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Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory

The Republican spin machine has settled on their talking points regarding the Democrat's vote to bring an end to the Iraqi war. As usual, they're singing in unison. To hear the administration, Fox News, and the right wing pundits tell it, the Democrats are — all together now — undermining the troops, micro-managing the war, and leaving us vulnerable to terrorism. The Dem's response? Well, so far, they're all over the map — as usual. Some emphasized that the administration was going to "have to deal with us" as if this were about an inside the beltway power struggle. Others spoke of the House and Senate votes as a harbinger of what a newly unified Democratic Party could and would do. Still other's celebrated it as the first step to ending this war.

All true, and all to the good, but in the war of sound-bites, the Dems are leaving the best arguments on the table. As a result, they'll once again find themselves on the defensive, parrying the unified talking points of the Republicans.

Note to the Dems: It's about the troops, stupid.

Here's what I'd like to hear the Democrats say:

The funding Bills offer Americans two choices.

On the one hand President Bush wants to continue to send our troops over there without the right training; without the right equipment; without the rest the generals say they need to be effective; without the health care they need when they come back; and with no clear plan to end the war. Just as he'd been doing for more than four years now.

The Democratic Party's choice is right there in the title of the House Bill: The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act.

We want to be sure our troops are properly trained; adequately equipped; rested and ready. We want them to be cared for when they come home. And we want to be sure we have a plan and a schedule to get us out of the fiasco the President created -- a civil war that has nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

Then I'd like some steely jawed Democrat — perhaps James Webb — to stare straight into the camera and say, Mr. President:

Don't talk about supporting the troops when you send them off to war without state-of-the-art armor and with substandard equipment;

Don't talk about supporting the troops when you send them off to war without the proper training;

Don't talk about supporting the troops when you send them into harms way without giving them the rest the general say they need to be effective;

Don't talk about supporting the troops when you send them into a war of choice that has nothing to do with America's security, with no clear mission, and no plan for getting them out.

And Mr. President, don't talk about supporting our troops when you fail to provide the funds needed to take care of them when they get home, wounded in body and soul.

And don't threaten Americans with the specter of al Qeada — if you've read your intelligence reports, you know Iraq is a sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. In fact, Mr. Bush, if you're worried about al Qaeda, you should sign our bill immediately — it puts more money into Afghanistan, where al Qeada and the Taliban actually are.

And don't try to scare Americans with hoary stories about a failed state. If Iraq descends into chaos and terrorists set up training camps there, we will simply bomb those camps into the stone age.

Don't pretend "victory" can be won by staying a few more years. It doesn't matter how long we stay — Sunnis and Shiites have been at each others throats for more than a thousand years and the US military cannot force them to love one another by the threat of a bayonet. Having stirred up this hornets nest, you have unleashed the potential for chaos — it can happen next year, or next decade, but leaving 150,000 US troops in Iraq indefinitely to play whack-a-mole with sectarian insurgents is nothing more than a stop-gap measure, at best. Yes, we may produce a temporary reduction in violence, but sooner or later we will have to leave, and then it will start again.

Are we Democrats micro-managing you? Absolutely. You have proven yourself to be immune to facts, impervious to reason, and infatuated with a fantasy that has no relationship to reality. You initiated this war with deceit, launched it in ignorance, and conducted it with incompetence. When the Commander-in-Chief is a worse bungler than Chief Inspector Clouseau, and dishonest to boot, micro-management is the least we can do.

So go ahead, Mr. President, make my day — veto this Bill, and let's go to the American people with our respective choices. If you dare.

That's what I'd like to hear from the Democrats, but it's unlikely that we will. In an age of spinning, equivocating and triangulation, such honesty has gone the way of the straight-talk express, replaced with rhetorical mush.

Too bad. Our troops need and deserve better.

Thanks for your consideration.

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John Atcheson

John Atcheson

screen_shot_2017-07-26_at_9.09.47_pm.pngJohn Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and he has just completed a book on the 2016 elections titled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

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