Friday, October 14, 2005

So, what IS total victory?

Watched the President's staged teleconference again, and noticed a few things. First of all, watching again showed how stilted it was, and how the soldiers' "carefully prepared" responses sounded off-base. If anyone (besides Scottie) tries to deny it was, that satellite feed from the Pentagon themselves is a real killer for that line.

More importantly, President Bush repeated his line from last week's terrorism speech in which he said we would not leave Iraq until we achieved total victory. Just wondering, what does that mean? He never gives us a clear answer to any of this because he always says that saying it would "aid the terrorists."

Let's forget them for a minute, and remember that the President's first duty is to protect us, to serve us. We want answers, and at a 39% approval rating, I don't think he's in a position to say no. This sounds very much like Richard Nixon's "peace with honor" claim about Vietnam, and we ended up leaving with our tail between our legs.

I supported this war, I stood there and said Bush is right, let's do this thing. I wrote it in columns for my newspaper. I was convinced after Colin Powell went to the U.N. and gave that presentation. I prayed we would get support, but felt it wouldn't happen. I was surprised we went when we did, and with so few troops (having remembered when the first Gulf War started. I was sitting at the kitchen table doing homework, watching TV, and the Special Report came up with the footage. I have an archive of that whole war in newspapers).

I've stood by our effort there for a long time, but now I am coming down the hill. I am finding it increasingly hard to believe in an effort in which I've seen a friend get wounded, in which we have undersupported our soldiers in armor and in numbers, in which a theory on less troops being needed has been blown to hell and yet we still don't increase the number of troops.

I'll admit that I've vacillated a little on whether we just withdraw or keep going on, but let's throw this one out too. I mentioned this in a posting some time back, and I'll say it again. Maybe we need to throw an extra 100,000 troops in there and accelerate our training of these forces. The Saudis have plenty of open desert in which we could set up a training ground and get this thing going. Iraqis are afraid to train in their country because being with us is hazardous to their health right now. We have to make the situation better, because at some point, we face a definite fork in the road: stay in Iraq forever and earn their enmity and lose troops in increasing numbers, or bail out and leave a problem behind.

This is hard for me. I feel like I got behind an effort that was run poorly, that was politically motivated, that has made us less safe, and is killing our economy. I'm not sure what to do, but there has to be something better than this mess, and if the President can't describe total victory to us, then we need to get us a Congress that can define it for him.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

You know you're in trouble when...

You hold such a horrible photo-op like the White House did this morning. I mean, seriously, who dreamed up this gem? "Hey, I've got it! Let's have the President stand at a podium in a darkened room speaking to soldiers who are on a giant projection TV from Iraq! It'll rally the troops and make him look strong again!"


Typically, one does not lead from a podium in a darkened room. One does not lead by reading a (poorly written) script. One leads by doing things for the people he leads, things of substance, like putting more troops in Iraq from the start, like ending the tax cuts for those making over $500,000 a year when disaster strikes, like not leading us to financial ruin, like going back to Iraq and seeing things like they really are. LBJ went to Vietnam, despite the fact he ran that war stupidly, so why can't George go to Iraq?

Oh, yeah, here's another component of leadership....don't lie. "There are 80 trained battalions of Iraqi soldiers who can take on the insurgency," said the President, one day after his field commanders said that number was one, decreased from three last year. Um, this is South Vietnam all over again. The South Vietnamese kept deserting from the SVA, and their efficiency decreased the longer we were there and the more we added troops. Maybe it's time for the bold gesture. Maybe we should pull out by the end of the year and let them do this thing on their own. A year ago, I never would've said that. Hell, six months ago I wouldn't have said that.

The thing is, though, we cannot do much more for them. We've given it a helluva good shot, but you're telling me we have one trained, ready to work on its own battalion after almost three years? More Iraqis hate our presence every day, and even President Jalal Talabani said he feels our presence is a sore on the Iraqi psyche. At the same time, as long as we're there, they don't feel the need to get their shit together on the security side, and it's not like they aren't smart, because they are, and it's not like they aren't brave, because they are, but we give them an excuse. If we cut our force in half by the new year, that might be the incentive they need to get their shit together.

We can't sustain this commitment any longer in this fashion, not with the huge drop in enlistments, not with the need for us in Afghanistan still. We screwed this one up. It's become clear that we should've finished our work in Afghanistan before we got to Iraq. It could've waited, but it didn't, and now we are paying a stiff price, one we cannot afford to keep much longer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Religion before safety...again

Okay, let's review.

Religious groups and our President decide that any groups that provide birth control to help stop the pandemic of AIDS in Africa don't get federal funding, even though birth control is one of the more effective methods of preventing the spread of this deadly disease. A lot of Africans are not religious in our sense of the word, and we would rather let them die than help them, because it doesn't conform to the supposed moral sensibilities of this administration.

Secondly, they torpedo the Plan B pill from becoming an over-the-counter medication, even after the FDA two-tiered it, making it OTC only if the buyer was a legal adult. Why did they stop it? "Well, it might invite people to have more sex, and it might make teens more promiscuous," and "It's an abortofacient. It kills life."

Um, I don't know if these people have ever paid attention to the world, but this is already going on! It has been for centuries. The Roman Empire, France, the Saudis, the list goes on of nations that have promiscuity in their history. This isn't a new issue. Teenagers have hormones, and many of them act on those impulses that generate hormones. Sex is a natural part of life, a natural instinct, and those who believe sex is only for procreation shouldn't enforce those beliefs on those who don't. If they don't want to take it, they don't have to take it.

So, even with a prescription requirement for teenagers, the religious conservatives and the President still don't want this to be an OTC drug, even though it is used by people who are single, married, younger, older. It is important that it be taken early after unprotected sex to stop ovulation. Stopping ovulation, hate to tell you, is not abortion. The fetus is never created. It's hard to kill a life that never started.

Now, the same group of people wants to stop FDA approval of a vaccine for HPV (human papillomavirus). Why? A spokeswoman for the Family Research Council says that they are all for preventing cancer (HPV is a major cause of cervical cancer), but does it have to be this way? If people knew they could have more sex without risk, then we'd become more promiscuous.

Well, damn. Let's allow deadly diseases to spread (again) because God forbid that people have more sex. What is their hangup over sex, anyways? Are these people willing to say under oath that they haven't had premarital sex and all their married sex was strictly for procreation? Are they willing to swear to God, with a hand on the Bible? I think that number would be low, because we know most of these people are absolute hypocrites in other matters.

It's incredibly obvious that the wall of church and state has come down, because so many decisions by our government today are made based on religious beliefs instead of what is best for all the citizens of the country. I have a strong belief in God, and I thank Him a lot for my blessings: a wonderful fiancee, two beautiful children, a house to live in and food on the table. However, I don't take that and shove it in the face of people who don't want to hear it, or try to stop people from using things that could save their lives. It's not what Jesus would do. He would want to save lives. I want to save lives. Compassion, mercy, forgiveness, not hypocrisy and false piety, are the marks of Jesus Christ. These people have a lot of nerve to call themselves Christians when they would stand by and watch people die for their piety.