Monday, September 17, 2007

Honor Before Dishonor Before Death, Most of All

Plymouth, NH -

If you ask John McCain or Rudy Giuliani (or Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney or even Ed Koch for that matter) about Democrats and the Iraq War these days, chances are the response will include a call for the denunciation of's recent "Betray Us" ad. Heaven forbid an activist group would say something critical about the current government’s widely pro-war stance, and try to frame the upcoming Senate hearings accordingly.

No, according to these Republicans it is an affront to the Republic floated up from the smelliest of slime on the bottom of a New York City barroom, or wherever else liberals hang out.

But if you look at the advertisement, you see that it offers up a prediction of the day’s events that is largely true. It cites the Pentagon's convoluted formula for tracking violence in Iraq and forecasts that Petraeus will suggest the removal of a few thousand troops, but only as part of a ten-year plan to stay in Iraq. Then on Tuesday, that same thing happened.

And yet the news cycle has spent most of it’s time covering the GOP reaction to the ad without discussing the merits of the case. Republicans, increasingly hateful toward the more and more powerful, want their rivals to distance themselves from the group and kiss up to General Petraeus for his career’s worth of service. and Hillary Clinton are easy punching bags for the likes of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, today’s most outspoken fans of Petraeus and the surge. But I will be interested to see what punches they throw at Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) who, in his maverick mindset and retiring electoral freedom, has become more and more critical of the process.

This weekend on Bill Maher’s show Hagel called Bush's use of Petraeus to tout his Iraq policy a “dirty trick” and said that it was “dishonest and hypocritical.” He reiterated that this is not Petraeus' policy, because the army is "subservient" to the elected officials.

Let’s rehash that last bit. Chuck Hagel, a United States Senator and a veteran, acknowledge that Petraeus is doing a "sell job" for the elected President of our country, and hence distorting the information for political purposes. Déjà vu.

If the Republicans are true to their principles they will be calling for Hagel to renounce his statements. Something tells me those calls won't be heard with much fervor, if at all.

Too many of the few, the proud, and the hard-headed who are still behind Bush and his surge mentality are there either to save face or to uphold an antiquated notion of military honor. The same honor code that frowns upon insulting a two-time purple heart recipient. The same kind of honor that was absent from the minds of the people who got us into this war.

Death before dishonor is an awesome motto when you are living the samurai lifestyle, or out in the trenches bravely risking your life for your brothers and sisters in combat, but it is widely lacking as a credible foreign policy slogan. Especially when the dishonor in the eyes of the world has already been done, and is only getting worse.

Honor won’t win us this war. That’s because it isn’t a war to be won or lost. It is a war to be ended. Hagel himself mentioned that it in an op-ed for the Washington Post last November, "Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations." This war was a mistake from the start, and it is a shame that our twice elected President got us into it, that our spineless legislature aided and abetted it, and furthermore that our duly elected 2006 anti-war legislature has thus far failed to stop it.

As Gary Hart said in the Huffington Post a few days ago:

“That the media still treat these operatives and spokespersons, and indeed the president himself, seriously is witness to their desire for ‘access’ and ‘sources’ rather than their commitment to the truth...Nothing is more difficult than to admit that we made a tragic mistake in selecting our leaders. But that is the first step toward redemption. Absolute rejection of those who lay claim to ownership of security is the next.”

And it is true. We as a nation must stick up for ourselves and not allow the few and the honor bound to take over our future, our standing, and our security in the world.

"Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations."

The failed nation of Iraq, torn apart more and more every day by anti-American sentiment and civil war, can and should not be held together by our military.

To call that surrender just doesn’t make any sense. To call that defeat just doesn’t make any sense. To call that dishonor just doesn’t make any sense.

Yet Iraq, which less than a year ago seemed destined for the political recycle bin, has found another foothold. Our congress allowed Bush to instigate a surge. Then our Senate spent hours soliloquizing in the post-surge hearings instead of calling for real truth and action, and all along our media has generally given it all a pass, even up to the MoveOn nonsense.

On the other hand we have Frank Rich. In his Sunday column he calls out everyone for their ignorance of the real issue at hand, and calls on the Dems to condemn the MoveOn ad if only for taking away from what should have been the issue of the week - the monumentally flawed policy in Iraq.

"Will the Democrats Betray Us?" the title of the column asks, by not providing the leadership America needs on this. Because let's face it, if We the People had our teeth on Washington's ass a little more fiercely, none of this would be an issue. Instead we have iphones and shitty health care and the National Football League on our minds. Which, quite honestly, is all pretty interesting. Much more so than war.

Rich sees it this way:

"You can't blame the public for changing the channel. People realize that the president's real ‘plan for victory’ is to let his successor clean up the mess. They don't want to see American troops dying for that cause, but what can be done? Americans voted the G.O.P. out of power in Congress; a clear majority consistently tell pollsters they want out of Iraq. And still every day is Groundhog Day. Our America, unlike Vietnam-era America, is more often resigned than angry."

I fear that is what is bound to happen in today’s media-soaked world. When there are so many channels to turn to, who wants to be stuck on the ones that show clips of a violent Iraq, and worse yet a President who fails time and again to be candid and honest with the American people. It is depressing me already.

Back to death, even by conservative DoD standards, the US death toll is sitting at 3781 and rising at an average of 2. 5 each day, and the injury count is nearly 28,000. Meanwhile the number of daily attacks on US and Iraqi civilians has been increasing at a disturbing rate ever since the war began, and is now almost 200 each day. The situation in Iraq is like a Hydra, and no amount of continued troop presence to slay the beast's many heads is going to bring us more honor. Just more human death.

Death sucks.

Fortunately for each of us here in America, we have the wealth and the technology to choose options other than death. When the war is getting me down I can head down to Penuche's for a few happy hour beers or up into Pemi country to gaze at the majestic White Mountains. The more chances I have to make those choices the more often I do it.

I understand that, which is why I respect the people who descended on Washington this past weekend. Opponents may call them the vocal minority, but polls show that they are more appropriately dubbed the active wing of the majority.

The problem is that we won't be led out of Iraq by the idealists among us. We will be led out by our elected officials. So unless they step up and give some straight talk back to the obstructionist Republicans, and unless the 65% of us who want out stop changing the channel, I fear there is no end in sight. And that, my friends, bestows mountains of dishonor upon us as Americans.


netto said...


Awesome job. I think this is my new favorite post.

Your comments about Americans being able to tune out the war sort of brings up the debate about requiring universal service (military or community) in the US. I think it's Charlie Rangle who's always bringing that bill up.
I'll leave that topic for another day, though.

I would just like to piggy-back on Chuck Hagel's remarking that the role of an army is to win wars, not bind a country.

Here I will quote from Chris Hedges, a NYT correspondant until these words in a 2004 college graduation speech got him fired:

**"We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security."**

BTB said...


I can't tell you how much I appreciate your comment. I was really psyched about this post while I was writing it out in the swamp, and any type of validation was huge for me. As for the tuning out, that is in part why I wrote the article about the draft v. fantasy football a few weeks ago.

Seriously, this needs to be a bigger deal. Luckily for me there are a handful of Nettos out there. Unluckily for me there are but a handful of Nettos out there.