When President George Bush, during his recent state visit to China, tried to exit — unsuccessfully — through a locked door, he grimaced, sported a mock grin, and then said: "I was trying to escape. It didn’t work." (See picture, upper right.)
That split-second of real-life slapstick is a freeze frame of the American war in Iraq. We’re stuck. And the only way to get unstuck is to get out — and to get out now.
Several days before the hapless Bush took the wrong door in China, Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania — a ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee who voted to support the war, and a retired Marine Corps colonel who was decorated for bravery in Vietnam — made a compelling case for withdrawal:
"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all that they can in Iraq. It is time to change direction."
These are not the words of a tofu-eating peacenik. They come from a blue-collar, mainstream Democrat who is far more pro-military than most readers of this newspaper.
To understand the war, Murtha says, you have to personalize it. He has been visiting wounded and maimed troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the outbreak of the war. The troops are, he says, demoralized.
By going to war without enough troops, by trying to maintain peace without enough equipment against a bloody insurgency that no one foresaw, by forcing troops to serve two or three tours of duty while their families languish at home without proper social support, George Bush has exacted a terrible price from our men and women in uniform.
Murtha, in effect, wants US troops out of Iraq within six months. He calls for a quick-reaction force to be stationed in the region with an "over-the-horizon presence of Marines." These troops would aid Iraqi troops and troops from other nations who, he believes, will fill the void left by the United States.
Studies show that more than 80 percent of Iraqis oppose the continued presence of coalition troops on their soil and that 45 percent believe that attacks on our troops are justified. It’s time for President Bush and his chief apologist, Vice-President Dick Cheney, to ask themselves this: If the people we are trying to "save" don’t want us, what are we doing there?
The answer is simple: Bush, Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the third stooge of the arrogant yet inept trio, are trying to save face.
The price so far: almost 2100 American dead, more than 15,500 seriously wounded, an estimated 50,000 cases of battle fatigue, and reports of Iraqi civilian deaths beginning at 30,000.
For what? A monster of a dictator, Saddam Hussein, is in custody and awaiting trial for crimes against his people. Most of his top lieutenants have been captured or been killed. But in the course of ousting a dictator, we have created a wasteland.
Just as the 1970 invasion of Cambodia by Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War destabilized Southeast Asia and led to the bloody genocide of the Khmer Rouge, so it looks as if our war in Iraq has turned the once awful nation of Iraq into an even worse place. It is no longer an imagined center for international terrorism; it’s the real thing.
As America sank deeper and deeper into the Vietnam quagmire, Senator George Aiken, a craggy-faced Republican from Vermont, offered this exit strategy:
Declare victory and get out.
Senator Aiken was right then; Congressman Murtha is right now. It’s time to bring our troops home.
A WELCOME DEVELOPMENT
The news that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is abandoning the conservative Likud Party, which he helped found, to start a more centrist party open to territorial compromise with the Palestinians is another sliver of hope for those of us who are both dedicated to the survival of Israel and supportive of an independent Palestinian state.
More often than not, the odds of achieving those goals seem minuscule. But it is possible — from time to time — to make something like progress, as the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip demonstrated.
Whether that progress can take root and flourish remains to be seen. Nothing truly substantial and transformative can be accomplished until a viable party emerges from the swamp of infighting that has plagued the Palestinian community since long before Arafat’s death.
Ten years ago, few would have speculated, let alone suggested, that Ariel Sharon — the architect, after all, of Israel’s divisive settlement policy — might be the man who secured Israel’s borders by negotiating the birth of a Palestinian state.
And we’re not saying that will happen. But Israel, through the unlikely figure of Sharon, is taking steps that could lead to peace. What are the Palestinians doing? And what is international public and political opinion doing to spark movement?
The sooner those questions are taken seriously, the sooner another sliver of hope will shine in the Middle East.
Kissy face is not a game you’d expect the New York Times or the Washington Post to play with any White House, let alone with the anal-retentive users and liars who populate the Bush administration.
But that’s what Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times, and Bob Woodward, still of the Washington Post, did. They wittingly let themselves, and unwittingly let the newspapers that employed them, be used by a gang of political scoundrels of the sort the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson called "Greed Heads."
While far from perfect, the Times and the Post have, better than many establishment news outfits, tried to hold the Bushies’ feet to the fire. Too bad they didn’t hold their celebrity journalists to the same standards as the working stiffs. If Bush is guilty, what does that make Miller and Woodward?
Dr. Thompson used to hold that right-wing nuts and Watergate conspirators should have been run naked through the streets of Washington with electric cattle prods. Are we too politically correct to say the same thing today?
Issue Date: November 25 - December 1, 2005
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