Democrats & Liberals Archives

Words Without Deeds Betray

Some of the mistakes of Vietnam ended with that war, but there are some errors that never go out of style, and among those are the errors that a people end up committing. It may be heresy to some, but there is a way that the American people can let down their soldiers, even while they honestly support the president, support the war, support the troops.

The worst thing about it is that it’s a betrayal folks don’t even realize they’ve perpetrated, and don’t want to believe they’ve committed if told of it.

One part of it is a fundamental disconnect on the part of the Public between image and reality. Too many in the GOP leadership have led their constituents to believe that supporting the image of the war is supporting the soldiers, and the positive resolution of this war.

I know I will get responses that say that they are one and the same. Let me take you all through this logically to see why this is not the case.

We start having decidedly won the war. But even then, there is a problem. Pessimism? Observation. Why could we not impose martial law? I know Rumsfeld was fond of dismissing the rioting and the looting as just the Iraqi stretching the legs of their freedom.

I know I celebrate my freedom every Fourth of July by stripping buildings to their insulation and mugging my neighbor, how about you? I also celebrate our victory in WWII, knowing that we let the Germans and the Japanese descend into lawlessness. Right?

Wrong. The collapse of law and order should have been as brief as the fall of dishes when somebody rips a table cloth out from underneath them. We should have caught the Iraqi system right then and there. We couldn't. We didn't have the men to stand on the street corner. We didn't have the forces to thoroughly take the country we had raced through in record time.

From that crucial (and I would argue predictable) mistake, comes most of our problems. That incident gave precisely the mixed messages Bush would later claim that John Kerry would send. The message that we didn't care. That we weren't there for our stated purposed, having come unprepared for that goal. That we weren't there in force, and as attacks on our soldiers started to succeed, that our armed forces could be attacked with relative impunity.

Time and the tensions of war only made these problems worse. Additional blunders that might have been inconvenient or problematic turn lethal when our lack of control is taken into account. Starting from a position of weakness in our occupation, our options were limited. Those limited options, of course, were not so ideal.

What has hit this country in the media is a perfect storm of different wars. The war to legitimize Bush Policy by P.R., The War to create the Permanent Republican Majority, with 9/11 as the weapon of choice; and of course, the war in Iraq.

Conflict. Blood in the Water. It bleeds, it leads. And no noble cause, like clearing out terrorists and destroying WMDs to put that off limits. They say the war is a bloody mess and a political liability for Bush. Why? Because it's true. And guess who knows the truth of what gone wrong in this war first?

The Soldiers.

They are the ones who get to see the terrorists come late to the party, only after they did their job: removing Saddam's Regime. They know full well that this war should have sent them packing, not let them in. This war was supposed to be roach spray, not flypaper, and there are quite a lot of soldiers and Americans back home who recall that pretty damn well.

They are the ones who we had searching all over Hell's Half-Acre for the Weapons that were supposed to pose the threat to us, the threat which was the real, Honest-to-God reason we were willing to be first on the draw with this affair. They are the ones who never found those multi-ton stockpiles. They didn't find any programs that had the capability of creating these WMDs anytime soon. There was no nuclear program, much less a weapon capable of being Bush's smoking gun, the mushroom cloud over an American city.

Americans were willing to go all the way to stop that threat. This was the opportunity the soldiers of our army were waiting for. Nobody was looking to get the flies stuck to them, as their president searched for a way to excuse the sudden pickle he had gotten them into. Now the world's worst terrorists are taking advantage of our undermanned occupation, and we face a real WMD threat next door without the army to make it clear we don't appreciate that kind of monkey-business.

How does being in that position make you feel? How does it feel to conquer a piece of turf today, and see it back in enemy control tomorrow? How does it feel to ask your superiors for help with supplies, equipment, transports, and manpower, and not only be told it's not possible, but see the efforts to get these done get shot down in your name?

How does it feel to not be able to trust folks back home to understand the trouble your war is in? How does it feel to have supporters arguing that you're somehow deluded, or worse a traitor, for looking out for the interests of your fellow soldiers? How does it feel to get limbs blown off and suffer lifelong injuries, and have your president leave you and your family in the lurch?

How does it feel? Few people at home know, because they've been told to support the soldiers by supporting the men who sent them to war. They've been told to ignore the negative, to discount the horror stories, to believe nothing that might cast a dark shadow on how the soldiers are being led to war. They've been told to be tough in the War against Terror by stubbornly resisting the calls to relent in our current strategy in Iraq.

They haven't been called to arms, or asked to support a draft that would put them in harm's way. They haven't been asked to sacrifice economic prosperity or tax cuts. They've been told that we have the soldiers we need, that everything's going alright, that they need not get involved. All they need to do is support those who have provided such important leadership, and fight a war of words with those who oppose those leaders. Decorated veterans of both Vietnam and Iraq get "swiftboated". Widows, concerned soldiers and grieving mothers are dismissed as dupes and Machiavellian operators.

All to support leaders who have failed their troops. They do it from the honest impulse to support troops in a war, but they get caught up in the rhetoric and the propaganda of those who just want to avoid the consequences of what they've done. Folks who will once again accuse the liberals of this country, many who are patriots and veterans themselves, of working with sinister motives to betray their own country. We go along to get along, moving led by steady leadership in a time of war, not daring to make waves, not seeing that our nations future rests in the quality of our actions as well as our hopes and dreams.

The betrayal is that in the effort to fight a real enemy, we have come to fight ourselves, to fight the reality of our situation, and put the bravest in harm's way to confront the horrors of our mistakes. Now we have to find the best end to a war, which like another a generation before, seems to only offer only heartache and headache for the future.

God, how long has it been since we had real reason to hope, to believe that we had solutions in reach, and a future with wonders in store?

Maybe some in the GOP think folks like me enjoy drowning in this darkness, bitterness and despair. Believe me, I'd just as soon see these dark times end. Not in words and speeches and false senses of security, but with real progress made with real results in a real world. But that won't come when the leaders are more concerned with dealing with the political consequences of what they do, than the ones that really count.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at August 9, 2005 9:59 PM