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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Wednesday | August 21, 2002

Chickenhawks push war

I served in the US Army, 1989-1992, as an artilleryman for an MLRS battalion (it's a deadly rocket system). My time in the service was dominated by the Gulf War. My unit never deployed -- our equipment was waiting for us in Saudi Arabia, but the war ended too quickly -- but we spent over a year training for desert warfare (including hideous chemical war training).

As some of you may remember, there was a five-month buildup before the air war started, and another three months or so before ground troops entered Kuwait and Iraq. That was a long time for me and my uniformed colleagues to dwell on our mortality. To wonder whether we would still exist a year later. We had difficulty communicating with our friends and family back in the 'real world'. They couldn't relate to what we were going through.

Make no mistake. We were ready to serve. In fact, we were eager to put our training into action, but we couldn't mask our fears. War is dangerous business, and death is final. It is impossible for non-veterans to fully understand. A good soldier will do his or her duty, but it's a heavy burden and should not be imposed lightly. Not only does war kill, but it destroys families, and scars survivors. Thus, war is ultimately a tool of last resort, to be used when the cause is just and all other options have been exhausted.

But the fools in our country's governing junta see things differently. For them, war is a political tool, to be wielded when expedient. It's no surprise that almost none of the "invade Iraq" cabal have served: Bush, Cheney, DeLay, Wolfowitz, Perle, Fleischer, Rice, Barnes, Hannity, Kristol, Lieberman, and the master tactician himself -- Rove (Rumsfeld is the exception).

On the other hand, the veteran contingent in both parties have led the anti-war effort -- Powell, Hagel, Kerry (MA), Scowcraft, Schwarzkopf, Clark, and the entire uniformed cadre at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Armey is the exception). This is significant.

As Perle has said, this war is no longer about achieving any notable strategic considerations. It's no longer a military campaign. It's a political effort, all about saving face:

"The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.
Frank Rick wrote in the NY Times:
If Mr. Bush doesn't get rid of Saddam after all this saber rattling, he will look like the biggest wimp since -- well, his father.
As the vast majority of the Bush Administration's veteran contingent have determined, saving Bush from his own overheated rhetoric can't justify the death of a single US servicemember. The rest of the world is also uninterested in sacrificing its youth to Bush's 'credibility campaign'. (Canada is out, as is Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.)

There have been some indications Bush might be looking to back down, but every step back has been followed by two steps forward. As one analyst put it:

"They have invested so much political capital in the claim that they are going to get him (Saddam Hussein) that it does become a self-fulfilling commitment.

The real issue becomes that we would lose face. So we'll go to war, we'll slaughter however many thousands of Iraqis and put at risk however many young American men and women GIs because somebody doesn't want to lose face.

Update: In a just-published column, Maureen Dowd touches upon the Chickenhawk arguments I made above. Her version is much more effective, but that's why she makes the big bucks.

Posted August 21, 2002 08:55 AM | Comments (6)


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