While the resolutions struggling their way through the houses of Congress may not change the course of events in Iraq, they have sharpened the focus on our commitment there. There have been good arguments on both sides for supporting or not supporting the president’s troop surge. At its worst the discussions have provided a platform for Republicans on the right to trot out their familiar rants, laying claim to an absolutist patriotism and support for the troops. At its best, it has illuminated issues hidden in the dark repository of blind partisanship that has provide cover for a president engaged in global debates that strain the limits of his capabilities.
In his most recent column David Broder at The Washington Post suggests that President Bush may have regained his footing by exhibiting a new-found political sensitivity. Mr. Broder seems to find proof of this in the president’s last press conference and his availability for interviews. For some reason,although his numbers have risen to a dizzying 37%, this new awareness isn’t all that obvious.
The non-answers to important questions are still the order of the day, the snickering is as inappropriate as ever – – why the press corps continues to encourage the mindless jokes and sarcasm by joining in the laughter remains one of those media imponderables. And Mr. Bush just can’t seem to refrain from dropping the “ic” when referring to the Democratic Party. Most stunning in its cosmic vapidity was his remark about how difficult it was to fathom events on the ground in Iraq from the vantage point of his life in “the beautiful White House.” If this is what passes for the administration’s world view and political smarts it helps to explain why it has made such poor decisions on behalf of the nation.
As Republicans try to corner Democrats the refrain of “support the troops” and emotional renderings of past service and military exploits have filled the air in the House. They are matched in kind by the service of sitting representatives on the Democratic side who have watched the Iraq debacle unfold and whose support of the troops does not include a hurry-up deployment of under-trained, under-equipped men and women. Is it not the duty of Congress to provide proper oversight and demand the best equipment and training for our military? Isn’t that the best way to “support the troops”?
Retired Marine John Murtha wants to stipulate that such requirements be met before troops are sent into battle. Only in the highly-charged atmosphere of partisan politics can a decorated war veteran like Murtha be painted as unpatriotic and cowardly for making such demands. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, given the unconscionable assaults on John Kerry in the last presidential campaign or those of Saxby Chambliss against triple amputee Viet Nam vet Max Cleland during his senatorial campaign. We find ourselves in a wonderland of improbable conclusions accompanied by loudly-proclaimed affirmations based on false premises and an unwillingness to confront the reality of what going to war means.
Repeated over and over again in the House debate this week are commments by Republicans that President Clinton had depleted the military, that there were insufficient supplies of protective gear for the army or its vehicles. Three times Duncan Hunter, former chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, rose to make these points, saying, at the same time, that such protective devices were something new in the conduct of war and that the needs of those currently serving had been met. He stressed that he had asked for any in need to call his office and had not received even one call – – his assumption being, apparently, that the entire nation hangs on his every word.
It pleases Republicans to accuse the Clinton administration of not acting in resopnse to terrorist activities despite the fact that after the first attack on the Trade Center the perpetrators were tracked down, tried and imprisoned. And the Bush administration doesn’t like to admit that it was warned by Clinton that terrorism would be its number-one concern; after six years into the Bush presidency and four years into this ill-conceived war, Republicans are still trying to blame Clinton for the missteps of the current administration. Consider this, if Republican allegations are valid and the Clinton administration so depleted and weakened the military that it was ill-equipped for war, what kind of government would undertake to invade and occupy a foreign nation under such circumstances? If true, wouldn’t that be an immoral act so immense it beggars the imagination?
Former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeldliked to say that you go to war with the army you have not the army you’d like to have, although in its strange world of non-sequiturs, the administration always insists we have the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world. But Rumsfeld’s words then and, upon reflection now, are a clear indictment of those who drove this country to conduct a war with faulty, overheated intelligence, poor planning and conscienceless deployment of thousands of young men and women ill-prepared for what they would face.
The question now is how many more troops and support adjuncts should be deployed for how long and to what end? Congress at last is trying to let the president know he is not the only decider.

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