The Matriots - mothers/patriots/peace activists - these women are the new soccer moms. They take their responsibility as citizens just as seriously as they take their responsibility as mothers. They belong to diverse families and they live in every kind of neighborhood in every state of the union. They're raising the next generation of Americans. Cindy Sheehan lost her son, who was an Eagle Scout and a soldier, to a war that all can see as a chaotic mess and a macabre mistake. These "matriots" believe that life is precious - far too precious to play rhetorical games while pursuing a failed policy. After all, their children are the ones who are asked to fight these wars - risking death and having to wound and kill others. They believe that war should always be a last resort because, as evil as the United States should choose to label anyone else, these mothers know that war brings about its own evils. Ending the war in Iraq is of the utmost importance to them. Regardless of party, they will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not wholeheartedly a speedy end to the war in Iraq. They believe that all elected representatives should act overtly to prevent any future war of aggression. This public position must be part of the campaign of any politician who expects to get their votes.
42 House Democrats voted to pass the vacuous resolution this week (HR 861) despite convincing and heartfelt debate from so many on the Democratic side of the aisle. These are the names, and may I say that I am deeply ashamed of their vote on this issue:
Engelhardt Interview with Andrew Bacevich: Time to Rethink U.S. Role in the World
I am not ashamed to call myself an intelligent patriot. The writing you see me do here is not for profit of any kind. It is a direct extension of my deepest conscience. I joined a contingent of concerned and intelligent patriots last month in Washington D.C. on a two-mile walk through the streets of the city. You didn't have to belong to a special interest group to be a part of this march. One hour before the march began, I'd had no idea it was even going to take place. As the group marched, citizens on the street were invited to join and shouts of "Wake Up, America!" were echoing off the walls of tall buildings where citizens waved and gave "thumbs-up" from open windows above. Escorted by police on either end of the group of walking and chanting citizens, we made our way to the front of the home of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld to tell him that we would not accept a war in Iran as part of the failed course that the Bush administration has taken in America's war on terror.
Cindy Sheehan and others gather peacefully outside the Rumsfeld doorway
Last month, Tom Englehardt interviewed Andrew Bacevich, who recently took part in an eye-opening and frank discussion for Harpers magazine titled "American Coup d’Etat: Military thinkers discuss the unthinkable." Mr. Bacevich is professor of international relations at Boston University and the author, most recently, of The New American Militarism. He served as an officer in the US Army from 1969 to 1992.
Judging from the underlying tone of uncertainty represented in the interview, Mr. Bacevich is not completely convinced that Rumsfeld isn't plotting a strategy that would include militray attacks on Iran as part of his vision of a future extension of the war on terror. Mr. Bacevich reminds us that the officer corps of the U.S. military privately want none of it:
Having said that, with all the speculation about Bush administration interest in expanding the Global War on Terror to include Iran, I suspect the officer corps, already seeing the military badly overstretched, doesn't want to have any part of such a war. Going public with attacks on Rumsfeld is one way of trying to slow whatever momentum there is toward an Iran war.
I must say, I don't really think we're on a track to have a war with Iran any time soon -- maybe I'm too optimistic here [he laughs] -- but I suspect even the civilian hawks understand that the United States is already overcommitted, that to expand the war on terror to a new theater, the Iranian theater, would in all likelihood have the most dire consequences, globally and in Iraq.
Juan Cole has recently said something along the same lines, as I posted here yesterday.
Mr. Bacevich says, when we hear the generals talking about Donald Rumsfeld's incompetence and micromanagement, what they're doing is arguing against Rumsfeld's military transformation project that, in Bacevich's all-too-kind words, resulted in an outcome in Iraq that, to date, is "at best ambiguous."
He puts a counter-spin on the talking points you hear about the alleged brilliance of the vision of Rumsfeld's downsized lean-mean-and-ready military transformation, along with the "New American Century" chickenhawks and their blown expectation for the success of American military supremacy to achieve an imperialistic goal. At one point in the interview he says that he doesn't buy as readily into the "Bush lied" set of beliefs. He thinks Bush and company believed everything they were saying.:
They really believed that, once they succeeded in Iraq, a whole host of ancillary benefits were going to ensue, transforming the political landscape of the Middle East. All of those expectations were bizarre delusions and we're paying the consequences now.
