Monday, November 28, 2005


Why Republicans Are Desperate to Bait the Antiwar Left

By Jim Sleeper

Mr. Sleeper, a former New York Daily News columnist and the author of Liberal Racism, is a lecturer in political science at Yale.

The uproar in the House of Representatives on the Friday before Thanksgiving over the Republicans’ phony proposal for “immediate withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Iraq revealed not just that their side of the aisle swarms with political reptiles and 40-year-old high-school debaters; that much isn’t news, even to independents like me. What it really showed is that Republicans now desperately need the anti-war movement their Democratic colleagues refused to give them in the vote on the resolution.

Republicans want an anti-war movement like that of the 1960s to cover their own cut-and-run strategy, which has been to send “our brave men and women” to fight while cutting taxes that would pay for adequate armor and benefits, and while dodging the institution of a draft to distribute the war’s burdens fairly; and then to run for re-election on the conservative-Wilsonian philosophy that supposedly drives this dubious grand strategy.

The warmakers’ predicament has become all the more excruciating because it was so completely self-inflicted. Determined in 2003 to show that the Iraq war would be different from the one in Vietnam, they convincingly assailed "deja-vu" Democrats and other dissenters, who were predicting reruns of Vietnam's trumped-up pretexts, massive overkill, and bottomless quagmires.

Iraq is different, the warmakers insisted, but they were right in ways they never intended. They were so successful at deflecting and silencing every warning or doubt that they had no one to blame but themselves when, instead of being conveyed through grateful, flower-strewing throngs on June 30, 2004, Ambassador Paul Bremer III had to be rushed out of the Green Zone two days early, as his American successors may have to be with the desert equivalent of Vietnam "boat people" clinging to their heels.

Nor could Republicans charge that an American anti-war movement had "forced us to fight with one hand tied behind our backs," as Vietnam warriors accused liberals of doing in the 1960s. This time, no Jane Fonda has gone over to visit the enemy and subvert American efforts to win hearts and minds. The Iraq war masterminds have done all of that, all by themselves. It was they who insisted we wouldn’t need more troops than we sent, let alone a draft or fewer tax cuts. It was they who developed the rules and rationales and “culture” that allowed the Abu Ghraib abuses and the systematic outsourcing of torture to gain ground.

And it was the warmakers and their cheerleaders’ whose breathtaking incompetence, hypocrisy, and corruption have put us all in a predicament with no easy solution. New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, an incisive and trustworthy observer, wrote recently of Iraqi democrats who upon Saddam Hussein’s fall realized “that they had to seize the moment,… started newspapers, organized political parties,… called meetings to start a national conversation. Some of them, surveying the psychological ruins that Hussein and his torturers had left behind, formed institutes to teach their countrymen to think for themselves. And now, today, many of these Iraqis … have been shot, tortured, burned, disfigured, thrown into ditches, disappeared. Thousands of them: editors, lawyers, pamphleteers, men and women. In a remarkable campaign of civic destruction, the Baathists and Islamists who make up the insurgency located the intellectual heart of the nascent Iraqi democracy and, with gruesome precision, cut it out. As much as any single factor, the death of Iraq's political class explains the difficulties of the country's rebirth. The good guys are dead."

By voting against the resolution for immediate withdrawal, House Democrats discredited what may well be Republicans’ final effort to shift the blame. Efforts to tie Rep. John Murtha to Michael Moore and to get liberals on record calling for “immediate withdrawal” haven't worked any better than efforts to “swift-boat” Cindy Sheehan or Joseph Wilson or any other dissenter. Those who conceived and conducted this war so disingenuously, incompetently and corruptly can’t cut and run from their responsibility for it by blaming anyone but themselves.

You're on fire today. That's a bunch of good articles you've got up.
just tryin to catch up
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