Try as they might, the Republicans are not going to be able to spin Haditha.
But they sure are trying.
On Friday, when Haditha was brought up on "Left, Right, and Center," the public radio show I do every week, Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley immediately went into spin mode, bringing up atrocities committed by U.S. troops in WWII and claiming that "compared with any other previous war, any other army, ours is behaving with almost immaculate propriety."
It's clear that Tony and I have a very different definition of "almost immaculate propriety" -- assuming, that is, we both read the same jaw-dropping accounts of drugged up, hallucinating, and stressed out U.S. troops, "killing the wrong people all the time..."
But even Tony, like others on the right, was willing to admit that "the propaganda effect" of Haditha "is going to be very substantial."
"Propaganda effect" is a very squishy term, one that, like the ink released by a squid under attack, clouds the real meaning. So let me help clarify what it means:
It means the killings in Haditha -- like Abu Ghraib, like Bagram, like Guantanamo, like all the everyday, unheralded horrors perpetrated on innocent Iraqi civilians -- have made America less safe.
Iraq is producing a bumper crop of newly galvanized and battle-hardened terrorists, and every Haditha is a nightmarish sprinkling of Miracle-Gro on the seething anti-Americanism the war has exacerbated. "America is forcing us to go and join the resistance," said Ahmed Hussein, a relative of one of the victims of yet another attack by U.S. forces being challenged by the Iraqi government.
The good old boys elected because Americans believed they would keep us safer have achieved the exact opposite.
And this is the simple point Democrats need to keep hammering home every day from now until Election Day 2006 -- which will fall less than two weeks before the one year anniversary of the Haditha killings.
"The truth of the matter," Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said after the first Gulf War, "is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it."
Clearly, this applies to the Democratic leadership as well as our soldiers. The Dems seem to be having a hard time grasping that the right thing -- the obvious thing -- is for them to unabashedly say, "We are the party that will bring the troops home." A move that will keep us all safer.
This is the issue that nationalizes the 2006 races. It's the right stance strategically (as Jack Murtha has been saying for months). It's the right stance morally. And it's also the right stance politically.
A prominent Democrat recently told me that he was worried and that he wished the 2006 election was today because he wasn't sure where things would stand five months from now.
Let me clue him in. One thing is for sure: five months from now, we'll still be in Iraq, fighting a counterinsurgency we're not prepared to fight, with more Hadithas -- and a less safe America -- the inevitable result.
If Democrats can make this their defining issue, they can stop worrying about the laundry list of "what ifs" they are now obsessing over: What if people forget about Katrina and Abramoff and DeLay? What if gas prices come down? What if GOP gerrymandering trumps voter unrest? What if the gay marriage ruse works again? What if, what if, what if...
They need to calm their nerves and keep it simple. It's about making us safe, stupid. And keeping our worn-out, stressed-out, missionless troops in Iraq is making us less -- much less -- safe.
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