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Dissent Isn't Disloyal, Just Corrupt And Shameless

War criminals. (File)

War criminals. (File)

Don’t tell me about the need for national unity. The last thing we need right now is national unity. The urge for unity---sometimes confused with patriotism---is what silenced many Democrats and potential critics as Mr. Bush marched us off to war.

While many of us were skeptical about the need for the invasion, most of us accepted the President’s rationale at face value: Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was prepared to use them. Surely, we thought, the President would not take us to war on false pretenses.

We were wrong.

Never mind that he claims he acted in response to intelligence that all of us, or at least Congress, had access to. That’s another lie. He presented the evidence he had supporting Saddam’s possession of WDMs (including the forged evidence his Secretary of State presented to the United Nations) and suppressed evidence casting doubt on that possession.

The U.N. had inspection teams on the ground in Iraq looking for WDMs. We could have waited.

And so only now are we beginning to have the debate we should have had before the war.

Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, fired the first volley the other day when he called for a rapid, phased pullout of our troops beginning sooner rather than later.

Mr. Murtha, a decorated Marine veteran of both Korea and Vietnam and one of the most hawkish and pro-military Democrats in the House, argued the President’s plan isn’t working.

“This is a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion,” he said. “Our military has done everything that has been asked of them. The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It’s time to bring the troops home.”

The Republican response to Murtha’s proposal was predictable. They attacked the messenger, couching their argument in terms that suggested cowardice on the Congressman’s part. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan likened Murtha to Michael Moore and said his proposal was “a surrender to terrorism.” He was joined in the campaign by Vice-President Dick (If Deferments Were Purple Hearts, I’d Have Five of ‘Em) Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.


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They soon found out that Murtha is no John Kerry.

“I like guys who’ve never been there to criticize us who’ve been there,” he said. “I like that. 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.”

President Bush took a look at his polls (bad) and the public response Murtha was getting (good) and didn’t join in the attack. He told reporters:

“Congressman Murtha is a fine man, a good man, who served our country with honor and distinction as a Marine in Vietnam and as a United States Congressman. And I know the decision to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops was done in a careful and thoughtful way. I disagree with his position.”

Even Cheney, the administration’s house thug, eased off on Murtha. He too called him “a good man.” The Vice-President said he favored an “honest, open” debate on the war. Then he got open and honest.

“What is not legitimate, and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible, is the suggestion by some U.S. Senators that the President misled the American people on pre-war intelligence.” That, he said, was “revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety.”

So critics of the war are not unpatriotic anymore, they’re just corrupt and shameless. That’s progress, I guess.

This administration reminds me of the old Country-and-Western song: "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You, When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life."

As all of this was going on a coalition of Iraqi leaders, in a proposal that echoed Murtha’s, called for setting a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops (us) from their country. The administration’s immediate response was a mumble.

You have to start wondering; whose war is this, anyway?

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul wrote newspaper columns for half a century, beginning with a long stint at the Des Moines Register that made him a household name (in a good way) throughout Iowa. Kaul, who was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary in 1987 and 1999, wrote for OtherWords for many years, right on up to his retirement. He passed away in July 2018 and was lovingly memorialized throughout Iowa, the Midwest, and the journalistic world.

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