Questions for Righties

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Congress, conservatism, Iraq War, liberalism and progressivism

Dana Milbank writes in today’s Washington Post:

In his 37 years in the military, John Murtha won two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with a Combat “V,” and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. As a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania for the past 31 years, he has been a fierce hawk, championing conflicts in Central America and the Persian Gulf.

Yesterday, he was called a coward.

It was as sure as the sun comin’ up in the morning that the righties would smear Murtha for his speech calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Righties have utterly lost the ability to just disagree with someone. Opposition must be crushed.

After Murtha stunned the Capitol with a morning news conference calling for a pullout from Iraq because our “troops have done all they can,” the denunciations came quickly.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) accused Murtha of delivering “the highest insult” to the troops. “We must not cower,” Hastert lectured the old soldier.

Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) informed Murtha that his views “only embolden our enemies” and lamented that “Democrats undermine our troops in Iraq from the security of their Washington, D.C., offices.”

At a rival news conference called four hours after Murtha’s appearance, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), who like Hastert and Blunt does not have military service on his resume, alerted the 73-year-old Murtha that “the American people are made of sterner stuff.” And Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.) said the likes of Murtha want to take “the cowardly way out and say, ‘We’re going to surrender.’ “

Murtha wasn’t surprised.

Murtha, whose brand of hawkishness has never been qualified by the word “chicken,” was expecting the attacks. “I like guys who’ve never been there to criticize us who’ve been there. I like that,” the burly old Marine said, hands in pocket. Referring to Vice President Cheney, he continued: “I like guys who got five deferments and never been there, and send people to war, and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.”

If you really want to read what’s being said about Murtha on the Right Blogosphere you can find plenty of links of Memeorandum today. But you know what they’re saying. They are calling Murtha every vile name they can think of. For example, in a post titled “Democrats Keep Shifting Towards Surrender,” Captain Ed writes,

Rep. John Murtha pushed the national argument on the Iraq War further towards the International ANSWER/MoveOn agenda this afternoon by demanding an immediate start of an American retreat from Iraq, declaring that American soldiers do not have the capability to defeat terrorists. He based his conclusion not on the facts on the ground, but apparently his experience in Viet Nam, which he tossed around like a West Point degree all afternoon long.

This is, of course, a deeply dishonest representation of what Congressman Murtha actually said. But instead of addressing the congressman’s points, such as —

I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

— which must be what Captain Ed mistranslated into “American soldiers do not have the capability to defeat terrorists,” the Right does what the Right always does and erupts into a festival of mud-throwing.

I’d like the righties to answer two questions honestly. Yeah, I know, when pigs fly. But this is the discussion we should be having if rightes were capable of rational discussion:

The first question is What is our political objective in Iraq? I want a concrete answer, not just “peace, prosperity, and freedom,” because those are a tad open ended. This nation was founded (if you count from the ratificaton of the Articles of Confederation) 224 years ago, and we’re still working on those objectives ourselves. We’ve done better than a lot of other nations with them, granted, but even we don’t have them perfected.

I know a lot of you want to say Screw the objectives; let’s just get out. Maybe so, but right now I’m not trying to determine what our Iraq policy should be. Rather, I’m looking at the national discussion we are not having to determine what the policy should be.

I believe the original Neocon vision was to establish a pro-American government in Iraq headed by their buddy Ahmed Chalabi or a reasonable facsimile thereof. The recent reception Chalabi got in Washington makes me think the Neocons are still holding out hope for this. Cards on the table, rightes–is that still the goal? And if so, we need to talk. We need to talk about why the Neocons are stll married to Chalabi. We need to talk about whether a stable, democratic, and pro-American government, with or without Chalabi, is still possible in Iraq. Or, will we settle for any government the majority of Iraqis consider legitimate, even if that government doesn’t like us much, for the sake of regional stability?

In other words, given our current status (assuming we can agree on that), what can we realistically expect to achieve that would serve the best interests of the United States and Iraq? We should consider both the stability of the Middle East and the discouragement of terrorism. We should also consider rationally how much of our military resources we can afford to commit before we weaken our ability to respond to other problems beside Iraq.

Once we’re settled on the objective, we can go on to the second question — Is our military activity supporting that objective? One of Congressman Murtha’s points is that it isn’t. Yesterday the congressman said,

It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

General Casey said in a September 2005 Hearing, “the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.” General Abizaid said on the same date, “Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.” …

…I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won “militarily.” I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.

