Now that the debate to non-bind has concluded in the House of Representatives and moves to the Senate, I have only one thing to say to Congressional Republicans. All that “sending the wrong message to the troops,” emboldening the enemy stuff,” and similar debate-equals-debacle rhetoric?
Note to Republicans and media apologists for the Bush Administration far and wide: Democratic debate is not the first, middle, nor last casualty of war. Not, at least, in a true Republic.
Says who? How about history? The Federalist Party (ancestor of the modern Republican Party) was so incensed with Madison and the Democratic Republicans leaning toward France over England in the lead up to the War of 1812 that their more reactionary members even concerned New England sucsession from the pro-French rest of the country.
During the Civil War election year of 1864, not only was the “savior of the union” Abraham Lincoln challenged for re-election, he was challenged by one of his own former military commanders, General George McClellan, who vociferously criticized his commander in chief for failed military policies in dealing with the South.
During the run up to and after American entry in World War I Congressional Republicans were staunch critics of both Wilson’s war and post-war policies. Republicans ran candidates critical of FDR’s pro-English stance war record in 1940 and against his domestic and foreign policy record in 1944. (And, least we forget, across the Atlantic, the English people fired Winston Churchill in July of 1945 while war still raged in Asia.)
Republican isolationists like Robert Taft vocally criticized both Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower from the floor of the Congress for their international commitments to stop the Soviets after World War II. Ike himself was elected to the Presidency in large part for his repudiation of Harry Truman’s Korea strategy. Was Ike, therefore, guilty of emboldening Mao Zedung? Richard Nixon, meanwhile, ran for President in 1968 with the promise to get us out of Vietnam (though it would take seven more years to do so), attacking LBJ for getting us into that quagmire. And, in each case, American boots were on the ground in harms way.
More recently, least we forget, many of the same Republicans whom today excoriate Democrats for criticizing a GOP commander-in-chief tripped over each other in their rush to criticize Bill Clinton’s military policy when he had boots on the ground in Somalia, troops in the air over over Haiti, troops on the ground in Bosnia, and planes in the air over Kosovo. I don’t remember Democrats attacking Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott (and the rest of the chorus of Republican partisan patriots–e.g. when we do it, it’s for America, when Democrats do it, it’s against America, regardless of whatever “it” is) for “emboldening” Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda when Republicans attacked Clinton for trying to off Bin Laden with cruise missile attacks in 1998 on Sudan and Afghanistan.
Or how about the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, as an expert on how Congressional debate over foreign policy affects our military. Just a day before the debate began he said:
“Fundamentally, debate in the Congress of the United States is good for the health of our democracy, All of us who wear the uniform … believe that, fight for that, and would be very upset if anyone tried to take that opportunity away…The problem is that our enemies, who have no clue what democracy is all about, don’t understand that debate. The trash heap of history has a lot of corpses on it, of nations that misunderstood the will of the American people. The ( enemy ) should not repeat the mistake that many have made about our country.”
What part of any of that don’t Republican Congressman (and their AM squawk radio apologists)—the vast majority of which have never worn the uniform–get? I love hearing all these Republican politicians whose closest experience to combat have been junkets to Iraq and Afghanistan where they get the VIP Universal Studios behind the scenes tour and come back to Washington sounding like they’re George Patton. (Which is, to me, the ultimate in “I’m not an expert on democracy and the military—but I did stay at the Baghdad Holiday Inn!”)
But these are modern Congressional Republicans we’re talking about, for whom facts, history and truth always takes a back seat to ideological dogma and political expediency. These are the guys and gals who, confronted with four solid years of evidence to the contrary, still like to slip in innuendo that Saddam Hussein had nukes (he just slipped them into Iran or Syria) and was best buds with Osama. (And these are the same crew that are already rushing to their war drums to back up their commander-in-clueless’ march to war with Iran.)
So, I conclude my little tirade by actually withdrawing my original plea to Republicans to shut up and stop squelching legitimate democratic debate.
Let Republicans condemn anyone with the audacity to use their First Amendment rights to criticize a war policy gone incredibly bad all they want. All it shows is their fundamental ignorance of, and contempt for, the very principles of Democracy our soldiers are trying to bring to the peoples of the Iraq. All it shows is just how craven Congressional Republicans are in putting the interests of their own Party, around whose neck the legacy of a horrifically failed Iraqi policy hangs like a millstone, ahead of that of both our soldiers in the field and the American people back home.
Then the American people can remember how Republicans put partisan politics first, the good of our soldiers in the field and our nation as a whole a distant second come November, 2008.
Now that’s democracy.