The sounds of mortar fire punctuated the American soldiers’ words as he spoke in code over the radio: “Red on red.” It was another day of Operation Thunderbolt, now ongoing near the Iraqi-Syrian border, but the insurgents weren’t firing at the Americans they were battling each other.
It’s red-on-red in America, too, as the split in the Republican party widens: what we’re seeing is the beginning of a political insurgency against the war coming from the Right. As our much-anticipated triumphant entry into Iraq collapses into a bloody morass, and the public begins to rebel, those conservatives who opposed this war all along are joined by some of those whose support for the invasion was initially vehement. Walter “Freedom Fries” Jones, a very conservative Republican congressman from North Carolina, has linked up with a veritable rainbow coalition of his fellow representatives Neil Abercrombie, a moderate Democrat; Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican from Texas; and Dennis Kucinich, a liberal Democrat to introduce a resolution calling on the president to announce by the end of 2005 a plan for withdrawal from Iraq that would begin by Oct. 1, 2006.
Nationalist insurgents in Iraq are fighting foreign jihadists as well as Anglo–American invaders, while American insurgents in both parties are battling the bipartisan congressional leadership over their campaign to bring our troops “Homeward Bound,” as the rebels have dubbed their resolution. A year ago, this would have been inconceivable, but in that time the American people, and an increasing number of their elected representatives, have been getting a rapid education in the methods and sources of war propaganda. Says Rep. Jones:
“‘When I look at the number of men and women who have been killed it’s almost 1,700 now, in addition to close to 12,000 have been severely wounded and I just feel that the reason of going in for weapons of mass destruction, the ability of the Iraqis to make a nuclear weapon, that’s all been proven that it was never there”
Interviewer George Stephanopoulos asked him who is to blame: Rumsfeld? The president? Jones answered:
“I think it’s primarily the neoconservatives who were advisers in key positions in both the Department of Defense and I think that they gave bad advice.”
He “felt deceived when he was told that so-called ‘neoconservatives’ in the Pentagon had wanted to invade Iraq long before Sept. 11,” and he recalls how he got “‘very, very upset’ when he learned there were no weapons of mass destruction ‘and that information was manipulated to justify the invasion.'”
Conservatives like Jones have been manipulated, lied to, and led around by the nose, with the neocons playing Lynndie England on the other end of the leash. Now they are rising up, demanding an exit strategy and an explanation. And it isn’t just Jones: Rep. Howard Coble, a fellow Republican in the North Carolina congressional delegation, has met with Jones and is “leaning toward supporting” Jones’ resolution. It’s red-on-red and the split in the GOP over the war issue is widening. Senator Chuck Hagel, said to be eyeing a White House run, has joined the chorus of Republican voices calling for a reevaluation, if not a reversal, of our failed policy in Iraq.
“Things aren’t getting better,” says Senator Hagel, “they’re getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq.”
The neocons who sold us this bill of goods don’t care about reality: they don’t even recognize the validity of the concept. Remember that White House aide who derided critics of the Bushian foreign policy as “members of the reality-based community”?
“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality judiciously, as you will we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
In the past, such people have been locked up for their own good and ours. Today, they are in the White House and the office of the vice president, where they are busy “creating new realities.” The families of the 1,700 killed and tens of thousands horribly wounded have certainly had a whole new reality created for them and they don’t like it. The people of Iraq, too, have an even harsher new reality to contend with and they don’t like it, either, which is why the indigenous insurgency is growing. The American people are less than pleased with the course of the war, and they want out, one way or another: even the Democrats, whose presidential nominating convention banned all expression of antiwar sentiment, are beginning to wake up, albeit only because they sense a political opportunity.
However, there is no political gain for Rep. Jones who garnered more than 70 percent of the vote in the last election but that doesn’t matter to him. As one colleague, a Democrat, put it: “Walter ain’t much on watching polls. He makes up his own mind.” He is swimming against the current in his own party as well as in his own district, which is host to three military bases. That tide, however, may be turning. A motion condemning Jones’ position failed to even get a second in the local board of commissioners, and Jones is unrepentant. “If I had known that that was not true at the time we voted two years ago,” he says, “I wouldn’t have voted to go into Iraq,” and at this point the number of Republicans in Congress who agree with him has got to be increasing.
It wasn’t poll numbers that led the North Carolina rock-solid conservative to begin questioning the zeal that compelled him to carry the banner of pre-war Francophobia on Capitol Hill by bullying the House cafeteria into renaming French fries “Freedom fries.” In his interview with ABC’s This Week, Jones pinpointed his own personal tipping point:
“I went down to a Sergeant Michael Bitz’s funeral, down in Camp Lejeune. Michael Bitz left a wife and three children, twins that he never saw. He was killed at Nasiriya.
“And when she attended the funeral, I remember vividly I can see it right now in my mind the situation, when she read the last letter she received from him he left a wife and three children, twins he never saw, that were born two months after he was deployed and that really has been on my mind and my heart ever since. That’s two years ago.”
