You have to wonder sometimes about the kinds of people being elected these days. While we shouldn’t expect our leaders to be brilliant, aren’t we due a level of basic intelligence as well as a tiny bit of background knowledge about our country and the world? When members of Congress rise to speak for the record their remarks ought to bear some credible relationship to fact and provide evidence that they were paying attention in grade school. Sadly, the debates in Congress during the week just past were often a spectacle of ignorance and political intransigence.
It’s bad enough that the president mangles the English language in ways that can’t be blamed on the state of Texas as he recently suggested in explaining why he referred to the “Democratic” Party as the “Democrat” Party. But his word jumbles are disturbing not just because they assault the ear like bad music but because they are indicative of an intellectual deficit that leaves listeners with the uncomfortable feeling he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about even as he leads the country on a long perilous journey.
And on a visit to Congress via C-Span what do we hear from Representative Todd Akin, R.MO? In support of the president – – what else – – Akin proposed a colorful analogy to illustrate his point about the new plan to assign twenty-thousand plus troops to street duty in Baghdad. What, he asked, if Davy Crockett against a wall at The Alamo, had called for help on his Blackberry and the reply was, ‘we support you but we’re not sending reinforcements.’ Well, aside from the incongruous image of Crockett in his raccoon hat, feverishly messaging on his Blackberry it might be informative to review what actually happened at The Alamo.
Whatever their intentions at the time, whatever support or lack thereof, it was clear that the American side fought a losing cause at The Alamo; in the end only a few women and children survived. It may have been due to poor planning, insufficient numbers, poor leadership, who knows. Discussions and political infighting at the time failed to resolve differences of opinion about whether defending the post at the Alamo was worth the risk or had any hope of success. The result, complete and utter defeat, nonetheless became a rallying cry among Texans who ultimately prevailed over Mexico.
Nothing could be further removed from The Alamo than the troop surge in Iraq, unless Representative Akin is willing to concede the possible dire effect of our continued and growing presence in a region with which we have no historical raison d’être and because of which we are less prepared to pursue the larger goals of enhancing our national security and tracking down terrorist perpetrators. Unlike at the Alamo in Texas our troops are not imbued with nationalistic fervor in the cause of liberating lands they wish to control and inhabit, and unlike that historic nineteenth-century battle, current US goals are not clearly defined – – the enemy is more elusive in a land where they are the indigenous population and we are the outsiders.
And what is not discussed as much as it should be is the fact that the combat forces designated for Iraq are only half of the actual number that will be sent. Support military will almost double the size of the new contingent, adding enormously to the cost of the operation and making our presence in-country ever more obvious and targetable
Arguments that support an increased role for our military in Iraq tend to lack credibility against the backdrop of an under-informed, incompetent civilian leadership. Who knows what other strange fantasies might take shape for those who can conjure a vision of Davy Crockett with a Blackberry. Why some people might even suggest that the earth is only ten thousand years old, and that there was a Garden of Eden in which dinosaurs cavorted with Adam and Eve.
Obviously there are those who will believe almost anything – – that segment of the population who can be fooled all of the time. But as we move beyond what Democrats and some others are calling a “first step” in re-evaluating our combat involvement in Iraq it is important to re-examine our rhetoric as well. “Support the Troops” can be an empty slogan when used by politicians who fail to grasp the devastating disruptions in the lives of those who have chosen to serve their country.
In the coming months it will be incumbent upon Congress to make certain not only that our service men and women receive the very best training and equipment available for the conduct of their mission but to ensure that their life-long health- care needs will be met. The level of financial support and the facilities available to returning vets will demonstrate more profoundly than rhetorical flights of fancy the full measure of our commitment to them and what is truly meant when we say we “support the troops.”

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