Should war-critics go on the offensive and stress the obvious but largely unmentionable truth of the Iraqi war: that our leaders are callously betraying U.S. soldiers dying in a war that cannot be won? Does John Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony, excerpted below, apply today to leaders of both parties who support continued U.S. war-making in Iraq?
What are these young men and women dying for?
Does their sacrifice really offer a reasonable chance of creating an Iraq that will be "an ally" against "extremists", as Mr. Bush claimed on October 21? Or is he wasting their lives because "the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders", as America's intelligence agencies report? And whatever he thinks he is doing, is he IN PRACTICE callously betraying our troops because he is in a "state of denial" about his disastrous mismanagement of this war?
This highly emotional issue will shape American politics for years to come. Leaders who lose a war never take responsibility for their failures, and always wage a post-war - and often successful - campaign blaming critics at home for "stabbing our troops in the back." Henry Kissinger did so after Vietnam, despite the fact that he sent 20,503 Americans to needless deaths since, as in Iraq today, local troops could not succeed where a far stronger U.S. military had failed. And Republicans, who already constantly accuse war critics of demoralizing our troops in the field, will clearly use the "stab in the back" argument to avoid blame for their losing war for the indefinite future.
After the National Intelligence Estimate, no politician can honorably or reasonably suggest that further war-making in Iraq is strengthening U.S. national security. The issue is not what "should" we do but what "CAN" we do. It is as dishonorable to justify sending U.S. soldiers to die in Iraq on behalf of fanciful plans that will never be implemented - such as fairly dividing Iraq up into Sunni, Shiite and Kurd regions - as it is for Mr. Bush to claim his occupation of Iraq can succeed. A Kenneth Pollack dishonors himself when, like so many others, he supports U.S. troops continuing to die in Iraq while admitting "the odds of success are poor". ("What Next?", WP, 8/20/06).
Yet, largely because they fear the charge of "traitor", even critics of Mr. Bush's failures - Senator Warner, Jim Baker, most Democrat leaders - support continuing to betray U.S. soldiers by sending them to die in a war that cannot be won.
But what do the rest of us do? Do we avoid this issue for fear of ourselves being called traitors? Or does genuine patriotism require us to support our troops by urging their immediate withdrawal, and pointing out as forcefully as we can whom their real betrayers - in both parties - are?
Do Kerry's words apply today? Should this issue be more forcefully raised now? What do you think?
LATEST NEWS FROM IRAQ (Emphasis added)
"The deaths of the Marines raised the October death toll for American troops to 78, surpassing the year's previous high figure of 76 in April. With more than a week left in the month, October is on course to be the deadliest month for American service members in two years."
-- "U.S. sees deadliest month of '06 in Iraq", AP, 10/21/06
"Attacks and sectarian fighting have flared beyond Baghdad in recent days -- from Amarah in the south to the Tigris River town of Balad and the northern city of Mosul ... Sunni insurgents have also been staging bold military displays in the vast western province of Anbar, which a senior U.S. military officer this week described as "an al-Qaeda stronghold ... The eruption of violence around Iraq comes as thousands of U.S. reinforcement troops are tied down in aggressive operations to secure Baghdad, where attacks have nevertheless surged 43 percent since midsummer in a trend that an American general there this week called `disheartening.'
-- "Bush, Rumsfeld Defend Strategy - They Say Surge In Violence Won't Change Iraq Goals", WP, 10/21/06
"A report released by the U.S. Department of Defense in late August said there were 10 times as many sectarian attacks in July as there were in January in Iraq."
-- "Dozens Of Iraqis Killed in Reprisals, River Towns Trade Sectarian Strikes As Militias Move In", WP, 10/16/06
"Militias are further splintering into smaller, more radicalized cells, signifying a new and potentially more volatile phase in the struggle for the capital. Senior U.S. military officials privately acknowledge they do not have the manpower to conduct urban sweeps in every neighborhood or prevent areas they have cleared from again becoming havens of lawlessness and killing."
-- "Militias Splintering Into Radicalized Cells", WP, 10/19/06
"The chief of the British Army has called for a pullout of British troops from Iraq `sometime soon' ... Britain should `get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates security problems' he (said)."
-- "British Army chief calls for Iraq pullout", CNN, 10/13/06
"Shiite militiamen took over the city (of Amarah) in two days of fighting. When the British forces first arrived, southern Iraq was relatively peaceful. By August of this year, just prior to their departure, British troops were constantly barraged by mortars and rockets in their camp in Amarah."
-- "Sadr Militia Seizes Control of Southern City of Amarah" LAT, 10/20/06
"Optimism about the U.S. efforts to train Iraqi forces largely begins and ends with the top brass and Bush administration officials back in Washington ... (Iraqi) Soldiers continue to desert, and the battalion is never at full strength ... the Iraqis' field discipline leaves much to be desired ...the Iraqis were poor shots ... In the middle of an extended gun battle, the (U.S.) Marines were flabbergasted to discover some of the Iraqi soldiers relaxing and eating watermelon instead of manning their weapons."
-- "Inside the Iraqi forces fiasco", Salon, 8/14/06
"Even if Iraqi forces eventually stand up in the promised numbers and fight effectively, they still will need U.S. help in logistics, intelligence, maintenance and other specialized support functions for years to come, said an Army officer experienced in Iraq."
-- "U.S. Military Is Still Waiting For Iraqi Forces to 'Stand Up'", WP, 10/1/06
"Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial law that will allow Iraq to be carved into a federation of autonomous regions, after Sunni Arabs and some Shiite Muslims stormed out of the session in protest. The bill passed the 275-member parliament by a vote of 141 to 0. Opponents of the bill expressed fears that the federalism plan could increase sectarian tensions and push the country further toward civil war.
-- "Parliament Approves Measure Allowing Autonomous Regions", WP, 10/12/06
"Amid the violence, important political developments are also taking place. The Iraqi legislature reached a compromise and set up a process for addressing the difficult issues of federalism and constitutional reform."
-- President Bush, Press Conference, 10/12/06
"Bush said the U.S. goal in Iraq `is clear and unchanging': creating a country that can govern and defend itself and `that will be an ally in the war against these extremists.' Rumsfeld played down the significance of fighting and sectarian violence that have erupted over the past few days outside Baghdad, as U.S. troops in Iraq suffer some of the highest monthly casualties since the 2003 invasion. Rumsfeld rejected the suggestion that this means the U.S. strategy of `clear, hold and build' is failing."
-- "Bush, Rumsfeld Defend Strategy", WP, 10/21/06
EXCERPTS FROM JOHN KERRY'S TESTIMONY BEFORE THE U.S. SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, APRIL 22, 1971 (Emphasis added)
"We found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.
"We listened while month after month we were told the back of the enemy was about to break.
"We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We watched while men charged up hills because a general said that hill has to be taken, and after losing one platoon or two platoons they marched away to leave the hill for the reoccupation by the North Vietnamese because we watched pride allow the most unimportant of battles to be blown into extravaganzas, because we couldn't lose, and we couldn't retreat, and because it didn't matter how many American bodies were lost to prove that point.
:Now we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of Vietnamizing the Vietnamese.
"Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn't have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can't say they we have made a mistake. Someone has to die so that President Nixon won't be, and these are his words, `the first President to lose a war.'
"We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
"We are also here to ask, and we are here to ask vehemently, where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership?"