The war hasn’t even started 

“You can support the troops but not the president.”
—House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tex.

 

Whoops! Did old nasty really say that?

He certainly did. Could it be that all those chemicals he inhaled back when he ran a pest control firm in Texas finally reached his brain?

That’s entirely possible. However, he wasn’t talking about our present fiasco in Iraq, but about President Clinton’s decision to send troops to Bosnia a decade ago. Republicans said a lot of things at the time that now seem grimly hilarious, some of which are on display on the Daily Kos (dailykos.com), one of the very few blogs worth putting down your Superman comic book for.

Karen Hughes, then as now the Shrub’s mouthpiece, said, “If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy.”

Later, perhaps when she had gone to the powder room, Governor George W. Bush himself echoed that, saying, “Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what his exit strategy is.”

Naturally, the war in Bosnia was nothing like our present glorious crusade for freedom and against terrorism in Mesopotamia, or the greater Pan-American Co-Prosperity Sphere, or whatever we are calling it now.

For one thing, we didn’t lose a single soldier in combat in Bosnia.

For another, we did have an exit strategy. And we won.

We aren’t winning in Iraq, of course. We cannot win, we aren’t going to win and even if we could “win,” we aren’t willing to commit the number of troops necessary for enough years to have any chance of success.

Here’s a hint from history. Foreign wars that we won generally had front lines. You could follow the progress of our troops on the map. This was true in both world wars and in the Korean Conflict. There are no front lines in Iraq.

We merely drive around from village to village, and they blow up our men with roadside bombs. Then we shoot up a town or city. We kill lots and lots of them, and make lots and lots of new enemies.

According to The Washington Post, we killed between 4,530 and 6,050 Iraqi military during the initial phase of our invasion. During our occupation about 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, by British estimates. The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health estimates that figure is really more than 100,000.

Does that make you feel a lot more secure? Nearly 2,000 U.S. troops have now been killed in Iraq. Do you feel it was all worth it?

Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother Bush refuses to meet with, is the tip of the iceberg. There will be another mother who refuses to accept the lying banalities about why her son or daughter died — and then another, and another. The polls show support for the war falling, and most Americans now agree it was a mistake in the first place.

We have lost the war in Iraq. In the long run, that probably doesn’t matter very much. Back in the 1960s, volumes of ink were used to predict all sorts of horrible consequences if we lost the Vietnam War. Guess what. We lost, and it barely caused a ripple in the wider world, and the domino theory that predicted godless communism would then spread to Thailand and Laguna Beach was all nonsense, as much so as everything being said now.

Frankly, I don’t care very much about Iraq, though I feel for the people who have been horribly used by their own leaders and now by ours. What I’m really worried about is the war for the hearts and minds of the rest of the world. That, and the war for what kind of America this should be.

Everyone who drives expressways sees tractor-trailer trucks with what amounts to a terribly undemocratic slogan on their back door. Support our troops wherever they go. No aid and comfort to the enemy — No Way! That’s a slogan Adolf Hitler would heartily have approved.

Blind support for the military, whatever they do. The Founding Fathers would have found that about the most terribly un-American thing they could have imagined. But that’s how the gang in control of our government thinks.

They’re polarizing our country, and turning it slowly against themselves. What is even more damaging — though we barely sense it — is what they’re doing to our standing elsewhere. By and large, the world is coming to hate us.

You wouldn’t know this, because the vast majority of even our better media pay no attention. Take Canada, which is by far our most important trading partner, and our closest neighbor. This almost never appears in our press, but we’re in what amounts to a very nasty battle with Canada over softwood lumber, which we import in vast amounts. We’re improperly charging them tariffs on it.

What about NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement? Well, they looked into it, and a succession of impartial NAFTA arbiters has ruled that Canada is right and the United States is wrong. Matter of fact, they say we need to refund $5 billion our government has improperly charged Canada.

And we’re behaving like classic ugly Americans. Rob Portman, a hack GOP politician who’s now our trade representative, says we’ll ignore those rulings and refuse to pay. “What is there to talk about?” a Canadian senator told The New York Times. “The Americans won’t abide by the rule of law.”

Someday, not too far away, we’ll need the oil in Alberta to keep our Hummers running. Behavior like that will certainly help make sure Ottawa does all it can to help us out then, won’t it?

That’s how we treat our most important neighbor, the nation that’s most like us. I’ll bet the relatives of those dead Iraqi civilians really love us.

Eventually, if we persist in making enemies of the rest of the world, we’re going to be overwhelmed by the sheer weight of hostile numbers. That is, if the many millions who are being pushed into poverty at home don’t revolt first.

This isn’t any kind of a testimonial on behalf of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy; as far as I can tell, they don’t have one. The Democrats don’t seem to have any ideas at all, except hoping to inherit the wreckage after the Bush administration crashes.

That’s not good enough. We need a vast national effort to examine America’s future economic well-being, for one thing. And instead of attacking countries we don’t like, we need to try to create an international middle class, as was proposed brilliantly in The Nation magazine some weeks ago.

John F. Kennedy, almost half a century ago, understood that was the key to our future. “To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the Communists are doing it ... but because it is right,” he said in his Inaugural Address.

He also pledged to help poorer nations in this hemisphere in what became the Alliance for Progress. It wasn’t done well enough or for long enough, but he was right. “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich,” Kennedy added.

Nobody remembers or believes those words anymore, but they’re more true than ever, at home and abroad. We ignore them, very much at our peril.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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