By PAUL C. CAMPOS
Scripps Howard News Service
October 24, 2006
Even the most ardent hawks now agree that things in Iraq are going badly. Thousands of Iraqis are killed every month by sectarian violence, U.S. casualties at the hands of the insurgency are soaring, Baghdad has electricity for an average of two hours a day (down from 12 hours two years ago, and 24 hours prior to the invasion), 60 percent of Iraqis say they believe attacks on U.S. troops are justified (up from 18 percent three years ago) and this past week the commander of our forces in the country admitted the latest attempt to quell the out of control violence of Baghdad's streets had failed.
Political leaders, such as Sen. John McCain, who oppose withdrawing from Iraq, are coming to the conclusion that any chance for "victory" - even if that term is defined down to mean anything other than a catastrophe - requires seriously escalating the U.S. troop presence. McCain, for example, is saying we should add 100,000 combat troops to the armed forces so that we can increase troop levels in Iraq.
As a consequence of all this, Republican candidates in the upcoming election have realized that embracing the status quo in Iraq is roughly as advisable as endorsing pedophilia, and they are sprinting away from the "stay the course" rhetoric the White House urged them to adopt.
Now consider the president's argument for "staying the course." It's made up of three claims. First, the president says that America is involved in a global war against Islamic extremism and that, in the long run, a radical Islam threatens the very survival of our nation.
Second, President Bush emphasizes at every opportunity that Iraq has become "the central front" in this larger war that threatens our existence.
Third, the president claims that to withdraw from Iraq before "the mission" has been completed would hand an enormous victory to the extremists who aim to either kill us or convert us all to their radical brand of Islam.
Naturally, those of us who opposed the Iraq war from the start see these claims as wildly exaggerated. The idea that a radical fringe group such as Al Qaeda represents a threat to our national survival has always seemed either a paranoid delusion, or a cynical lie designed to manipulate the American people. And, of course, it was the Iraq war itself that made that country "the central front" in the war on Islamic terror (Islamic radicals despised Saddam as an anti-religious tyrant).
Yet if anything, those who actually believe the president's claims should be even more outraged about the conduct of the war. If the Battle for Baghdad is at all comparable to the Battle of Britain, when England was fighting for its survival against the Nazis, what possible excuse could there be for fighting this war on the cheap?
We live in a country with no draft and in which it's very rare for a socially privileged young person to volunteer for military service (how many members of this administration or this Congress have a child in the military?). The administration will not even consider a modest tax increase to pay for all those big beautiful bombs it continues to purchase on credit from our Chinese lenders.
Indeed, for all his saber rattling, Senator McCain and those like him are, as Michael Corleone put it in "The Godfather," part of the same hypocrisy. McCain knows the 100,000 extra combat troops he's demanding don't exist. Yet he has no plan for producing these troops on who, according to supporters of the "global war on terror," our very survival might depend. McCain opposes a draft, and like other prominent hawks, he doesn't explain how the military, which has had to cut enlistment standards just to meet its current recruiting quotas, is supposed to conjure up ten more combat-ready brigades (our armed forces currently have 19 such brigades).
Why should such people be taken seriously?
can be reached at Paul.Campos(at)Colorado.edu
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