The congressman is hardly the first person to warn that our presence in Iraq is fueling the insurgency. It is obvious to me we are simultaneously feeding and smothering the same fire. Righties lack the moral courage to address this issue; they just jerk their knees and deny it. But if civilians are being burned with white phosporous, even accidently, generations of Iraqis will remember. Assuming that establishing a pro-American government in Iraq is an objective, pissing off the populace seems counterproductive. At the very least we should be looking hard at our rules of engagment to minimize these little accidents. On the other hand, putting too many constraints on our soldiers puts them at greater risk.

The obvious solution is to expect the Iraqis to fight their own bleeping insurgency. But as Steve M. calculated, at our current rate “the Iraqi military will be able to replace the 160,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq in the year 2592.” No, that’s not an exageration. Based on the Pentagon’s own reports, we’re averaging 22 fully training Iraqi soldiers a month. So unless we can find a way to crank out fully trained Iraqi soldiers a damn sight quicker than we’re doing it now, we’re going to have to make up our minds what “victory” we will settle for. Otherwise 20 years from now the children of today’s U.S. soldiers in Iraq will be fighting the children of today’s insurgents.

The terrible truth that the Right refuses to face is that we could win a military objective and lose the political objective. I’m sure we could, if we really tried, obliterate Iraq, but I think even righties — some of ’em, anyway — ought to be able to comprehend that obliteration would be counterproductive to Iraqi freedom and prosperity and all that. We need to make some firm decisions about how aggressively the U.S. can pursue a military objective without utterly screwing up the political objective.

Congressman Murtha’s contention, stated above, is that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding our political goals. Are there any righties out there willing even to discuss this, beyond “You’re wrong” and “Murtha stinks”? Are our military actions furthering or impeding our political goals in Iraq? And if the answer is “impeding,” then what the hell are we fighting for?

If any righties wander by here and want to provide serious answers to these questions based on factual evidence, they are welcome to do so. Knee-jerk comments or gratuitious insults will, as usual, be deleted.

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9 Comments

  1. merciless  •  Nov 18, 2005 @1:43 pm

    “If any righties wander by here and want to provide serious answers…based on factual evidence…”

    What I love about you, Maha, is your unstoppable optimism.

  2. Swami  •  Nov 18, 2005 @2:44 pm

    No for nothing but to include the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross among distinguished awards is a misnomer. The South Vietnamese government awarded that medal to all soldiers who served under MACV( military assistance command vietnam) and everybody who served in Vietnam served under MACV. The Medal sounds great and looks great and sells on eBay for around $16, it’s only value is to impress the uninformed..I generally don’t speak about how I earned my Gallantry Cross..You know, some memories are too painful to recount.

  3. justme  •  Nov 18, 2005 @2:53 pm

    I asked the same such questions in a political chat room that I visit nightly….this room contains regular people of all political views from extreme on the left to the extreme on the right.
    What I have learned is that NO ONE has done the math here on either side.Remember way back in grade school math class when the teacher wanted you to “show your work” when figuring out a problem? Americans have not done this and it shows.
    Not one person, left or right, could define the enemy.Or a plan on how to find this enemy and stop them.Who are the terrorists?The closest I got to an answer was a very general statement “islamic extremeists”.It seems no one thought PAST that blanket statement at all.If in fact they are correct in defining the enemy, no one can tell me what the plan is to pick these “folks” out from the rest of the arab population.
    Further no one can tell me what winning in Iraq is…define what victory in Iraq would be.How can we ever decide when it is time to come home from a war when there is no clear, universal idea of what winning is?
    How are those who want the troops home being cowards? It seems to me the bushies wanted saddam overthrown and they wanted control of Iraqi oil..MISSION ACCOMPLISHED…we won,, saddam is gone and so is any profit that will ever be made off Iraqi oil…we win,,,,we destroyed the country,, what else do the righties want?Are we holding out to claim victory until Iraq agrees to give former FEMA director mike brown a job?
    I never get an answer from the righties in the chat room, instead I get insulted.And then the left gets insulted,and even people like chuck Hagel end up getting insulted.They never have been able to just ANSWER me until recently,, when I ask who the enemy is the new rightie response is LIBERALS…..I wonder how many of the “terrorists” are liberals??

