By Brigitte L. Nacos
In a disgraceful display of election year politics, members of both Houses of Congress used the Iraq war and the very real terrorist threat to position themselves for their respective campaign battles. While members' focus on their constituents in red and blue states assured that neither the Republican majority nor the Democrats' minority was united on a future course of action in Iraq, Republicans used their majority status to push resolutions that allowed them to attack Democrats as cut-and-run defeatists and as siding with Al Qaeda and thus with terrorists. In a revival of the Swift-Boat tactics during the 2004 presidential campaign that maligned the decorated Vietnam veteran Senator John Kerry as traitor, this time around one of the targets was John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania), another decorated Vietnam veteran and strong supporter of the U.S. military who, according to Charlie Norwood (R-Georgia) is said to be against America and for Al Qaeda--because of his opposition to the administration's post-invasion Iraq management."Many, but not all, on the other side of the aisle lack the will to win, he said. "The American people need to know precisely who they are. It is time to stand up and vote. Is it Al Qaeda or America?"
What a shameful question to ask. To question an administration's policy is un-American? Have we really returned to the Joe McCarthy era? Before and during the Iraq invasion, reasonable people could come to different conclusions as to whether the military move was justified or not as part of the "war on terrorism." The administration's claim that there was a direct connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and 9/11 and Al Qaeda and that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction convinced a clear majority of Americans to support the war.
While it is far from clear that most in the political class and in the media were persuaded by the administration's arguments, there were few that dared to question the not so conclusive evidence in favor of the Iraq invasion. Most remained silent or joined the majority--if only for fear of being targeted by the self-appointed PATRIOTISM POLICE as un-American and un-patriotic.
Nearly five years after 9/11, there is no proof of Iraq's weapons of mass destructors nor of its pre-war connections to Al Qaeda and 9/11. And in spite of the recent elimination of al-Zarqawi, things are not looking good in Iraq. Yet, it is hardly surprising that many Americans continue to support the rationale for the war and the post-invasion efforts, whereas equally as many--at this point in fact more--question the administration and its supporters on both counts.
Both sides have arguments worthy of discussion. Both sides have the right to speak their mind. Neiter side should demonize or be demonized.That is the American way. That makes it worthwhile to defend democracy.
I believe that neither the stay-the-course side nor the setting-a-deadline-for-withdrawal adcovates have it right. We need fresh ideas and innovative approaches. We need to debate the pros and cons of alternatives and choose the one that is more likely in the interests of the American and the Iraqi people.
Unfortunately, in the absence of honesty and civility in today's political discourse and amidst signs that the PATRIOTISM POLICE is raising its ugly head in time for the November off-year elections, there is little hope for changing things around.