Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Eagle Has Landed: Clinton in Connecticut

About 2,000 Democrats showed up at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury to cheer on ex-President Bill Clinton and re-welcome in the Age of Aquarius. Fleetwood Mac’s hypnotic verse “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,” Clinton’s signature song, filled the air, and the revelers certainly were focusing on tomorrow.

Recent poll figures show Ned Lamont edging Senator Joe Lieberman among likely Democrat voters, which betokens a tomorrow unwelcome by former Democrat Leadership Council presidents Clinton and Lieberman. The DLC’ers are moderate Democrats; the insurgents now laying claim to Lieberman’s senate seat are, shall we say, immoderate.

A Hartford reporter covering the event wrote, “The former president said no Democrat should be held responsible for the war in Iraq, the issue that polls say is driving Democrats away from Lieberman and to his anti-war challenger, Ned Lamont.”

Not exactly: In Clinton case, one has learned to pay attention to fine print qualifiers. Any assertion boldly made by Clinton always depends on what “is” is. Clinton said that Democrats were not responsible for the “mistakes that have been made since the fall of Saddam.” Some Democrats, most notably Bill Clinton, must accept responsibility for such saber rattling at this:

Six weeks ago, Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors called UNSCOM. They are highly professional experts from dozens of countries. Their job is to oversee the elimination of Iraq's capability to retain, create and use weapons of mass destruction, and to verify that Iraq does not attempt to rebuild that capability.

The inspectors undertook this mission first 7.5 years ago at the end of the Gulf War when Iraq agreed to declare and destroy its arsenal as a condition of the ceasefire.

The international community had good reason to set this requirement. Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq.

The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.

That was Clinton on the eve of his impeachment -- long before voters ushered in the age of Bush the Lesser -- addressing the nation on the danger of leaving Saddam unmolested in Iraq. But while Clinton’s saber rattling may be partially responsible for the later deposition of Saddam by Bush the Lesser, no Democrat – not even Bush enabler Lieberman – may be held responsible for mistakes that have occurred “after the fall of Saddam.”

Well, maybe yes, maybe no. It certainly is true that Bush must accept primary responsibility for mistakes that have been made in the prosecution of the Iraq war. But others, even senators that have escaped scrutiny by the insurgents, have dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood of that war. Master strategist and triangulator Clinton is right when he points out that “the real issue is, whether you were for it or against [the war], what are you going to do now?”

That question has not been answered convincingly by Lieberman, Lamont, Bush or Clinton. Aging anti-Vietnam War insurgents think they have an answer: Withdraw under honorable cover – Remember Nixon’s peace with honor? -- and let the natives hash out the future of the Middle East by themselves. But that answer is indifferent to sense and sensibility, which holds that impish history sometimes presents to us a farce (the Vietnam War) that, repeated a second time, becomes a tragedy of incalculable proportions. The Islamic fundamentalists are not Vietnamese; they are world conquerors.

Bush’s answer – introduce democracy and its handmaiden liberty into the Middle East – appears to be going up in smoke; his apparent failure has been applauded by a Euro-Europe insensible of the danger of an Islamic reconquista, homegrown politicians and faux nonpartisan media adepts whose brains are on fire.

In search of a third way, a weary world now turns its eyes to the Great Triangulator and his wife Hillary, prompting the question: Do nations that willingly extend their necks to executioners deserve to survive?
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