  4. Bruce K  •  Nov 18, 2005 @2:54 pm

    Barbara,
    You write, “So unless we can find a way to crank out fully trained Iraqi soldiers a damn sight quicker than we’re doing it now, we’re going to have to make up our minds what “victory” we will settle for.” This raises a point I’ve not seen addressed re: the idea of pulling out. The right argues that if we announce a timetable for withdrawal the terrorists will just wait until we leave and then resume attacks. Hmmm..let’s assume that’s true (although they sure don’t seem worried enough about us NOW to stop attacking). If they do slow their attacks, won’t that give us the opportunity to really ramp up the training? And thereby turn over the situation to a more capable Iraqi force?? The argument that they’ll just lay down for 6 months until we leave is either ridiculous (my vote) or a benefit for the Iraqi army. And Fallows’s Atlantic piece makes the point that we haven’t really approached training with the effort you would expect for something of such critical importance.
    Arrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!

  5. Stephen Stralka  •  Nov 18, 2005 @3:24 pm

    Hell, if so many lives weren’t at stake I’d be more than happy to sit back and watch the Iraq debacle drag the GOP down with it. Of course, what people like Hastert and Captain Ed are unable or unwilling to recognize is that a debacle is precisely what we’ve got on our hands over there, and there’s pretty much nothing anyone in this country can do to change that. That, as I understand it, is the point Murtha was making. All we’re getting out of our continued presence in Iraq is more death and destruction, and it isn’t Murtha’s fault the wingnuts can’t tell the difference between cowardice and common sense.

  6. joanr16  •  Nov 18, 2005 @5:06 pm

    Oh no, someone got to The Heretik in mid-sentence!

    “Murtha of God” — I love it! Murtha of All Quagmires? We could have a “We Love Rep. John” pun contest.

  7. bluewave  •  Nov 18, 2005 @5:08 pm

    Yes. And what the Left has to do is stand up fiercely in support of Murtha, AND keep asking these questions in Congress, on the airwaves and everywhere else, to continue to expose the righties total lack of anything real in the way of goals or objectives. It must be seen and POUNDED HOME that Republican incompetence has created the problems in Iraq, not Democratic realism. Otherwise, 40 years from now, the veteran of the Iraq war running for President is going to be slimed as a loser who sold out his fellow soldiers, while the Republican 101st keyboarder candidate who avoided service because he had better things to do will be seen as the hero.

    Democrats and and those who supported the peace movement were right on Vietnam too. The country still hates them for it.

  8. erinyes  •  Nov 18, 2005 @9:32 pm

    The Terrists, the terrists, the terrists….
    What a bunch of crap, brand anyone standing up to the invasion as terrorists.The ONLY way to solve this problem is to pull out of Iraq first thing in the morning, a bloodbath will happen, a bloodbath IS happening right now.Pull the fuck out and prosecute the ass wipes in the AEI, the Pentagon, and the house of Bush.
    If they were REALLY concerned about Terrorists, the would solve the Anthrax attack mystery.The enemy lies within.

  9. jerri  •  Nov 19, 2005 @2:33 pm

    I have found wingnut response to being questioned about their Iraq War confusing. I have learned that any criticism puts them in attack mode (kill the messenger) but still I just don’t get it. Then I remembered this….One summer in the late 70’s I lived in apartment which had an alley in the back. Parking was available in the back of the building off the alley. So my neighbors and I drove down the alley at least 2 times a day. In the am to work and back down the alley after work. Well we started to see dead animals (birds, cats, dogs, raccoons) in the alley about 2 or 3 times a week. These animals were not being hit by cars….they were missing legs or the head was gone and the blood was all over the street. We started to notice that about 4 teenage white males seemed to be in the alley when the poor dead animals would appear. Well the dead animals started to appear every day. We got together and decided to talk to the teenagers. We knew we had to be careful so as not to put the young men in revenge mode. These young men knew our cars and where we lived. We agree to approach them with “We have noticed a lot of dead animal in the alley and if they knew who was killing the animals….could they ask who ever it was to stop.” The response was silence for about 15 seconds…the teenagers just stared at us. Then one stepped forward, just close enough not to invade your personal space, and said “My ass has been kicked before and it can be kicked again.” Is not calling Murtha a coward the same sick reaction? Get caught doing something wrong and issue a woof ticket.

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