Democrats & Liberals Archives

A Nation of Integrity

Integrity. Integral. Integer. All are words that indicate not only a wholeness, but a kind of wholeness that sustains itself against the kinds of forces that would tear it apart. I write what I write against Bush and the way he got us in this war, and the way he prosecutes this war, because I believe they lack this quality. That is a dangerous thing to lack in a president, and a dangerous thing to lack in the beginning of a war.

I know the instant I post this, will be instant that the contrarians in the Republican party take this charge and reflect it back on John Kerry, on what he did that lead to this war. I expect nothing less, having written and posted on this site. Can't say I blame them. Many of the people who do so, do so because they wish to hold myself the author to that standard of integrity. I believe the best I can do, starting off, to answer their call is to say that I believe right now that Kerry is a man of integrity, and that if I find out different once he is in office, I will first call him to answer for how he has deviated from that, and then if his answer doesn't satisfy my own sense of integrity, I will be shopping for a new candidate come November 2008. For now though, I will focus on the current occupant of the White House, and the way he fell short in terms of that most important quality of wholeness of character.

War is never simple. By its nature, it dashes apart all plans, all preconceptions, all expectations of those who enter into it. To go in without a clear relationship between why we go in, and what opposition we will truly face is to go in not merely with a hand tied behind our back, but to go in hobbled and hamstrung.

War is a hammer in the hands of our political system. If one gets too fixated on it, every problem starts to look like a nail to be pounded in. The Neocons, in particular, like to believe that Middle Eastern peace is a nail. They recommended to Benjamin Netanyahu that he draw us into wars of pre-emption (if one can really call them pre-emptive), using the pretext, of among other things, weapons of mass destruction.

Virtually all the Neocons are men who sat out war when they had their chance, or never had the chance to participate in one. They have far too much identification with Israel as a country, to the point where one could say they are Israel supremacists

Throughout history there have always been factions that wanted to do once sort of thing or another with the world, things that people who actually knew the subject well would have their deep doubts on. Usually the system functions to weed these people out, isolate them. The Cold War, though, and the impulse of paranoia in certain political circles allowed a kind of groupthink to develop that brought many of these people to positions of power. One of my earliest essays for this site dealt with an earlier exaggeration of Soviet capabilities by none other than Richard Perle, the celebrated "Prince of Darkness"

It prickled my mind then, and prickles it now that they were willing to exaggerate, cherrypick, and even lie outright in order to escalate our aggressiveness towards our rivals, the Soviets and Warsaw pact powers. Now, believe me, I am no dove. To me, war, cold or hot, is a viable option in foreign policy, and should not be shrunk from when it is the best option. The Neocons, though, believe such military aggression is not only widely applicable, but highly desirable. They want us taking control of entire regions, bending them to our political will.

The Iraq war is their foreign policy experiment, and the soldiers there are live test subjects. They are fighting and dying, under this administration, to attempt to force our political will on a region that beforehand already resented our influence. They tell us that we can convince the rest of them that democracy is a wonderful thing, and make Iraq a bright shining example for peace and democracy in the Middle East.

This war, though, wasn't promoted on the basis of that. It has been promoted as a fight against terrorism. The true motivation peeks out from around the corner of statements from the president that they intend to stop terrorists by draining the swamps, spreading Democracy to the countries that create terrorists. Just how are we supposed to do that? The obvious answer is, we roll in the tanks and change the governments. Or we do some covert operation and assassinate the leaders. That gets real nasty real fast, as Ambassador John Negroponte can undoubtedly tell you. If he would tell you. He was in the middle of all that mess in Nicaragua and Central America, and as he stood by, some of the worst atrocities of the Cold war were committed. In any case, the wars by proxies, the politically friendly leaders, and other items all come from Cold War playbooks. That is not a coincidence. The Cold War era of Reagan the last time many of these men held any kind of position in the executive branch. Some of these people couldn't even stomach Bush 41, for heaven's sake.