He lays out some of the consequences:
This country of 290 million people has a force of about 130,000 soldiers committed in Iraq, fighting something on the order of 10-20,000 insurgents and a) we're in a war we can't win, b) we're in the fourth year of a war we probably can't sustain much longer. For those who believe in the American imperial project, and who see military supremacy as the foundation of that empire, this ought to be a major concern: What are we going to do to strengthen the sinews of American military power, because it's turned out that our vaunted military supremacy is not what it was cracked up to be. If you're like me and you're quite skeptical about this imperial project, the stresses imposed on the military and the obvious limits of our power simply serve to emphasize the imperative of rethinking our role in the world so we can back away from this unsustainable notion of global hegemony.
When Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa) and many other House Democrats argued for a change in course last week during the debate on the vacuous House Resolution 861, they were saying that we need to rethink our role in the world. How that translates to "cut and run" is rationally ambiguous, but "cut and run" is a perfect rhetorical slogan to make a political opponent look like a coward. HR861 was just that - - a perfect rhetorical tool to help partisan Republicans make Democrats look like cowards. In the meantime, the same Republicans made a collective agreement, even if it was a subconscious agreement, to abdicate their responsibility to even pretend to welcome reasoned debate on rethinking the United States' role in the modern world. I think it's going to come back and bite them in the ass unless they can turn their narrative around with Rovian stealth-craftiness when (and if) the Bush administration finally sees the dire consequences of their failed policy.
Be sure to read the Englehardt interview with Andrew Bacevich in full. Beyond the U.S. being preoccupied with trying to manage Iraq, he says he's hard-pressed to see a coherent strategy in the Middle East or elsewhere.
Seeing this for myself, I joined that walk to Rumsfeld's house last month to let him know that you can only fool the American people for so long. Rumsfeld's put on a good game face, but it's past the time we should have ended the occupation in Iraq. It surely isn't a time to be stirring up a new conflict in Iran. The longer we wait to have real debate about our nation's role in the world, the weaker a nation we will become to the world and to ourselves.
* Those readers who want some background on the issues discussed in this interview are advised, by Mr. Egelkhardt, to pick up a copy of Bacevich's book, The New American Militarism. There is also a background post about Mr. Bacevich and his ideas at TomDispatch.
I have something that I wish to say regarding the lack of commitment and responsibility that stems from what I believe has been a series of poor choices made by the Bush administration when considering the people most likely to take seriously their solemn duties to the people of this country in the positions of great responsibility to which they are assigned.
This thought came to me today when Condoleeza Rice announced that Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, 52, the department's No. 2 official is resigning his post to take a job with Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., the world's biggest securities firm by market value. Rice has not yet announced a successor to Zoellick. White House spokesman Tony Snow said that Zoellick "has been wanting to pursue opportunities in the private sector for sometime and now he's going to do it." I guess opportunity to be a chief diplomat on behalf of his nation and its people wasn't the opportunity that Zoellick found most inspiring. After having persuaded the most powerful rebel group in the western Sudanese area of Darfur to sign a peace agreement with the government after four sleepless nights of negotiations earlier this month in Nigeria, Mr. Zoellick is walking away.
Was it the lure of the green on Wall Street that tempted our #2 State chief away? I don't think so. I believe it was a matter of pride. When John Snow's replacement for Treasury secretary was made and Hank Paulson took the job, Mr. Zoellick was ready to bolt because he didn't get the job himself. It was no secret. Bloomberg News reported last month that "a prominent Republican close to the White House said Zoellick told administration officials in unmistakable terms of his plans and that the No. 2 U.S. diplomat has received indications that President George W. Bush is unlikely to tap him for the Treasury job."
It seems that Sudan was just a stepping stone to Robert Zoellick in his prideful quest for the top job at Treasury. His personal hopes fell flat and you can see how quickly he dropped the public facade of caring and commitment to the awesome responsibility that had been handed to him by the President of the United States. Simply put, Zoellick was ready to bolt because he had bigger fish to fry. I'd thank Mr. Zoellick for every significant part he'd played in securing peace when the only other option was violence, but I would hope that the person chosen to replace him has less ambition and more genuine and serious commitment to peace and diplomacy. He's leaving a hole during a period when he's needed the most. At a time when the President and his administration have made so many decisions on the side of unnecessary violence when diplomacy was the first and best option, Americans need to know they have committed and responsible people in the top positions at State.
It should be disturbing to know that Mr. Zoellick was only performing while waiting for a cushier job to come along.
On a last note, think, if you will, about another one of the poor choices that this administration has made about the people they put into top positions of responsibility. Think back to the woefully inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina and FEMA’s (Heckuva-job-Brownie) Michael Brown, the failed "Boss Hog" of the Arabianhorse show cicrcuit.
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, BEGIN IT. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.