Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Your Choice: Sex or Sense

Men’s room tapping action
A curious distraction
From the bloody war
That eats away our core
We know sex will sell
But who will end this hell?

Senator Larry Craig of Idaho is only the most recent of a long series of conservative “family values” Republicans to titillate the nation over the past two years. Why is it that we can’t look away from a train wreck like Duke Cunningham or Mark Foley but we cannot focus of a war that has challenged our core values as Americans? We have stood fascinated by the parade of Senator David Vitter, Senator Ted Stevens, Scooter Libby, Jeff Gannon (male prostitute and frequent White House guest), evangelist Ted Haggard, Jack Abramoff and Democrat “cold cash” Jefferson, but we have looked away from the flag draped coffins of our returning soldiers. I don’t mean to make light of the crimes or even the hypocrisy they uncovered, but is it right to dwell on the speck in the nation’s eye or the log of a pointless war and its impact on our people?

As Americans, we consider ourselves guardians of liberty and yet we have watched President Bush wiretap without court orders and state “The Constitution is just a goddam piece of paper.” We have heard the nation’s former top cop AG Alberto Gonzales call the Geneva Conventions “quaint.” We have long considered ourselves leaders in fair play, but don’t have to go back to the Sacco Venzetti case to find grossly unfair legal prosecution. Although torture policy was pushed from the very highest levels of the administration, nobody above the grade of Lieutenant Colonel has been tried for crimes up to and including murder of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. We prosecuted the little people and then collectively washed our hands. Have we forgotten our pivotal role in the war crimes trials at Nuremberg? How can we hold other nations to a standard that we are not meeting? What would happen if our leaders were led to war crime trials by some other nation? Perhaps a better question is: do we have the courage to do it ourselves?

I am suggesting that we have created a double standard where we preach the ideals of the far right, but allow unlawful official action by our elected government and the far right. We are fascinated with the ideals of our nation and with sex. We simply do not associate our departure from our ideals with the reality of crime and, yes, sin executed in our name as a nation. We appear to have bought into the notion that the president can do no wrong. We are endorsing the “unitary executive” and all the baggage that goes with it. Conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh described the sexual aberrations at Abu Ghraib as college fraternity pranks. They were crimes and spinning them as trivial is a serious injustice to the victims and to us as Americans. We “code-word” an unnecessary war in Iraq as “protecting democracy and our way of life,” while simultaneously removing our own cherished rights such as the 1st and 4th Amendments by executive fiat. Where is the courage of the right or of the left to challenge this perversion of our rightful national image? The left has decried the hypocrisy of the right and the right retorts that Clinton did it first. We all get distracted and the war bleeds on. Soldiers bleed on. Our nation bleeds on.

Our response must be to stop the bleeding, just as we would in performing first aid. The argument that we cannot remove our troops from Iraq because chaos will result is irrelevant because we are only timing our withdrawal so that we minimize our participation in the chaos. In the past year, the number of Iraqi civilians being killed has doubled. Shiites are killing Shiites and Sunnis are killing Sunnis. Local Muslims killed over 500 Yazidis in Kurdish Iraq only a few weeks ago. They are all killing each other and our soldiers. And at least 95% are Iraqi killers, not outsiders. If we leave tomorrow there will be chaos. If we leave next year, there will be chaos. If we leave next decade, there will be chaos. The only significant variable is whether we permit slaughter of Americans to continue. Iraq was a horrible mistake, but there are mistakes that cannot be undone and Iraq is one. As I write this, the president is out selling more death and is searching for a way to whitewash the dreadful lack of political progress despite the GAO report that Iraq has met only 3 of 18 political goals. The Petreaus Report is now the Bush report. Bush of the “You’re doing a heck of a job Brownie” fame. Bush of “Mission Accomplished” fame. Bush of the “one last chance surge” fame. Withdraw from bases now, one by one, before we need the troops for another Katrina or, worse yet, a 21st Century Pearl Harbor beyond the Twin Towers of 2001.

Unfortunately, the current political progress in Washington is not much better than that in Baghdad. A razor thin plurality in the House and essentially parity in the Senate guarantees that the war will continue because most Republican politicians support it and most Democrats are afraid of being called soft if they bring it to the people. Democrats do not have the votes to do this unilaterally and Republicans do not have the desire to fight the White House. We need to encourage Republicans on the floors of Congress, not in the closet or from the closet.
George Giacoppe
29 August 2007

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