[Mb-civic] NYTimes.com Article: Heads in the Sand
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Heads in the Sand
September 3, 2004
By BOB HERBERT
When asked this week on CNN how long the U.S. military is
likely to remain in Iraq, Senator John McCain replied
"probably" 10 or 20 years. "That's not so bad," he said,
adding, "We've been in Korea for 50 years. We've been in
West Germany for 50 years."
Reporters have come to expect candor from Senator McCain,
and in this case he didn't disappoint. But there weren't
any speakers mounting the podium at the Republican National
Convention to hammer home the message that G.I.'s would be
in Iraq for a decade or two.
That's not the understanding most Americans had when this
wretched war was sold to them, and it's not the view most
Americans hold now.
If Senator McCain is correct (and the belief in official
Washington is that he is), then boys and girls who are 5 or
10 years old now will get their chance in 2015 or 2020 to
strap on the Kevlar and engage the Iraqi "insurgents" who,
like the indigenous forces we fought in Vietnam, will never
accept the occupation of their country by America.
Marcina Hale, a protester who came to New York this week
from suburban Westport, Conn., said she has two teenage
boys and that Iraq "is not a war that I'm willing to send
my sons to." As the years pass and the casualties mount,
that sentiment will only grow.
The truth is always the first casualty of politics. But
there was a bigger disconnect than usual between the
bizarre, hermetically sealed perspective that was on
display in Madison Square Garden this week and the daunting
events unfolding without respite in the real world.
Iraq is a mess. While the cartoonish Arnold Schwarzenegger
was drawing huge laughs in the Garden and making cracks
about economic "girlie men," reports were emerging about
the gruesome murder of 12 Nepalese hostages who had
traveled to Iraq less than two weeks earlier in search of
At the same time, an effort to disarm insurgents in the
militant Baghdad slum of Sadr City collapsed, and the death
toll among American forces in Iraq continued its relentless
climb toward 1,000.
The Los Angeles Times noted yesterday that a report by the
respected Royal Institute of International Affairs in
London has concluded that Iraq will be lucky if it avoids a
breakup and civil war. The often-stated U.S. goal of a
full-fledged Iraqi democracy is beyond unlikely.
In Afghanistan, a legitimate front in the so-called war
against terror, much of the country remains in the hands of
warlords, and the opium trade is flourishing. Experts
believe substantial amounts of money from that trade is
flowing to terrorist groups.
In Israel, 16 people were killed by suicide bombers who
blew themselves up on a pair of crowded buses on Tuesday.
In Russia, a series of horrific terror attacks, in the air
and on the ground, have cast a pall across the country.
Despite all the macho posturing and self-congratulating at
the Republican convention, the wave of terror that's been
unleashed on the world is only growing. The American-led
war in Iraq is feeding that wave, causing it to swell
rather than ebb.
Any serious person who looked around the world this week
would have to wonder what the delegates at the G.O.P.
convention were so happy about.
The Republican conventioneers spent the entire week
reminding America that we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
But interestingly, there was hardly a mention by name of
those actually responsible for the attacks - Osama bin
Laden and Al Qaeda.
Discussions about the nation's real enemies were taboo. We
don't know where they are or what they're up to. The
over-the-top venom of some of the speakers and delegates
was reserved not for Osama, but for a couple of
mild-mannered guys named John.
What Americans desperately need is a serious, honest
discussion of where we go from here. If we're going to be
in Iraq for 10 or 20 more years, the policy makers should
say so, and tell us what that will cost in money and human
treasure. The violence associated with such a long-term
occupation is guaranteed to be appalling.
Vietnam tore this nation apart. As we've seen in this
campaign, the wounds have yet to heal. Incredibly, we're
now traveling a similarly tragic road in Iraq.
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