On Native Ground
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Thanks to Cindy Sheehan's single-handed siege of Crawford, Tex., we now have an anti-war movement.
Or do we?
Public opinion is still polarized on the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. A recent CNN/U.S.A Today Gallup poll found that 56 percent of self-identified Democrats surveyed want to see a total withdrawal of troops, while only 15 percent of Republicans favor a total withdrawal.
Aside from Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., no Democrat in the Senate has called for withdrawal. Aside from Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., no Republican in the Senate has pointedly gone after President George W. Bush for his misbegotten war.
Today there is more criticism of the Bush administration, but few people in Congress seem to have the guts to take on the White House and the right-wing screech monkeys who support the war.
And the corporate press? Forget it. The President will invoke the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks repeatedly in the coming weeks, and he will be allowed to get away with this demagoguery. As long as President Bush is allowed to link 9/11 with the invasion of Iraq without the major media pointing out that he's lying, he will continue to keep saying it.
As we approach the fourth anniversary of 9/11, we need a rational discussion about the war in Iraq.
We need a plan for getting out of Iraq and to avoid future military misadventures built on lies and wishful thinking. We need a plan to rebuild and stabilize a country that remains on the brink of civil war. And we definitely need a plan to deal with the real threats of terrorism without resorting to an endless cycle of war and violence.
To ask these questions at this time is to be seen as an un-American traitor by some in this country.
We need to ask them anyway.
We do not need folks like the American Legion, who last week declared war on anti-war protesters at its annual convention.
Legion national commander Thomas Cadmus told delegates that the Legion "will stand against anyone or any group that would demoralize our troops" and that "public protests against the war here at home while our young men and women are in harm's way on the other side of the globe only provide aid and comfort to our enemies."
So much for the Constitution that every member of the Legion took an oath to uphold and defend when they joined the military. I guess the right to freedom of speech and assembly doesn't appear in Cadmus' copy of the Constitution.
We don't need people such as President Bush and his supporters, who believe the best way to support the troops is to make sure they remain in a unwinnable war for the foreseeable future.
We know the Bush administration will never admit they screwed up in Iraq. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon couldn't do it either, when it was clear that Vietnam was a quagmire. But these facts can't be ignored:
An honest, serious discussion of the war would take all of this into account. It would also serve as a strong case for ending it. Again, thinking like this is still considered beyond the pale of polite conversation in Washington. Outside the Beltway, it's still considered treasonous by too many people.
As long as the President's view of a necessary and righteous war is the only view that is heard by most of America, we will be stuck in Iraq indefinitely.
We can't undo the mistake of invading Iraq. We can, at least, do something about the mistake of staying there.
It's time to talk about the war. It's time to tell our representatives in Washington to start talking about the war. It's time to tell the Bush administration to stop it with the lies and phony emotional appeals and start working on an exit strategy for Iraq.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.