Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where’s The Parade?

President Barack Obama is due to end the war in Iraq – with a speech. It should be brought to a close with a parade – several parades, in fact.

Obama no doubt will mention in his speech his own valiant efforts to bring to a close the war in Iraq, without over emphasizing the role played by lesser lights such as ex-President George Bush, whose successful efforts, after frequent failures, to implement a successful war strategy implemented by General David Petraeus were vigorously opposed by congressional Democrats and a left wing media that dubbed Petraeus “General Betray-Us.” Obama's view of the surge at the time it was proposed was not ambivalent.

The left’s misgivings about the war are replicated in statements recently made by Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation on the occasion of Obama’s formal declaration announcing an end to direct military engagement by American soldiers in Iraq and the withdrawal of all but 50,000 support troops remaining in the country to serve in an advisory capacity.

Rep. Jim Himes, a 4th District Democrat, is happy that a “sorry” chapter in American foreign policy finally will be closed. “What did we really achieve,” Himes asked, “apart from removing one awful dictator who had nothing to do with Sept. 11th? We paid far, far, far too high a cost to achieve those things.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro said the Iraq war was “misconceived” and "a colossal waste of resources and people." The situation in Iraq, DeLauro noted, “remains precarious” even though some troops will remain in the country in an advisory capacity.

DeLauro has not ventured an opinion as to whether the precarious situation might have been made more precarious had Democrats been successful in bringing combat troops home before Petraeus’ strategy had been allowed to succeed. Nor has she rated the present precarious situation in Iraq with the present precarious situation in Afghanistan, a war about which she may have misgivings.

Rep. Joe Courtney rated the withdrawal of combat troops “a significant milestone,” warned the U.S. against “taking a victory lap,” and said the “jury is still out” on the question: Did the Iraq war make us safer or not? Courtney lamented the effect that the presumably successful war in Iraq had on the status of the United States: “…we paid a very heavy price in terms of our… standing in the world.”

A reasonable man, Courtney might agree that U.S. standing in the world would have received a more fatal blow had some anti-war Democrats been successful in prematurely withdrawing troops and aid before the Petraeus surge. And, of course, the now successful venture in Iraq, which ridded the country of a mass murdering tyrant and planted the still tender shoots of democracy in his wake, is a grievous disappointment to Iran, a country that thinks of itself as a more vigorous center of Wahhabi doctrine and Hanbali law than Saudi Arabia and – now that it has acquired, with the help of China, a facility to shoot rockets into Israel – a nuclear tipped force to be reckoned with in the Middle East.

A victory lap, and more especially a victory parade, would be crassly premature. But a welcome home parade – several welcome home parades – might be therapeutic and unifying.

Post-war parades are therapeutic because they signal a terminus, permanent or temporary, to a national agony. Welcoming home parades are unifying because they allow those with different viewpoints to stand together in honor of returning troops.

Early in March 2007, Rep. John Larson of the impregnable 1st District unleashed his Iraq Bill, which repealed congressional authority to use force in Iraq. Larson and Sen. Chris Dodd were very much interested at the time of “reversing the Bush doctrine of unilateralism:

“The bill, which is binding,” Larson noted, “would repeal the authorization for use of military force against the Iraq resolution from 2002. It also outlines ways in which the Bush doctrine of unilateralism and preemption have ignored the precedence of past foreign policy and diplomacy; a policy that has exacerbated the situation in Iraq and has forced us to neglect the situation in Afghanistan. It provides for a sense of Congress asking for a new vote on the war in Iraq based on the current situation, calls for abandonment of the Bush doctrine of preemption and unilateralism, while realigning U.S. foreign policy by enhancing diplomatic relations in the region and redirecting critical support to Afghanistan enabling more aggressive pursuit of Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist organizations.”

Larson’s bill, regarded by some as little more than a campaign document, would have made it impossible for Obama, the titular head of Larson’s party, to bring home the remaining American troops to “Welcome Home” parades – one to be held in New York, another in Washington D.C., others in whatever states wish to honor and reward valiant American troops.

In New York, one may imagine the parade winding past a reviewing stand placed at ground zero. And why not invite some prominent imams in the city to share the stand with city leaders, national leaders and people in New York who would welcome a show of solidarity with the same eagerness with which they would welcome home returning American troops?

In Connecticut – if Brad Davis, Mr. Parade, could be persuaded to organize such an event – the reviewing stand might include the new Democratic war hawks who support, with reservations, Obama’s “war of choice” in Afghanistan.
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