To them, what matters is their vision of security. Their vision is one of control, not of integrity. It's one of starting wars, not defusing them, of imposing influence, rather than gaining it through goodwill and mutual interests. The worst part about it is that the people of the Middle East already have had an experience this and they are strongly opposed to having a repeat. If these people knew their history well enough, they would know that many of today's problems are rooted in colonialism in the region and its aftermath. These are people who truly do want to be free. Problem is, Western influence, European and American, are among the things they want to be free from. In trying to establish a better situation in the Middle East, war is one of the last things we should have employed.

Besides, that's not why we went there. We went there, as a nation, because we did not want another 9/11, much less something worse. Those were the best of intentions, and had what Bush and Co. said been true, then Iraq itself would have absorbed much of the ill will over the war. That, or at the very least we would have the evidence to bring other allies in to help us. If we were vindicated on those things, there would be no reason to doubt the word or the leadership of the United States of America.

By being dishonest with the American people and the world, our government has called into question whether perceptions of the United States foreign are based on fact, making every move America makes suspect.

Also, that dishonesty has made much of the country uncertain about the real war. The mixed messages that Bush says Kerry sends about the war in Iraq are nothing compared with the mixed messages Bush has sent to us and the world about the War on terrorism. As Richard Clarke put it, it is like FDR responding to Pearl Harbor by invading Mexico.

We pride ourselves as being a nation based on fundamental truths, not one of those deceptive, two-faced regimes whose lies turn on a dime, and whose wars are wars of ideology and power plays. We pride ourselves on being hard on politicians who are dishonest or inconsistent. Bush though, has only provided us with one consistent message: only the Republican Party is willing and able to protect you. At the same time, though, his government has bungled, lied and misled the nations so seriously than even people in his own party are taking issue with this honesty and capability about events.

Nobody will be willing to be seen as weak on terrorism, weak on foreign policy. The question, is who among the candidates will actually be straight with the American people whether things are good or bad, sunshine or cloudy, and whether he leads summer patriots or winter soldiers.

Do I have to mention his name? No, I don't. Our president's father spent his war in combat. He did his service. His son, though spends his time stateside, flying like his dad, but doing so safe from enemy fire, never having to make a decision that could determine life and death for his fellow soldiers, never having to deal directly with the incompetent policy of the Best and the Brightest. He checked off the box telling our armed forces that he didn't want to be volunteered for Vietnam. We only have his word on it that he actually sought out duty in Vietnam. The other candidate does not need us to take his word for it. Not even his worst enemies will say he wasn't in the middle of that war. What does it say about our Commander in Chief that he is so averse to walking the walk when he talks the talk?

He told us he'd go after Osama Bin Laden. Then he told us it wasn't important anymore. He told us he wasn't for the Department of Homeland Security, then he told us otherwise, and now he tells us it was all his idea. He opposes a Committee whose express, bi-partisan purpose is to investigate and redress the failures in our nation's security and intelligence apparatuses that led to the worst Terrorist attack on our soil in our history. Then he supports it, with the bright idea of putting Henry Kissinger at its head, a man with a serious human rights problem in his record.

He told us that Iraq was a threat. Then, once were there, and confronted with the contradictory evidence, he told us that Iraq would one day become a threat. Now we fight a war simply to keep Iraq from falling into the hands of an enemy. We fight a war to keep Iraq from becoming the threat it wasn't before.

Don't get me wrong. The war we fight now is necessary. But we fight it because of Bush's mistake. Not because of Saddam's conspiracy with al-Qaeda, not because WMD's are about to fall into the hands of terrorists, not because Saddam was about to reprise his invasion of Kuwait, or chuck missiles at Israel. We fight this war because the president was never willing to put his ideas, and his notions of what was right to the test. We fight this war Because Bush is too free a hand with those who shape policy, and he allows them to run roughshod over those who have earned their authority in how they analyze the world. This is an administration where all revisions lead not to the truth, but instead to the convenience of a man who wants to get re-elected, regardless of his conduct in office.

We're better than that. This is a country that is by its nature meant to be ground in sober analysis of the facts, and robust discussions of the matters before us. We are not a weak-willed or weak-minded people, regardless of what anybody says. We are nation called to be an example for the rest of the world, and I will not vote for a man who has made such a terrible example of this country.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at October 8, 2004 1:32 PM