Memorial Day was ninety
and cloudless out here in the Los Angeles basin, with kids screaming in the pool until late in the afternoon, and then a pale
sunset. Memorial Day. Late in the
morning, with a roar, four F-18 fighters in close formation shot low over the Sunset Strip on their way toward the coast –
the Navy Blue Angels doing the annual flyover of the sprawling Veterans Cemetery over in Westwood.
Memorial Day. Bush and Rumsfeld spoke at the Tomb of the Unknown in Washington, and Rumsfeld got
a standing ovation.
And Time reported President Bush has been given a pistol Saddam Hussein had with him when he was captured and now proudly shows it to selected
guests, in the side office at the White House where Clinton had his encounters with Monica.
Yeah, so ask yourself, what are you proud of?
"He really liked showing it off," a recent visitor to the White House who has seen the gun told the magazine. "He was really proud of it."
And Reuters is reporting this:
The Army is investigating reports of assaults against Iraqi civilians and thefts of their money
and jewelry by U.S. troops during patrols, raids and house searches, defense officials said on Monday.
… The probe by the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, suggests that a major
scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans goes beyond detention centers into the homes and streets of the troubled
"There are a number of criminal investigations by the Army into
allegations of assault, theft and other issues that extend beyond the investigations into activities at detention facilities,"
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
This war is not exactly making us look good and noble.
new WWII Memorial opening in Washington last weekend, and that helped.
That war had fewer ambiguities and we actually were the good guys – if you don’t think too much about
what the Tuskegee Airmen faced when they got home after their heroics, and if you don’t think too much about the 442nd
Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated in the Army, fighting for us all in Italy, while their relatives were in our internment
camps in California. You see, they were all Japanese-Americans. Curiously, the 522nd battalion of the 442nd Regiment discovered and liberated the Dachau, the other side’s
much nastier camp, but they were ordered to keep quiet about it. The next day,
another American battalion arrived and "officially" liberated the camp. It would
be too strange if…. Well, you get the idea.
But that war was easier to honor, generally.
and our guys, some of whom I know, is hard to write about. And one of my family
is being posted to Iraq in January – for a year in this war, or peace, or whatever it is.
How to make sense of the day? I found "Billmon" over
at Whiskey Bar struggling with it. See his comments where you will find sections like this:
… I come from an old military family, one that has been fighting this country's wars since
before it was a country. And they're still fighting them: I have cousins who
served, and several who died, in Vietnam. Others served in Desert Storm. Some of their kids are now in Iraq.
So Memorial Day
has strong meanings for me - even though I never wore a uniform and have never felt any attraction to the mindless cult of
military power that so often passes for patriotism these days, especially on the right.
Like the founders (and Dwight D. Eisenhower, for that matter) I fear the permanent war establishment - the
so-called "iron triangle" of a bloated military, a corrupt defense industry and the congressional whores who profit from the
care and feeding of both. And I've watched uneasily over the past several decades
as the professional officer corps has evolved into something like the armed wing of the conservative movement.
These are fundamentally unhealthy trends for any republic - and especially for one that's already
showing a pronounced tendency towards imperial hubris. To a greater degree than
perhaps at any time in our history, the military has become a major political player, and a dangerously reactionary one at
that. When Rush Limbaugh is the only political voice allowed on Armed Forces
Radio, it's fair to say the trend lines for democracy are not good.
as much as I may distrust an increasingly politicized military establishment, I can't disown the men and women who
are serving their country - or trying to serve their country - in Iraq. On this
Memorial Day, I must pay my respects to those who have given their lives, and praise their courage and their dedication, and
grieve their loss. And I must honor the wounded, those who have seen their limbs
shattered or their minds blasted by this war. May they be healed in body as well
as spirit. And may all those who fight in this war always know that their country
loves them, and respects them, and will never turn its back on them, or blame them for our failure.
The whole thing is worth
He runs through a lot of what going wrong, and right, and in
between over there. And then he stops.
But in the end it doesn't really matter - I am an American and these are my people. They've been sent to Iraq to fight, and die, in my name. I
can't support the war (which is a lost cause anyway) but I can't turn my back on the troops.
It would be like turning my back on my own family.
I hear the casualties from Iraq reported on the news, or when photos of their flag-draped caskets leak through the Pentagon's
wall of secrecy, I realize I know nothing about the young men and women who have been sacrificed in this war. Where they good soldiers, who served their country well despite everything they were forced to endure? Or were they monsters, who killed or tortured or stole from the people they supposedly
came to liberate?
I don't know - I'll never know. But I remember my father's war diary, and the things it taught me about him, and I realize I owe these
men and women the benefit of the doubt. However they lived and however they fought,
they died in my service, and in the service of my country. And for that I am
eternally in their debt.
And I couldn’t be
more proud of the family member I mention. I went to his graduation from West
Point. I see him several times a year, for deep discussions of international
politics – well, they seem deep – and he reads widely and thinks well. We
disagree on many things. But he’s a good man. And I wish him well. He has my respect.
But it’s not him where I see problems.
sees the problems.
This is a good summary.
