Today, Bush asked for more time for this war to work.
At 45, I'm old enough to remember the Vietnam War. I remember the exhaustion this country had at the end of it. I remember the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976-- how there was a sadness and escapism to them. The United States had slunk from Vietnam, tail between its legs. The most powerful nation in history had lost a war to a bunch of guys in black pajamas. Or at least that was the perception. It was a war that need never have been fought. And it was a war that began on false premises.
I'm surprised that more people haven't drawn the analogy between the fake "Weapons of Mass Destruction" of this war and the fake "Gulf of Tonkin Incident" that began our involvement in the Vietnam War in earnest.
In early August of 1964, an American destroyer, the USS Maddox was off the coast near where a South Vietnamese commando raid into North Vietnamese territory was taking place. Believing the Maddox was part of the raid, North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the Maddox, inflicting virtually no damage. Two days later, the Maddox' crew mistakenly thought they were being attacked again. It was pretty clear immediately that there had been no attack.
One of the people witnessing the second event was a naval aviator named James Stockdale. He happened to be flying overhead and knew that day that there had been no attack. His superiors told him to keep quiet about that fact.
The "attacks" were highly publicized in the United States. President Lyndon Johnson used them as rationale for greatly expanding the war. He stampeded the House and Senate into passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
The resolution, which granted Johnson a virtual carte blanche to wage war on North Vietnam, passed the House 416-0. It passed the Senate 88-2. Two Senators, Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon and Senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska, were the only two members of Congress to vote against it. Morse would warn, "I believe this resolution to be a historic mistake."
Stockdale was later shot down. He spent years as a POW, being beaten and tortured, fearing that he'd reveal his secret-- that the Gulf of Tonkin "Incident" was a fabrication-- to his captors. This would have been a propaganda coup.
Some of you may remember that Stockdale, who retired as an Admiral, was Ross Perot's running mate in 1992. When he was ridiculed for his behavior in the 1992 debates-- behavior that was largely a consequence of his hearing loss due to beatings suffered as a POW, it pained me. I knew what he'd suffered and why. Most people didn't know that. Most people didn't even know what the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was. I guess that Master's in Political Science I got comes in handy sometimes.
The current war was founded on blatant lies, greed and corruption. It has exacted a toll on individuals and families. It has exacted a toll on the body politic-- blogger Chris wrote today of how dispiriting this whole thing has been. And it has. But, as Flannery pointed out in response, even right-wingers are seeing the light.
Bush has chutzpah to insist that, after four years that we have to stay the course in a war that he started with brazenly false premises, and was clearly motivated by the prospect of monsterous corporate profits.
Bush and the confederacy of dunces around him clearly thought that this war was going to be a slamdunk. Run in, be greeted like liberating heroes, set up shop and go home, leaving a puppet government in charge, with a handful of U.S. troops to train Iraqi troops and hand out candy bars to happy children, and multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts for Haliburton (Oh, gee-- Cheney is the vice-president of Haliburton too-- what a coincidence) and cheap oil for a couple of decades. Oh, and for the True Believers, the establishment of a stable democracy among the Arab Mideast. Poor Tom Friedman, a liberal, fell for that one.
Instead, it feels more like the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" part of "Fantasia," with the situation running completely out of control, as an idiot gets in over his head.
The picture at the top of this post is one I clipped from the front page of the New York Times on April 7, 2004. I kept it because it both broke my heart and angered me. 12 US Marines had been killed in firefights with Shiite militiamen in Ramadi and Najaf. A year into the war, it was clearly expanding and spinning out of control.
My brother spent 14 years as a Marine. He was present at the attack in Beirut, Lebanon in October, 1983. He had just turned 21 a few months before. He was fortunate enough to have been in a tent a mile away when the truck bomb obliterated a multi-story concrete building, killing 241 young American soldiers. He spent nearly 4 days digging guys out of those smashed concrete building that had been blown up by one of the factions in the Beirut war. Not quite a year later, I received a letter from him. I found out later, it was the only time he communicated to anybody in his immediate family for decades-- not his wife, not my parents, nobody-- about what happened that week. He wrote about how "fucked up" dead bodies were. He wrote about how awful it was to hold a crushed guy who was screaming and knew he was dying, but lying to him that he was going to be okay, just to make his last few minutes of life a little better. He wrote about how awful it was breaking the arms and legs of guys who were dead, and rigor mortis had set in, so that he could fit them into body bags.
My brother has never recovered. He was eventually given a medical discharge from the service, diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has never been right since that week.
Seeing that picture on the front page, I had to fight tears-- I realized that both men in the picture, like my brother, were irreperably damaged-- the Marine who'd been killed, in the body bag, and the guy who was carrying him. Look at the pain in his face.
In the next few months, these pictures, also clipped from the front page of the New York Times, broke my heart and angered me.
