Saturday, July 28, 2007

Losing the war against complacency

Everybody's against this war and pretends to have been since the start.

Yes, there's still a solid 20 percent of true patriots who back the war — a record low, making the Bushies yearn for the numbers Nixon pulled for Vietnam.

But let's get back to the majority, even as our voices are drowned out in the Oval Office and the halls of Congress.

And let's fess up. The polls represent a complete reversal from when we started bombing Baghdad to kingdom come on March 20, 2003. Back then, better than 80 percent of us joined the war pep squad, right down to the ubiquitous yellow ribbon magnets on our SUVs.

Now we've ripped those babies off as quickly as we slapped them on, without even chipping the customized paint job.It's a somber and potent symbol of our complacency.

Complacency marked our initial euphoria with the war — bless the troops, don't send my boy and hand me another tax cut.And it's the hallmark of our current revulsion with the conflict that has left more than 3,600 U.S. troops dead and another 26,000 wounded. Can't protest now; "America's Got Talent" is on.

We've come a long way from rocking the nation with rallies during Vietnam.

The Iraq war appealed to the best of our nature — love of country and those who protect it, faith in freedom and the desire to help those suffering.

But this war also appealed to the very worst in our psyches — the visceral need to kick some ass, even if innocent people (say, 650,000 Iraqis we were supposed to be liberating) die in the crossfire.

It was the wrong war. But it felt right.

The pain still throbbed of almost 3,000 Americans being incinerated; al-Qaida and Osama had proved slipperier targets than we thought and somebody had to pay, dammit.

We just knew Saddam Hussein was laughing at us dumb Americans. Boy, did our bunker busters wipe the smile off his mustachioed face.

When we invaded Iraq, three-quarters of Americans believed Saddam was behind 9/11. More than 90 percent thought he possessed weapons of mass destruction.Both were dangerous lies propagated by a delusional, demagogic administration.

And we bought it.

But who today admits they did, aside from requisitely remorseful Democrats duking it out for the presidential nod? Even their normally bellicose Republican counterparts have backed away, sheepishly muttering something about "mistakes being made" in Mesopotamia.

We insist Sen. Hillary Clinton flagellate herself at the altar of smug sanctimony — "Forgive me, Father, for I have pandered" — but who among us is without sin?

We bought President Bush's Shock and Awe ad campaign that he'd made us safer since 9/11 — and gave him four more years as the Leader of the Free World.

More than 1,000 U.S. troops died in Iraq by Election Day 2004. But three-quarters of Americans believed the country was doing better than under Saddam's rule, and more than 60 percent thought he had posed a serious threat to U.S. security.

By the next year, we came down with buyer's remorse and the president's polls plummeted. It wasn't because everyone collectively pored through the 636-page 9/11 Commission Report and realized the Iraq-al-Qaida link was a neoconservative hoax.

It was the wrenching site of flag-shrouded coffins carried through our hometowns. They kept coming — with no end in sight.

And the high-decibel defense of this war — usually by those who had skirted their own duty to serve, like Vice President Dick Cheney — sounded terribly hollow against those caskets.

The Bushies continue to muddle the issue and unleash a new marketing strategy every few months. (Was al-Qaida in Iraq before the war? Who knows? You know how hard it is to muddle through the intelligence bureaucracy. The important thing is, the terrorists are there now and we're blowing 'em to bits.)

The administration is still desperately trying to exploit the worst in our nature. Its latest tagline is Americans may want to high-tail it out of Hilla, but they really want victory more.

It's too late. We ain't buying. But that's not enough.

The troops are being asked for superhuman sacrifice. Some are on their fifth deployments in a war that cannot be won militarily and whose objective and justification constantly change. And the sickening part is, the intelligence shows Americans aren't any safer.

Our troops will fight as long as we ask.We need to stop — now. All of us own this war and its eventual $1 trillion price tag.

We need to tell our leaders in Washington — however many times as it takes — that we want them to end the war. It's not enough to do that via osmosis while sitting on the sofa snickering at "Big Brother 8."

Our silence doesn't protect us. And it doesn't protect our troops.

We were supposed to have learned painful lessons from Vietnam. But perhaps only our cynical politicians have: No draft, no demonstrations.

And no accountability.

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