2024-07-19 5:00 AM

Helen Thomas: Voters Should Have a Choice on War

The war and the U.S. occupation of Iraq are certainly going to be the crowning issues in the Nov. 7 mid-term elections.

That’s why it’s time for the Democratic candidates to bite the bullet (excuse the expression) and call for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

We don’t need more phony timetables to prolong the agony. We need a quick exit from a bad show.

It’s distressing that The Washington Post has found that most Democrats in competitive congressional races are resisting pressure to call for a speedy pullout. These spineless Democrats are apparently frightened by the prospect that the Bush administration would use the "cut-and-run" fear card against them.

Where is the opposition in the opposition party?

If politicians live and die by the polls, the evidence is there to support a strong anti-war position. I refer to polls that show the American people are losing faith in this no-win war. For example, a Newsweek poll conducted Aug. 24-25 said 63 percent of those polled disapprove of President Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq. Approval was 31 percent.

Maybe Americans have had it with all the deception that led to the invasion of Iraq in the first place. Bush continues to brand the war in Iraq as part of the "global war on terror." However, when the president was asked at a news conference last week what Iraq had to do with the 9-11 terrorist attack, he replied: "Nothing."

New York Times columnist Frank Rich doesn’t believe that Bush will leave it at that when the fifth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attack rolls around soon. Bush will go back to his drumbeat, subtly trying to link Iraq to 9-11.

‘The new propaganda strategy will be right out of Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)," Rich wrote last Sunday. "If we leave the country that had nothing to do with 9-11, then 9-11 will happen again."

Despite growing proof that the Iraqi resistance to the U.S. presence is becoming more lethal, the president insists on adhering to his unpopular course. "Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster," he told reporters.

"What all of us in this administration have been saying is that leaving Iraq before the mission is complete will send the wrong message to the enemy and will create a more dangerous world," he said.

Where have we heard this familiar refrain before?

Of course, this baloney is almost verbatim from President Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam-war era when protesters hit the streets en masse to express their disenchantment with the war.

In his book "The Logic of Withdrawal," author-journalist Anthony Arnove wrote: "During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government learned how quickly the discipline of an army fighting an unjust war can break down.

"Today the soldiers in the field can see contradictions between the claims of their officers­ — and especially the politicians who sent them to war — and the reality of the conflict on the ground. They now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat.

"And as the resistance grows, more soldiers have come to see they are fighting not to liberate Iraqis but to pacify them."

Arnove rebuts some arguments against pulling up stakes and leaving Iraq. One is that the U.S. presence is preventing a civil war. He points out that the various religious factions in Iraq are already pitted against each other.

If it’s not a civil war, it’s a reasonable facsimile.

Then there is the contention that Iraq is the "central front in the war on terror," a popular refrain from the Bush administration.

Arnove points out that al-Qaida made its first appearance in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

If they fail to take a courageous stand against an impossible war, the "me too" Democrats will deny the voters a choice.

Copyright 2006 Hearst Newspapers





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