[I wrote this post almost three months ago and kind of lost track of it. In light of the sectarian clashes in Iraq this week, the added discord of the "cartoon war", and the continuing insurgency, I think it is perhaps more apropos than when I wrote it.]
I actually am a little unnerved, tacking my theses on a blog for the world to see. It is scary given the fear abroad in our country. I can see some readers seeking to shush me or embarrass me if they think I am un-American, as some would. On the other hand it is nice to be able to express my views with less likelihood that someone will misinterpret my words as personal attacks. They are addressed to the internet. No one can feel that I am forcing my opinions on them: they don't have to read it. It has been good for me to have to research and support my opinions. It has helped me clarify them to myself and I have changed some of my opinions in the process.
Some folks were a little taken aback at a post a while back comparing Bush to McCarthy. I'm not sure that the McCarthy blog was quite ready. But I stand by the basic tenets in it.
The post came about because I looked up McCarthy on the internet when I was researching for an earlier post. I was just dumbfounded by how similar the words of McCarthy and those who supported him were to the people that I think are just as foolishly following the line of the neo-conservatives after the attacks of 2001. Everywhere, the people I admire are called "Anti-American" or Un-American". It is possible we are wrong, I don't think so. But right or wrong we are not anti-American any more than Truman was, or Marshall, or Edward R. Murrow, or the actors, poets, artists, civil-rights workers, union leaders, and others who were smeared as un-American by the McCarthy era right-wing. Michael Moore is not anti-American. He has not always been right, but he loves his country as much as the rest of us. I challenge you to read his words. He wants what he believes is best for America, just as you and I do.
I have virtually no respect for George W. Bush. I believe he sold his soul to become president. I think he is shallow. I think he is horribly mistaken and unwilling to face his own errors. I think he surrounds himself with yes-men and refuses to listen to contrary views. I think he is an insecure man who covers his frailties with bluster and swagger. But I don't accuse him of being anti-American. I have to believe that even that little man loves his country and hopes that his mistaken policies will work out for the best for America.
I think there are very real similarities to the McCarthy era. I remember being terrified of nuclear annihilation as a child. I sometimes had difficulty sleeping. I wondered seriously if I would live to grow up and if there would be a society worth living in if I did. Once Russia got the "Bomb" Americans were very frightened of Communist designs on the world. It was a legitimate fear. There was real war going on, in Korea, during a big part of that time. And the new "Cold War" was even more terrifying in some ways. And there is ample evidence that there were lots of frightened Americans. Nixon used the "Red Scare" to get elected Senator from California. McCarthy used it to stay in power when it looked like the folks in Wisconsin were going to send him home. Then, as now, the biggest fear was the nuclear threat.
I am trying to wrestle with what I believe should be done in Iraq, given the quagmire that Bush has given us. I'm not completely sure yet. I don't think denying the truth helps. I do not believe we should "cut and run". But if the situation has gotten to the point that John Murtha believes we need to leave sooner rather than later, I have to believe that is right. Even our own generals have admitted that our presence fuels the insurgency. There is no legitimate argument that so many terrorists would be in Iraq without us there. I suspect that we should not set a hard and fast schedule of a drawdown but rather a withdrawal plan tied to benchmarks of Iraqi and/or Arab replacements. I suspect we will have to keep "over the horizon" forces available for a longer time. But I am happy for those to the left of me to keep up the pressure on Bush. He has already moved a little. Even he can see the mess we're in, whether he admits it or not. I think the Iraqis need to know that we are leaving and leaving soon. That will force the Iraqis to get ready for self-government and it gives the would-be terrorists less reason to blow themselves up to get us out.
In 1991 Dick Cheney understood the hazards in Iraq:
"I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place.
What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?
I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President [Bush 41] got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq."-Dick Cheney, Soref Symposium, 4/29/1991
If you believe the polling, a huge majority of Iraqis want us out and almost half don't blame the insurgents for fighting us. It reminds me of the common refrain among Southern soldiers during the Civil War when Yankees asked them why they were fighting: "Cause y'all are here!" Southerners were far from unified in the desire for secession, but they were almost unanimous in fighting to defend themselves against invaders, even when they agreed with the politics of the invaders. Nobody wants their country overrun by foreign troops even if they speak the same language and have similar customs. Iraq is occupied by soldiers who speak a different language and have repulsive (to them) personal habits and personal morals and who have little or no appreciation or respect for the Iraqi culture and traditions and religion.
I agree with the 1991 Dick Cheney: there is just no good outcome to this mess, and that was obvious, to me, before we went in. I wish Kerry, Clinton, and others had been less supportive than they were. But voting to give a President authority is not quite the same as using that authority prematurely, as he did. And they did not "hype" the war, as he did, by subtly linking Iraq to the 2001 attacks to the extent that a big majority in polls said there was a connection that even Bush admitted there wasn't. Kerry & Co. didn't use discredited "intelligence" to mislead the public, Bush did.
Whenever we leave there will be a period of chaos in Iraq. As Cheney intimated, the Sunnis hate the Shi'ites, the Shi'ites hate the Sunnis and they both hate the Turks, the Kurds, the Jews and the Christians. Minorities in Iraq are in for continued persecution. I certainly wish someone had stopped the Vietnam War sooner. I don't think it could have ended worse, ending sooner.
Our nation will continue, I hope, when we are out of Iraq, whether we leave in 2006 or 2012 or 2018. I hope Iraq will be peaceful then. My primary concern, however, is for what kind of country WE will have. Bush acted foolishly, at best. We need to make sure that this time a lesson is learned, and we stay out of similar messes in the future. We need to rebuild our alliances, restore trust in our government, bring a modicum of unity to our people, and protect ourselves from the new terrorists Bush's policies have created.
[You may be interested in reading Sen. John Kerry's opinion of what to do in Iraq from a speech last October.]