Friday, June 23, 2006

Staying the course is politics, not planning
by Gene Lyons

Instead of running for majority leader if Democrats take control of the House in 2006, maybe U. S. Rep. John P. Murtha ought to run for president. He may be 74, but the man knows how to handle himself in a fight, a skill too many genteel Democrats appear to have forgotten. Here's the story: After escaping indictment last week, the new Republican ethical gold standard, White House apparatchik Karl Rove hustled to New Hampshire for a GOP fund-raiser. There he engaged in the kind of cheap smear for which he's justly infamous. Of Democrats like Murtha who voted to confront Iraq but have become war critics, Rove said: "Too many Democrats - it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough and when it gets difficult, they fall back on that party's old pattern of cutting and running. They may be with you at the first shots, but they are not going to be there for the last tough battles." Let's pass over the fact that when George W. Bush presented the Iraq resolution, he vowed that it wasn't a declaration of war. Most people knew better. When Tim Russert played the videotape of Rove for Murtha on "Meet the Press," the crusty old former Marine reacted angrily.

"He's in New Hampshire," Murtha said. "He's making a political speech. He's sitting in his air-conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, ‘Stay the course.' That's not a plan. I mean, this guy - I don't know what his military experience is, but that's a political statement."

For the record, Rove's military experience, like Vice President Dick Cheney's and that of virtually all the neo-conservative architects of this ill-conceived utopian fantasy, is absolutely zero.

Murtha knows about war. A native of the coal-mining and steel-making region of western Pennsylvania, he volunteered to fight in Korea and Vietnam, where he won two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with Combat "V" and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. I'm confident that even at 74, he could kick Rove's pasty posterior with one leg - assuming he could outrun the little creep.

As history, this cut-and-run business is nonsense. It wasn't Democrats who made peace in Korea. It was President Dwight Eisenhower. Democrats didn't dispatch Henry Kissinger to whisper to China in 1972 that the U. S. could live with a communist Vietnam. President Richard Nixon did. He began the long, bloody retreat that ended with the North Vietnamese taking Saigon under President Gerald Ford.

Maybe the oddest thing about the legacy of Vietnam is that the worst thing that could happen, from a rightwing perspective, did happen. The U. S. lost the war. Communists conquered much of Southeast Asia. And the effect on national security ? Well, we got lots of good Vietnamese restaurants out of it. Otherwise, none.

The communists soon fell to fighting among themselves, with Vietnam invading Cambodia, China attacking Vietnam, and the Chinese and Soviet Russians entangled in a blood feud. Next, Russia invaded Afghanistan. Domestic fallout from that bloody fiasco helped cause the collapse of the U. S. S. R. and the demise of communism almost everywhere - also because nobody but a few crackpot professors in the West believed in it anymore.

Exactly why so many like Rove, Bush and Cheney, who avoided Vietnam, subsequently metamorphosed into countryclub Napoleons is mysterious. Personal psychodrama appears to be involved.

It's past time to get real, Murtha says. Invading Iraq was an unnecessary folly.

"We didn't have a threat to our national security. That's been proven," Murtha told Russert. "Second, we [sent ] inadequate forces to get it under control in a transition to peace.... [T ] he third thing was no exit strategy.

"It's no longer a military war," Murtha said. "We have won the military war against [the ] enemy. We toppled Saddam Hussein. The military's done everything that they can do. And so it's time for us to redeploy.... Only Iraqis can settle this."

Murtha didn't say so, but there's no chance of an Iraqi democracy friendly to the U. S. That's a delusion. Bush's photo-op visit merely underscored the point. Three years after "Mission accomplished," and the mighty conqueror flies into the fortified "Green Zone" unannounced and can't trust Iraq's prime minister enough to give him, oh, an hour's notice ? That's not how Alexander the Great did it. Meanwhile, Murtha says, the U. S. is spending $ 8 billion a month while American soldiers are being killed and maimed, physically and psychologically, mainly to provide political cover for Bush. Intimidated by Rove ? Not hardly. "You can't sit there in the air-conditioned office," Murtha said, "and tell these troops - they're carrying 70 pounds on their back inside these armored vessels and hit with improvised explosive devices every day, seeing their friends blown up, their buddies blown up - and he says, ‘stay the course.' Yeah, it's easy to say that from Washington, D. C."

[Originally from The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]

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