Friday, November 18, 2005

Senate to the rescue?

Before last week, one would have been hard-pressed to think of any institutional group of bunglers that could mismanage the Iraq war more than the bungling Bush administration. But then the United States Senate nominated itself for the job. Its recent but long-neglected act of oversight served only as a reminder of just how irresponsible that once-revered, deliberative body has become.

Naturally there’s a good deal of hyperbole implanted in the hypothesis that anyone could do a worse job of war management than the Bush administration. Worse, in what way? What standard of mismanagement has the administration not already excelled at beyond all possible supersedure? At best, between the White House and Capitol Hill it’s a dead heat as to who could do a better job at doing the worst possible job.

Team Bush 1) got us there on a lie; 2) immediately botched the immediately ensuing occupation; 3) has us bogged down in meaningless firefights; and 4) has no exit strategy, believable or otherwise, whatsoever. Now the Senate – which rubber-stamped number one, let slide number two, countenanced for more than a year number three, and is as befuddled as the administration on number four – steps in and declares itself a concerned player.

The Senate’s amendment to the defense authorization bill that hit the headlines was, as everyone knows, nothing more than a political overture. It permits the administration to stumble ahead, stay the course, and file with Congress more fabrications as to the war’s progress – while saving not one American life except the political ones of not a few senators.

The final, watered-down GOP “admonishment” of the White House lacked only the official sponsor of Senator Caspar Milquetoast from the great state of Irresolution. The doddering John Warner and finagling Bill Frist substituted for Caspar, removing what the Washington Post characterized as Democrats’ “odious language, the requirement for the administration to establish an estimated timetable for withdrawal.” Oh heavens. How odious an “estimate” – meaning a date plucked from thin air – must have seemed to these lawmakers of vision and courage.

Yet even the failed, Democratic amendment alternative – “that 2006 should be a year of ‘significant transition’ to Iraqi sovereignty … [operating under] … an estimated timetable for the eventual redeployment of U.S. forces” – would have accomplished nothing. It was words on paper, spouted by many of the spineless Democrats who first supported the war for political reasons and now oppose it for political reasons.

Furthermore, when it’s a Republican who begins to sound more in touch with his inner enlightenment than any Democratic “progressive,” you know the end is near. The Republican I write of is, of course, Chuck Hagel, who recently eviscerated the Bush administration for implying that war critics are traitors. We “must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them,” said the debuting presidential contender, adding that “to question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic.”

It is a sad commentary on the human condition that each generation must relearn that fundamental lesson. The sadder commentary is that no war-supporting Democrat or Republican in the United States Senate ever had to relearn it. Each knew better all along, but bowed instead to the baser instincts of an emotional electorate rallying around a swaggering president with no one’s interests at heart but his own.




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