Posted at 09:51 AM ET, 12/16/2011
What to make of GOP debaters’ silence on Iraq war
The cruel war is over, and Iraq very soon will be on its own. It has cost the American people about 4,500 lives and about $1 trillion and faith in our institutions and the good will of many in the Arab world and the advantage we once had in Afghanistan — hard to be in two places at once — and so much more. But in the Republican debate last night, the war was hardly mentioned. On to Obamacare and Newt Gingrich’s weird scheme to crack both the courts and the Constitution in one blow by allowing Congress to subpoena judges to have them account for their decision. The man is a Rorschach: If you think he’s sane, then you are not.
But on to the war. It lasted nine years. This is longer than World War II, and it cost us a bundle, and we are now, more or less, broke. We certainly could use the $1 trillion that went into the war, and we certainly could hold George W. Bush accountable for not raising taxes and for squandering Bill Clinton’s surplus. The biggest crater created by the war is at the Treasury Department. This is worth noting…
But little of this was noted in Sioux City, Iowa. The Party of the War, the Republican Party, breezed past the last nine years as if nothing much had happened. The candidates did not rue their support of the war — as I do and did — and they did not say what they had learned from their mistake, and they did not bewail the lies and exaggeration or Dick Cheney and the jaw-dropping incompetence of President Bush and the stunningly wrong statements of Condoleezza Rice.
Appropriately enough, the debate was sponsored by Fox News and broadcast on that network. Fox was the semi-official voice of the Party of War, the enforcer of political conformity when anyone doubted the wisdom of the cause. Their correspondents naturally enough did not question the candidates on the war nor, for that matter, the role their own network had played in the debacle. This was Roger Ailes’s war, and in all fairness he should take a bow.
Just one question would have sufficed: What did you learn from the war, Newt? — or Mitt or Rick or Michele or Jon or Ron or Rick again? Is there a lesson there for the rest of us? Does it make you cautious about promising war with Iran and aligning yourself too closely with Israel’s right-wingers? Have you learned something about the limits of air power or about upsetting the balance of power? Have you visited the amputee ward of a VA hospital and seen the pain — the constant, throbbing pain? Have you looked into the eyes of a wounded man or woman and said, “Sorry, we’re moving on.”
This cruel was is over, and now we have to debate whether Newt Gingrich was or was not a lobbyist.
Like Cohen, I must admit some early support of the Iraq war. I allowed my concern for the continued security of Israel (mostly because of the numerous Scud attacks launched at Israel by Hussein’s command during the Gulf War) to override my distrust of Bush, Cheney, and the theocons who stood to profit from a war. I believed sufficiently in the mental instability of an Arab dictator to discount the depth of greed and stupidity driving the demands for an invasion of Iraq. I owe a fervent apology to the families of our dead, to our wounded, and to the troops who spent multiple tours of duty trying to build a nation out of Iraqi ruins while our nation decayed due to the GOP’s utter lack of concern for anything but further enriching the rich.
The Iraqi war troops are now out of a war that kept them gainfully employed. They are coming home to search for jobs that no longer remain, to families that are ill equipped to deal with combat veterans and their peculiarities, and to a Veterans Affairs department that is woefully underfunded to care for them and their injuries, apparent and/or concealed. The funding is controlled by a GOP that couldn’t wait to send them off to fight but which also could not be bothered to fund the war and its aftermath.
As a veteran, I find it inconceivable that any modern government would treat its troops so poorly. But there is a decided lack of concern for the troops, partly because, so very few of our elected representatives and officials have actually worn the country’s uniform, and even fewer have been under fire.
So many of the GOP’s elected have neither family members in the military or any other contact beyond shaking hands with the hastily cleaned up troops during a “fact-finding” trip that is usually little but a re-election photo shoot.
So, young in age, old in experience troops, your bit of this war, the Iraqi war, is over. There’s every chance you’ll visit fun, fascinating Afghanistan before it ends. The economy, featuring outsourced jobs and no more social safety nets, may make 30-year men and women out of you if the Pentagon’s funding isn’t cut.
However, as Cohen notes, there is a madness among the GOP/teavangelist candidates that combines greed, anti- Islam behavior, and an over-abundance of stupidity into drumming up a new Crusade. Iran, sadly all too likely to give them another attack as a rallying point like the attacks of 11 Sept 2001 is likely to be our next theater of operations. It won’t be our best troops against Hussein’s politically reliable. Iran’s armed forces will be better trained, better equipped, and will be certain that Allah is on their side.
Until the next crusade, driven by the teavangelists and other groups eager to start a world war over religion, succeed in pulling you back into the dirty end of things, Welcome home, troops!