Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Is Another War Inevitable?

News Headlines 1/7/08: “Iranian Warships Menace Naval Ships”
News Headlines 1/9/08 “Bush calls Iran 'threat to world peace'”


After the way this millennium has begun, I’ve been increasingly relieved as we’re finally reaching the end of this “war presidency.” Nothing could be quite this bad, though there are a few on the GOP side of the ticket that could try to keep the war times rolling.

Out of the entire GOP presidential field, about the only one I could say had a chance at election is Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Not only is he not quite the firebrand of social discrimination as some of the others, but he at least has a firm understanding of the costs of war. Sadly, it was very disappointing to see how he buckled to the RNC party line during the 2004 election season by being a poster boy for the reelection campaign of George W. Bush (someone who knows nothing of war other than to start them).

Some pundits are even referring to him as the Republicans’ “candidate for change.”

However, with the distance from Bush/Cheney, and the impending end of their term in the White House rolling down the pike, I was hoping we’d find more independence, more sanity and more candor from McCain. This past Sunday McCain was on NBC’s Meet the Press with Tim Russert and had this to say when asked about the Iraq invasion given faulty intelligence. Below is the transcript of this exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: If you had known then, if the intelligence came out and said, "We know that Saddam Hussein does not have biological or, or chemical or a nuclear program,” would you still have voted to authorize the war?”

SEN. McCAIN: Well, obviously, given information that we have changes your decision-making process. But Saddam Hussein was still a threat. The sanctions were breaking down. There was a multibillion dollar Oil for Food scandal in the United Nations. The – every day American airplanes were being shot at. Saddam Hussein had used and acquired weapons of mass destruction in the past, and there was no doubt there was going to be in the future. The problem in Iraq, my friend, was not whether we went in or not, it's the way it was mishandled after the initial invasion.

MR. RUSSERT: Yeah, but, Senator, it's an important question because President Bush... has said, "Even if I knew he did not have biological, chemical or nuclear program I still would go into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein." Would you have?

SEN. McCAIN: I – yes. But the point is that if we had done it right, it's been well chronicled in many, in many books, you and I wouldn't be even discussing that now. The mishandling after the war. Look, I met with a high-ranking former al-Qaeda operative in Iraq recently. And I asked him, "How did you succeed?" He said, "The lawlessness after the initial invasion and Abu Ghraib." And so they were able to recruit people because of the disorder and the mishandling. So you would not be asking me if it hadn't been mishandled, you would've said because we succeeded in an established and stable Iraq, you would've said, "Aren't you glad we went in? Because Saddam Hussein, one of the most brutal, most terrible dictators in history, who fought in several wars, used weapons of mass destruction, invaded his neighbor, is now gone from the world scene." That's what you'd be saying.

MR. RUSSERT: But I think there'd be a real debate with the, with the--amongst the American people if we were told he did not have biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

SEN. McCAIN: If frogs had wings--look, Tim, we can talk about lots of hypotheticals. Would we have, would we have stopped Saddam Hussein from going into Kuwait back in '91 when, when he went in? Would we have, would we have said that the Chinese aren't going to cross--would we have known--if we had known that the Chinese were going to cross the Yalu in the Korean War, would we have done it differently? I'd love to get into thousands of historical hypotheticals with us, but what we knew at the time and the information we had at the time that every single intelligence agency in the world believed he had weapons of mass destruction. So...

MR. RUSSERT: So bottom line, the war was not a mistake?

SEN. McCAIN: The war, the invasion was not a mistake.

There we have it, "if frogs had wings...." After a major attack on two of America’s most important cities by a terrorist group holed up in a completely different country, we were right to take down a totally unconnected player in that whole scenario just because we didn’t like him. America, without any needed act of clear aggression worthy of war, may simply invade and overthrow a leader because we believe he’s corrupt, contemptible and not compatible to our own leaders’ tastes.

"'My country, right or wrong' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" — author, G. K. Chesterton

I’m reminded of the military slogan “My country, right or wrong” which has been an unspoken but unmistakable driving force behind a lot of the political fervor behind the recent move by conservatives towards embracing and validating hegemony. In 1881 it was Gen. Carl Schurz (who later became a senator) who uttered the quote: "Our country right or wrong,” but then followed up with “When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right."

Somehow or another, the last part of this phrase got mired in the swamps of ancient history and never made the trip with the first half. Standing alone as it does in modern America, it’s a very jingoistic phrase with a not-so-sublime connotation: “We’ve got the power to do whatever we damn well please – who cares if it’s wrong, or if we’re being hypocritical. We’ll just cover it up and keep going. Try to stop us!”

“Dogs of war won't negotiate.
Dogs of war don't capitulate.
They will take and you will give,
And you must die so that they may live” — Dogs of War, Pink Floyd


As America has long been the exemplary nation, an arbiter of human rights, a beacon of civil justice, and a shining demonstration of democracy to all other hopeful nations around the world, what message does this send? It’s not as if nobody else has seen this. In the age of information, revisionism of history becomes ever more difficult if not fully impossible.

It’s my worry that Russia or China will someday decide “if America can do this in such fashion, so can we!” How do we counter that, or try to convince them otherwise given our track record?

Sen. McCain has been distinguishing himself from the rest of the GOP field as a distinct choice, an independent choice that isn’t a tool of the neo-con RNC. And yet we see him laying cover for the neo-con Bush/Cheney doctrine. Keep in mind that administration is still seated and still trying everything possible to rattle the sabers and attempt to draw Iran offsides, just to give any reason. And Iran stupidly seems to be doing the same. Will Sen. McCain be the next to grab the saber and brandish?

Osama bin Laden is still on the loose more than six years later and terrorist groups are growing and continuing to plot against the “Imperialist Satans” or whatever name-calling they choose these days. Meanwhile the conservative set is more than willing to keep driving straight on down this road into the pitch black, afraid to look to either side to see the crumbling edges or the steep drops beside the precarious road they’ve taken. And the rest of the country’s along for Mr. Toad’s wild ride – uh, make that Mr. Frog-with-Wings’ wild ride, beating on the back window to stop it. Still, it’s eyes fixed forward, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

So much for change.

“With no cause, we don't discriminate.
Discovery is to be disowned.
Our currency is flesh and bone” — Dogs of War, Pink Floyd

1 comment:

Natasha Yar-Routh said...

The speedboat incident was eerily reminiscent of the Gulf of Tonkin incident wasn’t it? Bushy boy seems bound and determined to get us into at least one more war. I fear that the Deomrats may go along again alas.