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You Can Smell It.

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Message David Michael Green

Playing Politics With War?

If there’s a way for the regressive right to be more repugnant, I, for one, am at a loss to see how.

Their latest trick is to accuse Democrats seeking to end the travesty that is Iraq of "playing politics" with war. Imagine that.

At some level, you do have to admire these guys for their genius in figuring out how to have it all. The problem is that that some level is not the moral level, nor the national interest level, nor the peace level, not the democracy level. It’s the plunder level, the predatory politics level, and the shame level.

So what, eh? Big deal. Hey, think about it. If that whole morality thing is not an issue, what could be better than to create a war in order to enhance the stature and domestic political power of the president, use the war to win elections, distract from other issues and eviscerate the opposition, and then use it once again to club opponents as they struggle to clean up your spreading mess?

Damn! That’s clever stuff. You’d almost need a Karl Rove to dream up a scenario this good. (What’s that you say? Oh. Well, never mind.) Anyhow, this is a big-time win-win-win situation for the president and the movement he leads.

But it also happens to be an unmitigated loser for the rest of the world. Call me a nag if you must, but put those on a balance scale and most of us can see the preferred choice. So can Rove, though somehow his calculus comes up a bit different.

War has many casualties, even when an administration works assiduously to make sure you’re unaware of them. There are dead Iraqis and dead Americans. There are severely wounded Iraqis and severely wounded Americans. There are emotionally destroyed Iraqis and equally ruined Americans. There are Iraqi refugees and there are American deserters. There is the broken Iraqi infrastructure and the bleeding American budget. There is evaporating security in the Middle East and a wrecked American military. There is a decomposing national morale in Iraq and the destroyed standing of America in world opinion. And there is, always, the shattering of truth – there, here, everywhere.

One casualty that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the health of American democracy. The patient was on life support only a couple of years ago. Last rites were administered. And while it has shown some substantial improvement of late, the long term damage done to the poor wretch in the last six years has been incalculable. This is a body politic that smoked four packs of unfiltered Camels and drank a fifth of Old Fedcal every day, that’s smashed up the family car more than a few times, that’s had a decrepit organ or two removed, and that still today remains addicted to crystal meth. Even the new and improved American democracy is a cripple.

And why not? What breeds more cynicism than to deploy the symbols national security and nationalism itself, in service to a devastating war based on lies? What takes a greater toll on honest national discourse than to attack the patriotism of those who disagree with a given position (let alone a disingenuous and disastrous position) on that war? What corrodes the democratic process more than to punish politicians for speaking even semi-clearly and quasi-honestly about the most significant issue of our time?

The latest conservative deception in a very long line of them is to attempt punishing Democrats for their meager efforts to put an end to this literal and figurative open wound of a war. Since we seem to be doing medical metaphors today, this would be the rough equivalent of hurling poisoned darts at ER surgeons while they’re desperately trying to resuscitate a rapidly fading victim of a train wreck.

These regressive deceits would be disgusting even if we didn’t know that the war was planned, for purposes of enhancing Bush’s political power, from before the administration even came to office. But we do know that.

They would be revolting even if we couldn’t prove that BushCo themselves knew the WMD rationale was weak, but nevertheless chose to market the war as though Iraq were an imminent danger. But we can prove that.

These lies would be sickening even if the people behind this sort of political destructiveness had ever once shown themselves remotely competent in executing the occupation – notwithstanding its complete moral bankruptcy – before criticizing others. But they didn’t.

And they would be nauseating even if these most savage politicians – almost all of whom checked the ‘C’ for Coward box when they were being called up themselves – weren’t continually hiding behind the very troops they fail adequately and properly to train, protect, deploy and care for at home. But they are.

The reason that such politics of deceit would still be so detrimental, even without all these other exacerbating factors, is because they are so profoundly corrosive of democracy, and so destructive to the process of making of sensible public policy (which is another way of saying avoiding stupid wars).

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
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