This account of a directionless Bitz, who found a purpose when he joined the Marines and turned his life around, hints at the larger tragedy that Jones has glimpsed, and the enormity of our folly in Iraq. As Jones put it to Stephanopoulos:
“And, George, I still I think back to the Vietnam time, and I can’t remember it as well as I would like to, but I think about how about two years after Senator Johnson or Vice President Johnson became the president, because Senator Kennedy had been assassinated OK, how about if some members of Congress had said to him, two years after he was sworn in as president, ‘Let’s talk about what our goals are in Vietnam’? That didn’t happen. There might have been one or two senators or maybe House members, but they just stayed there until 58,000 Americans were killed.”
I would like the War Party to start questioning Walter Jones’ patriotism, as they have questioned that of every public figure who has spoken out against an immoral, illegal, and ill-conceived conflict. I’m waiting for David Horowitz to open his big trap, or Christopher Hitchens: let them dare to level the same charge of treason at Jones, who has written letters to the families of over 1,300 military personnel killed in Iraq. In the anteroom to his congressional office, the faces of the war dead gaze out over entrants, like sentries standing guard over his political conscience. When Stephanopoulos asked if his stand has “made life uncomfortable” for him, Jones replied:
“George, not really because you know what, I’m going to do what my heart tells me to do. And if that means it jeopardizes my being re-elected I can always tell you that my daddy, who served for 26 years in the United States House of Representatives, always told me to vote my conscience first, my constituency second, and my party third.”
Rep. Jones is hopping mad and, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, he is in a position to do something about it. He’s realized that, in his words, the intelligence that led us into war was “manipulated” but by whom? The neocons are in his sights, but we need to get a little more specific than that before we can trace the path of lies that led us into this disaster. What is needed nay, required is a congressional investigation into the intelligence that shaped the policy. We need to start naming names.
If only the congressional Democrats who oppose this war or say they do would drop the partisan blinders and combine with Republicans such as Jones, Ron Paul, and others to hold this administration accountable for its actions in Iraq. For the life of me, I can’t imagine that Rep. John Conyers, who chaired mock hearings on the war in the House basement the other day, thought to extend an invitation to his antiwar colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
The “Homeward Bound” resolution is the best hope of the antiwar forces in this country, and it is time for the grass roots to go into action. A lot of smarty-pants analysts and wiseacre pundits aver it doesn’t stand a chance of passing. That, at any rate, is the conventional wisdom. I would only note that no one foresaw the rapid implosion of the mighty Soviet empire, either. Yet the Soviet colossus turned out to be hollow, and today only its ruins survive.
The same fate awaits us if we fail to take this opportunity to cut our losses while we can. A hubris greater than even the Soviets’ conceit conceived the invasion and conquest of Iraq. Trotsky only dreamed of invading Poland, and was kicked out of the Kremlin and exiled for his pains: whatever gains the Commies made in Eastern Europe and China were made possible by their Western collaborators, at Yalta and within the U.S. State Department crawling with Reds, thanks to FDR.
The Soviets’ ramshackle empire was not stable, however, and never mounted a viable threat to the West, either militarily or ideologically. The neoconservatives, on the other hand, have taken Iraq and unashamedly yearn for Syria and Iran. They may be down, politically, but they are far from out. The main hope for peace and a rational foreign policy is that conservatives like Rep. Jones be allowed to deliver the knock-out blow.
The Left has done much of the yeoman’s work in alerting the nation to the imminent danger we face: now conservatives are stepping forward. When will the two wings of the Peace Party in Congress unite for the good of the nation?
A timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is just the first step. Beyond that, what is needed is a comprehensive investigation that will examine, without fear or favor, the falsification of “intelligence” by ad hoc neocon-controlled government agencies. We need a thorough examination of what role the office of the vice president played in vetting and shaping the “evidence” for Iraq’s WMD and alleged links to al-Qaeda. What part did the “Office of Special Plans,” AKA “The Cabal,” play and why was Dick Cheney tootling over to Langley and standing over analysts as they wrote their reports? Who are the Pied Pipers of Washington, who lured Congress and the American people down the path and over a cliff, into the Iraqi abyss?
Did they deliberately deceive us? E. J. Dionne opines:
“The notion that the president led the country into war through indirection or dishonesty is not the most damaging criticism of the administration. The worst possibility is that the president and his advisers believed their own propaganda.”
I can think of much worse and far more likely possibilities, such as: they believed their own propaganda and they lied. Isn’t that what you do when you’re “creating reality,” as that White House aide explained?
“We’re history’s actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Let us by all means study these “actors” who shape history to fit their ideological agenda: let’s trace their movements, document their deceptions, and follow the path all the way back to their origins as a conspiracy against the peace. If they broke the law and the trust of the American people then they deserve to be brought to justice.
The dead are owed that much.