now calls “an ill-conceived plan, an incompetently executed strategy.” On Capitol Hill, committees now led by Democrats are beginning to hold accountability hearings, but the prospect that most or all of these hearings will result in ending the Iraq mess before the 2008 election is questionable. The rhetoric denouncing President Bush and Vice-President Cheney will surely continue for the next two years, but if they are permitted to leave office without facing impeachment hearings, the two men most responsible for fiscal irresponsibility, arrogance and profound tragedy are going to escape being held to account.
A majority of the public may long for courageous political leadership, but it seems doubtful a majority of Democrats or Republicans is up to the challenge. More death and destruction. Is it really a price worth paying so ambitious and cynical men and women can remain in national office?
3. Republicans. As with Democrats, Republicans are conflicted over Iraq, but most seems willing to risk defeat in 2008 because they lack the will (or the intelligence) to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. So the bloody poker game played by conniving windbags deals yet another hand, hoping that strategy and bluff will pay off when all the chips are on the table. Despite his unpopularity, George W. Bush may still have the magic to raise big bucks for Republicans after he stays the course and leaves office unimpeded and unimpeached.
Just like the obsessed husband who knows it’s wrong but still can’t stop beating his wife and children, Republicans can’t “do the right thing” by immediately initiating the investigation and impeachment process against an administration they know to be corrupt and unbalanced. We have regressed a long way since Barry Goldwater went to the White House and confronted his president with the truth.
The President and the Vice-President. Our nation’s current two leaders (if that appellation still applies) plainly hope to pass on the Middle East crisis and their War on Terror to the next generation of political hopefuls. They can claim to have stuck to their guns, have done the best they could, but in November 2008 it will be time for someone else to clean up the blood and treasure spilled by their administration in pursuit of — something or other, we’re not sure just what it was they were after beyond a triumph of the will.
Their monster grinds on, destroying lives, cities, government programs and careers. Tomorrow and in days to come, death-rattle voices will drown out the common sense and reasonableness of men and women such as William Odom and others who care more about human decency than playing to win a politically-infected game of chance. And so: how many more must die so those who have already died will not have died in vain?
DOUG GIEBEL lives in Big Sandy, Montana. He welcomes comment: firstname.lastname@example.org