This one was from June 21, 2004.
I had conflicting feelings on this one-- it broke my heart to see a guy this young, Sgt. Luke Wilson, maimed, but I had admiration for how he clearly intended to go on with his life with vigor and energy.
However, the next picture ended up next to to Sgt. Wilson's picture and the picture of the Marine carrying his slain buddy off of the battlefield. I put it up on my refrigerator because it had made me so angry I was shaking.
The picture borders on being a cartoon. It's from the front page of the New York Times on December 15, 2004. I'm sure you recognize the guy on the far right. That's the imbecile who got us into this war. He's giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to, from left to right, General Tommy Franks, L. Paul Bremer II and George Tenet, who, the caption reads, as director of the CIA built a case for the war.
It's as if, after the Challenger disaster, President Reagan had awarded The Presidential Medal of Technical Prowess and Administrative Competency to the top three people of NASA a year later.
Now we see an adminstration functioning just like any organization that has fucked up badly. They are bickering, practicing desperate damage control, jumping ship and trying to blame others.
There's even that poor vampire Dick Cheney, increasingingly out of the loop, desperately trying to claim his old role as the real boss of the White House back by claiming that a Congressional resolution to end the war would give aid and comfort to the enemy. Sorry Dick-- that old canard is worn out-- it was used up and abused during the Vietnam War-- you remember that one, don't you? The one you didn't fight in, because you had "other priorities."
I didn't go to Vietnam either, but I had a pretty good excuse. I was just finishing junior high school when it ended. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident happened when I was 3.
I remember, when I was 12 or 13 years old, which would have been in 1973 or 1974, my father telling me that if the Vietnam War was still going on as I approached 18, we were moving to Canada. I think the draft was actually done with by that time, but I appreciated the thought.
My son turned 13 just a couple of weeks ago. When this war started, he had just turned 9. When the first Gulf War was fought in January of 1991, he was minus three years old.
When I read the New York Times list of deaths in Iraq, I realize that the guys who were killed that were 19 and 20 years were three and four years old during that war.
A couple of months ago, my father called and told me that I needed to get my son a passport. His grandson wasn't fighting in this damned war.
I am a man of milestones. I take note of milestones both personal and society-wide. I was then, today, suprised to realize that I'd missed a milestone.
I have long been interested in World War II. Back in 1993, I went to a wonderful exhibit at the Chicago Historical Society that was entitled "We've Got a Job to Do." It was about how civilian men, women and children pitched in to the war effort, a war to defeat the very real threat of fascism, and how Chicago was changed economically, politically, socially, racially and how the role of women in society changed.
One of the things I came away from after viewing the exhibit was, as the exhibit clearly aimed at, was how much society had changed. Another thing I was surprised to note was how, at the end of the war, people were tired of the war and the sacrifice. They were ready for peace, prosperity and normalcy.
The United States fought in World War II from December 7, 1941 to August 15, 1945. That's about three years and a little over eight months.
We have been in this war for four years now. This war has lasted longer than we were in World War II.
When this war started, I was rooming with a friend. A couple of weeks into the war, as the coalition troops sliced through the Iraqi troops like a hot knife like butter without finding any of the weapons of mass destruction that were the alleged reason for the war, my old roommate and I put up a sign on the back porch as a joke. It's a spoof of the signs in workplaces bragging how many accident-free days there have been. I came across it a few days ago while looking for my tax forms. I'd forgotten that I still had it.
I took the sign down sometime in 2004 for a couple of reasons. Mainly because, as the American deaths in Iraq approached 1,000, it had ceased to be funny.
As of today, March 20, 2007, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website, the number of American dead is 3,218. And rising.
A lot of you are dispirited. Yes, there are still the knuckleheads who desperately cling to the lies of this administration. Hey-- there were still people who believed in Hitler, Stalin and Mao after the damage those sociopaths wrought on their countries. Bush and Company are small potatoes compared to them. People have an amazing ability to cling to horribly misguided beliefs. They get snookered time and time again. They never pay heed to the great Sinclair Lewis quote, which I was just quoting on Vikki's blog, "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
People like my father-in-law, who will be 80 soon, and my own father, who will be 70 soon, see these people for what they are and reject them. They see the kind of future these bastards are promising to their children and grandchildren, and they've rejected them and their bullshit.
They have not worn them down, and they have not worn me down. I have not given up.
I'll leave it to someone wiser-- okay, at least a better song-writer than I am-- Don Henley, to sum it all up:
I'm brave enough to be crazy
I'm strong enough to be weak
I see all these heroes with feet of clay
Whose mighty ships have sprung a leak
And I want you to tell me darlin'
Just what do you believe in now?
Yeah, we're gonna tear it up
We gonna trash it up
Gonna round it up
Gonna shake it up
Oh, no no no, I will not lie down
I will not lie down for these assholes.