June 21, 2006

Get Out Now: Just Do It

I was about to start a piece on these issues myself, but I then discovered that Bob Scheer has largely taken care of it already:
How do you triangulate among death, hypocrisy and stupidity? Not at all logically, which is why Hillary Clinton’s dissembling on Iraq has become a fatal embarrassment not only for her, but for anyone who hopes she can provide progressive leadership for the nation. If she has still not found the courage to reverse course on this disastrous war, why assume that as president she would behave any differently?

It is unconscionable that those who can accurately measure the true cost of the Iraq folly in wasted lives and resources—more than 2,500 Americans, tens of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of billions of dollars—dare prefer her to potential 2008 presidential election rivals John Kerry, Al Gore, Russ Feingold and John Edwards, who have all come to speak honestly of this quagmire and our need to extricate ourselves from it.


Sen. Clinton...seems determined to revive the Cold War liberalism that gave us the Vietnam War—which, according to Robert McNamara, the brilliant Democratic war architect who later conceded he himself didn’t believe in that enterprise, took more than 3 million lives.

"I do not think it is a smart strategy, either, for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government," said Clinton last week at the "Take Back America" conference. "Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interests."

This is pure gibberish designed to sound reasonable.


Self-proclaimed "moderate" Democrats, who defend staying in Iraq, like to pretend they are the grown-ups in the argument. In reality, they are like children who have closed their ears to avoid hearing an uncomfortable truth: The longer we’ve stayed, the worse things have gotten, and that will continue to be the case.

It is not the Iraqi government that needs to be pressured by Americans, but rather our own. Clinton needs to stop prattling on about getting the Iraqi government to do this or that wonderful thing before we can pull out.

The country needs an honest debate about the lies that led to this war and the true costs of its continuance. Presumably those Democrats who cheered Hillary last week are eager to win back at least one branch of Congress in the midterm election in order to revitalize our Constitution’s bedrock system of checks and balances and are looking to Clinton to help get them there.

But what check or balance is Sen. Clinton presenting on the most pressing issue of the day? None.
That last paragraph is key: as long as prominent Democrats like Clinton offer only nonsensical, meaningless gibberish about Iraq, the Bush administration's policy will continue on its bloody, destructive course for years, if not a decade or longer. And that policy is no policy at all: it is simply repeating the identical failed actions over and over again, and hoping to be saved by a miracle. Fundamentalism is destructive enough in an individual's own life; as the basis for foreign policy, it is murderous and barbaric, and beyond forgiveness.

It can only be cowardice and the crudest kind of political calculation that explains the stance of Clinton and other Democrats who share her position on Iraq. You would think the Democratic establishment would have learned by now that a strongly principled stand is attractive to voters, and on an issue of immense importance, the demonstration of courage actually motivates people to go out and vote. But habit and playing the game in the same old way feels safer; that's the way they've always played it, and they hope it will work one more time. The Democrats also ought to have learned that Clinton's kind of cowardice and the nonsense that she spouts turns off many voters. They conclude, in effect: "Oh, she's just like all the rest of them." Which means: she's worthless. When lives are at stake and when more lives are lost or largely destroyed every single day, this kind on non-position position is infinitely worse than worthless. It's despicable.

Look, I'm not even a Democrat, and I disagree with the Democrats about a wide range of issues. But I want the Democrats to win at least one house of Congress in the fall, and preferably both. The Bush administration must be stopped, or at the very least slowed down. The Democrats are the only available means of achieving that end. But to the extent Democrats adopt tactics like Clinton's, I do not expect them to fare that well in November -- nor will they deserve to. Cowardice is a very unattractive trait, and voters know when they are being conned and when a candidate stands for nothing but a failed status quo.

What we ought to do about Iraq is not at all complicated. It's remarkably, blindingly simple. First, we had no moral, strategic or legal justification for invading and occupying Iraq. None. No reason ever justified this war and occupation, and no reason ever will. Second, as everyone knows but few will admit, we are now the problem. Not the entire problem, but a very significant part of it. So we should leave. Period.

Set a date six months from now, at the outside. And then leave. Just do it. I and a number of others have been saying this since the beginning. It's long overdue: just get the hell out.

Given the immense, incalculable destruction we have caused, we are obligated to provide significant financial aid to Iraq for the foreseeable future. In light of the damage this catastrophe has already caused to our economy, that is a formidable prospect -- but it is markedly superior to continuing to pour billions of dollars down the drain of this murderous occupation. And we must be responsible for our actions, and especially for our gravely mistaken and immoral ones. To the extent amends are possible, we must offer them. No amount of money will ever make up for the lives that have been lost and those that have been irrevocably damaged, but we must do whatever is possible. That will still not merit forgiveness for our actions, but at least we will have acted with a minimal sense of honor.

For all those politicians who still value fundamental human decency and compassion, Republican or Democrat, this equivocating and craven political cowardice must stop. People are dying and being horribly wounded every single day. It has to end.

Get out now. Just do it, God damn it.

{Added later: For those readers who might wonder, I would describe myself as a libertarian of the old school, as emphatically distinguished from the utterly phony libertarians who sprout up like weeds these days, especially on the internet, and most of whom are the worst sort of apologists for the countless crimes of the Bush administration. I am opposed to all kinds of non-defensive foreign interventionism and, with regard to domestic politics, I theoretically tend toward anarchism. But I emphasize the "theoretically" part of that: today, the major battle is to stop further damage to and disregard of civil liberties and individual rights, and generally to scale back the massive growth of the surveillance, corporatist state. That is path to dictatorship, and we are already well along that road. I'll be explaining all this in much more detail as I proceed through my Systems of Obedience series. I have a lot of that series outlined already, even though only the first part has been written. I expect to discuss the state in general and how it fits into my overall themes around installment five or six. But even in the planning stages, the series keeps altering and being modified in certain ways as I accumulate more material. So I have to ask for your patience with regard to a longer explanation of these very complicated issues.

It's more than clear from many essays here, but perhaps I should add that I consider the Bush administration to be the worst of my lifetime, which stretches back to John Kennedy [and before, but he's the first president I remember at all well]. And I think Bush may finally be considered the worst president in all of our history, depending on what the next few years bring. As far as the potential further damage to our form of government is concerned, I am not at all looking forward to those years -- and I greatly fear what may still happen.

With regard to my view of Bush and the neoconservative movement generally, here's one relevant earlier essay: In Service of the New Fascism, from August 2003. In February of this year, I added some prefatory notes concerning today's alleged "libertarians." As you may have gathered, those comments are not exactly favorable, to understate the matter considerably.)