A Foreign Policy, Falling Apart
Robert G. Kaiser, The Washington Post, Sunday, May 23, 2004; Page
Syndicated elsewhere as The applause is fading; it's time to change the Iraq script
Monday, May 31, 2004
It’s long, but convincing.
We have come to a delicate moment in an absorbing drama.
The actors seem unsure of their roles. The audience is becoming restless
with the confusion on stage. But the scriptwriters keep trying to convince the
crowd that the ending they imagined can still, somehow, come to pass.
authors stick to their plotline even as its plausibility melts away, and why not? For
months the audience kept applauding; many of the reviewers were admiring, while many others kept quiet.
No more. Senior military officers, government officials,
diplomats and others working in Iraq, commentators, experts and analysts have all joined a chorus of doubters that is large
and growing. And the applause - in this case, public approval as measured in
polls - is fading.
Already, some of the authors' friends are grabbing them by their rhetorical lapels. "Failures are multiplying," wrote George Will, the conservative columnist, yet "no one seems accountable."
The original script included parts for American soldiers and diplomats, Iraqis, Arabs and Europeans, but many declined
to play along or refused to perform as directed. No matter - the authors promised
to "stay the course." A quick look back at the list of promises made and then
abandoned demonstrates how little the play now conforms to the original scenario. And
by the way, just what is the "course" we are staying on?
Yeah, well, who knows?
Well Kaiser notes that Americans are hopeless romantics – "...we're
always looking for the triumph of the good guys and happiness ever after."
Particularly on this Memorial Day.
But it’s hard to be hopeful
… the success promised by the Bush administration both before and after the war has eluded
We have not made a "a crucial advance in the campaign against terror,"
the words US President George W. Bush used when he declared victory in "Operation
Iraqi Freedom" on May 1, 2003.
Instead, we have
stimulated new hatred of the United States in precisely the regions from which future terrorist threats are most likely to
arise, while alienating our traditional allies. By embracing Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza, we abandoned the "honest broker" role that US governments tried to
play for four decades in the Middle East, and we confirmed the conspiratorial suspicions of every anti-American Arab. Our credibility has been battered.
set out to put fear into the hearts of our enemies by demonstrating the efficacy of a new doctrine of pre-emptive war. Instead, we have shown the timeless nature of hubris.
Last week we announced the transfer of 3,600 troops of the overstrained US Army away from the border of what might
be the world's most dangerous country, North Korea. They will be sent to help
with the war in Iraq, for which we now acknowledge we had inadequate resources.
Contrary to the
Bush administration's stated and implied promises - "we will be greeted as liberators" was Vice-President Dick Cheney's famous
version - we did not achieve a relatively low-cost triumph in Iraq. Instead we
have a crisis of still-growing dimensions. Our occupation policy has changed
as often as the color of Madonna's hair. Ominously, as became clear with last
week's assassination of Iraqi Governing Council President Ezzedine Salim, we cannot even protect the Iraqis who have agreed
to work with us.
The war has damaged the good name of the United States
in every corner of the globe, has cost unanticipated scores of billions of dollars (all of it borrowed) and now threatens
long-term damage to our army and the National Guard. War has already disfigured
the 3,500 American families whose sons and daughters have been killed or seriously wounded in Iraq, and countless Iraqi families
This man is not
looking on the bright side.
Read the whole things and you’ll see
why there may be no bright side.
And there is history:
The events of the last few weeks recall the trauma of February and March 1968, when Americans
were absorbing the impact of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Tet was a brilliant
military campaign that won no lasting military benefit for the Vietnamese communists who executed it, but which humiliated
an ignorant, over-confident America and destroyed political support for the war in the United States.
Dean Acheson and Clark Clifford, two principal architects of "containment" - the basis of American
foreign policy toward Soviet and Chinese communists from Truman to Johnson and beyond - told their friend and president, Lyndon
B. Johnson, that the jig was up. The costs of war in Vietnam were too high to
justify its continuation.
Soon afterward Johnson announced he would not seek
re-election and asked the Vietnamese communists to negotiate peace.
No, don’t even think
Bush doesn’t waver. Moral
clarity and all that…
And Bush has a plan, at least a plan to stay in office.
See From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity
Scholars Say Campaign Is Making History With Often-Misleading Attacks
Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei, The
Washington Post, Monday, May 31, 2004; Page A01
Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been
extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume
of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising.
of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has
aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising.
Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures
were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate.
The facts are not good
in Iraq, and not much better in Afghanistan, and the economy is going great, but only if you own a business or stock in one
– not if you are one of the unlucky few, if you’re what is quaintly called a “worker.”
if events are such that they are hard to spin too terribly positively, why this hyper-negative blitz of campaign advertising
full of distortions.
A Republican explains -
Scott Reed, who ran Robert J. Dole's presidential
campaign that year, said the Bush campaign has little choice but to deliver a constant stream of such negative charges. "With low poll numbers and a volatile situation in Iraq, Bush has more hope of tarnishing
Kerry's image than promoting his own."
"The Bush campaign is faced with the hard, true fact that they have to keep
their boot on his neck and define him on their terms," Reed said. That might
risk alienating some moderate voters or depressing turnout, "but they don't have a choice," he said.
And it will probably work.
Four more years. Four more Memorial