I guess we'll annoy some people here today. Ah, well, yes, and who's surprised about that? Anybody expecting this corner of the page to deliver comfortable conciliation will long since have learned to seek elsewhere. We come seldom to encourage enthusiasm for the quality of our present accommodation and the solidity of its ride. Alarm more often is our message as we hurry from car to car crying out that the trestle is gone, the engineer drunk or dead, the fireman and conductor about to jump into the puckerbrush with the mailbags full of payroll cash and pension checks.
What may surprise even regular readers, if I can tie my thoughts into a coherent package before the editor comes 'round to tell me I've used up my space and the patience and tolerance of God Almighty his own self, will be just how comprehensively offensive I can be, perhaps alienating right, left and center to such a degree as to engender a true bipartisanship of outrage, although each of course shall be aghast at different points and paragraphs.
I have kept myself in line since the twenty-second of January, when last I confronted this topic. In five columns since then I have presented my thoughts on 1) the quality of editing my pieces endure (a subject itself suggested by a disgusted reader); 2) Sonny and Cher Muslims, a pleasant diversion containing some small kernels of deeper thought that may have passed unnoticed; 3) Maine town meetings, a subject I return to periodically and in the furtherance of which I only incidentally, for contrast, ridicule other, lesser towns than my own; 4) Don Imus, in which piece I appear to have extolled the virtues of both free speech and vulgarity; and 5) a particular, expensive brand of hardware (screws) I like and buy and use, together with appreciative comments concerning several salespersons involved with the product and some general ideas about universal brotherhood and the meaning of interpersonal relationships, honesty, integrity and the value, even to the disaffected, iconoclastic, surly writers of unwieldy essays, of a little bit of the human touch.
So it does seem about time for something just a bit more tart, doesn't it? OK. Give me ten minutes more and we can both have this behind us.
Subject: The War. Reference: The Republicans. Conclusion: You can waste your summer praying in vain for these people to reconnect with reality. "Stay the course"? What course? The "Surge"? More like a great Flush-more money (billions), more bodies, more social, economic, environmental, spiritual ruin. Stay until we win? Tell me what winning looks like. Until "We get the job done"? What job ? If killing every Iraqi who might now or soon or someday develop a hatred of American policy (different, please understand, from hating America or hating Americans or hating freedom) is our goal, our endgame, our exit strategy, then load up the nukes and let the games begin, because a war of total annihilation we can win, in short order. With, of course, its own consequences, known, unknown and (God, I miss Rummy!), unknown unknown.
But you and I are no safer for one more day or dollar of war. We are in fact less safe the longer we throw our weight around in this country we've devastated because of a series of lies too many of us were too eager to believe. Saddam is dead. Feel better? Saddam was a clown, a jerk, a bully. He gassed the Kurds with Rumsfeld's blessing. Rummy's Gone; Saddam's gone. Mission Accomplished. Here's the irrefutable truth: George Bush and Dick Cheney are responsible for many more dead Americans than Saddam Hussein ever was. And (if any of us cares), more dead Iraqis than Saddam, too.
Support the Commander In Chief? Why? Look, I sort of feel sorry for the guy. He was doomed by birth. Had he been adopted into a decent blue collar family of modest means he might have grown up and found an honest job in the construction trades. I think, with direction and encouragement, he could have learned to sand drywall effectively; possibly, with enough practice, he might have learned to apply tape and mud. But President of the United States? The crop of half-crazies and dim bulbs and religious zealots vying for the Republican nomination are pleased to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, a dead B-movie actor and shill for Boraxo who slept through cabinet meetings, but none too eager to be seen in public with W.
So we need to elect a Democrat. Do we? Didn't we do just that last November? Gave 'em a majority in the House and another in the Senate and, according to every proper columnist and commentator I've read or heard, sent 'em a message. The message? Stop the war. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid said they understood. In their way and in the fullness of time, nothing sudden or precipitate or radical, you understand, they produced a bill to fund the war a majority of voters want to get out of. Fund it big-time (yes, many more billions) with some minor recommendations and meaningless "benchmarks" for measuring Iraqi performance. (Yes, the conventional wisdom now assigns blame for our fix to the Iraqis, for failing to "step up".)
Well, W. said that timid bill, which gave him every dime he wanted for bombs and blood and his buddies at Halliburton, gave comfort to "America's Enemies" (by which I guess he probably didn't mean Dick Cheney, although I'd give him Public Enemy Number One status) and he'd not sign it. So the Democrats talked among themselves about compromise. They had a meeting with the president. They talked about funding for two months at a time. They talked about some "advisory" language they might slip in to the grant of funds. Bush stood firm against "tying the hands of our commanders in the field" even as one of those recently in the field bought TV time to urge us to get out and go home and stop killing them and fooling ourselves.
Before Bush vetoed the first bill candidate Obama said Congress should send him a second bill that he would find palatable enough to sign. Candidate Clinton said if she'd known back then what she knows now.... She did know. We all knew. Some of us chose to not admit what we knew, even to ourselves. It was war fever time. The handwriting was on the wall. It was get Saddam, show the big stick, kick ass, smoke 'em, burn 'em, make somebody pay. It was wrong then, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Reid. It's wrong now. Are you against the war, Congressmen and Congresswomen? Of course you are, all but thirteen Democrats. Should we cut our losses? The public says yes. Every day we stay we get further into the hole. Every night Public Television shows the pictures of our dead children "as their names are made public and as photographs become available." There is no "win." There is only an end with today's toll of dead or tomorrow's or next week's, thirty-five hundred or four thousand, a hundred or so a month.
We'll leave eventually. We will not have won. We will only have wasted an as yet undetermined amount of money and killed some greater number of men and women and children. We kill children every day, you know. Shoot 'em, bomb, 'em, burn 'em. Are we proud of that?
Congressional Republicans are increasingly embarrassed by their president. Some are even ashamed of him, possibly of themselves. None of them wants to run for office or field a Republican candidate for president with this war still surging. Democrats, I think, wouldn't mind seeing it still festering somewhat closer to election day. I know that sounds cynical, but how else can we interpret their half-hearted, weak, enabling legislation? This war is bad, it's wrong, it's stupid. It's ruined Iraq, damaged America's reputation, and made every one of us less secure. Support the troops? Sure thing. Send Bush a bill directing him to disengage with all speed consistent with the safe extrication of our men and women and those Iraqi interpreters and allies and employees whose association with us puts them and their families at risk. Give him enough money for airplanes or troop ships or trains to Turkey -enough to bring them home.
Every dead soldier since the new Congress convened may now be laid equally at the threshold of Democratic as well as Republican conscience. It's just this easy, Senators. Use it without royalty or attribution; I give it to you because few of you seem able to compose such a thought out of your own minds and hearts: I support our troops and will vote to stop paying to put them to death in this war which serves no worthwhile, decent, humane interest and cannot be won according to any rational use of the term.
Bush will veto any funding bill you send him if he doesn't like the language. He'll whine that cutting off funding is un-American. That was an effective strategy five years ago; it worked well enough even as he rejected the recommendations of his own Baker Commission and sold this preposterous "surge" idea (if what we're doing isn't working, we'll do it harder and faster). It won't work now. It took six years, but here's what we all know now: the president is a loser, his election and re-election were terrible mistakes, and the war is undermining the moral foundations of our once-great country.
Anybody who likes this war should sign on to it. Send his or her son and daughter. Send the Pentagon a generous check toward the cost. Support the troops? Go die in the desert so they don't have to. Yellow ribbons tied to a power pole or a string of made in China toy flags along a bridge rail don't do the job five long years into the butchery.