Phooey on Tough Talk

I would feel better about President George Bush’s tough schoolboy rhetoric if he were in Baghdad, Fallujah or Tikrit instead of lolling about on his ranch or at Camp David in between fund-raising trips and photo ops. He ought to go to Iraq to see what his policy has wrought.

Dwight Eisenhower went to Korea during that war. Why shouldn’t President Bush go to Iraq? He could even stop by Ramallah and the Gaza Strip on the way back to see what his Palestinian-Israeli policy has wrought.

The president has said that the "terrorists and killers" want us to run, but America will not run. That is, of course, expressing geo-political strategic concepts in the language of schoolboys. But to use that language, we "ran" from Vietnam, from Lebanon and from Somalia, and we might yet "run" from Iraq.

To use more adult language, in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia, the United States decided that what it was doing was not worth the costs and simply withdrew. That might or might not happen in regard to Iraq, but adult language rather than churlish childish language would help the American people understand the situation better.

In the first place, the Iraqis killing our people are not trying to scare us. They are resisting occupation. No doubt they see themselves as patriots, not as terrorists. Their message is simple: As long as you occupy our country, we will try to kill you. Resistance to occupation is always legitimate but never the result of a democratic vote. Nobody got the Iraqis together and said, "Those who want to resist raise your hands, and those who want to collaborate raise your hands." Probably most just want to keep their heads down until the matter is settled.

Americans need to ask if what we are doing in Iraq is worth the costs in American lives and dollars. After all of these funerals, after all of these amputees are sent home with their artificial limbs, and after all of these billions of dollars are spent, precisely what benefits will accrue to the American people?

Personally, I can’t think of a single benefit worth the price. What we are doing in Iraq has no effect on al-Qaida, except to help it recruit more terrorists. It aggravates rather than helps solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Whether the Iraqis want or don’t want a Democratic government is entirely their business and not worth a single American life.

Years ago, an Israeli defense minister referred to the lives of Israeli soldiers as "our most precious treasure." I think that is a good way to think of a nation’s soldiers. Since they are our most precious treasure, we should take care not to squander their lives for inconsequential reasons and least of all just to bolster the ego of some politician back home. When President Bush says "we" won’t run, someone should remind Bush that it isn’t him who is standing in harm’s way. It’s a group of young men and women who have better things to do with their lives than squander them in the desert because Bush mistakenly thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Most certain of all, we should not send them into harm’s way based on lies – or, in the words of a tough Marine general, "every time some policy wonk has a brain fart."

Since no such weapons have been found, Bush – rather than admit he made a mistake – has dreamed up the notion that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. Horse apples. The president was dishonest about the reasons for going in, and now he’s being dishonest about the reasons for staying.

The truth is, the politicians in Washington – Democrat and Republican – are unworthy of the sacrifices these young men and women are making in Iraq. We should let them all "run" home in time to vote against Bush’s re-election – which, you can be sure, a sizable number of them and their families will.

The proper attitude for President Bush to display is humility and sorrow for the loss of life. If he wants to strut around and be belligerent, the place to do that is on the ground in Iraq. I’m sure our guys and gals would welcome another pair of boots on the ground. He’d probably be greeted by a sign that said, "Hey, Chief, the Mission Ain’t Accomplished Yet."

© 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Author: Charley Reese

Charley Reese is a journalist.