Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Is Lord Saleton really this stupid or has been tippling in the Madeira again?
Four years ago, NATO's military commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, faced a similar barrage of pessimism from the press and from members of Congress hostile to President Clinton's war in Kosovo. The skeptics argued that our adversary, Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, had proven to be too mentally strong for us and that we should back off. Clark turned that argument on its head: By refusing to let Milosevic break our will, we would break his. Milosevic "may have thought that some countries would be afraid of his bluster and intimidation," said Clark. "He was wrong. … He thought that taking prisoners and mistreating them and humiliating them publicly would weaken our resolve. Wrong again. … We're winning, Milosevic is losing, and he knows it."
I never believed Bush's claim that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was essential to the war on terror. I'm angry that Bush continues to invoke that bogus rationale for the invasion. But the assassinations and indiscriminate bombings we're witnessing in post-Saddam Iraq really are part of the war on terror. We can't crumple under this pressure any more than we could have crumpled four years ago in the showdown with Milosevic. Bush is right, just as Clark was right: War is a contest of wills.
That's why it's so troubling today to see Clark join in the same self-fulfilling wave of determined pessimism and obstruction he battled four years ago. "This president didn't know how he wanted [the Iraq war] to end. He doesn't know what he's doing today," Clark charged in Sunday's Democratic presidential debate. "I would not have voted [for the] $87 billion. … The best form of welfare for the troops is a winning strategy. And I think we ought to call on our commander in chief to produce it. And I think he ought to produce it before he gets one additional penny for that war."
I don't know whether we'll win the postwar if Congress approves the money Bush asked for. But I know we'll lose it if Congress doesn't. That's what happens when a nation at war starts to think like the Wes Clark of 2003. Just ask the Wes Clark of 1999.
The analogy might be applicable if:
a) cruel dictator Saddam (like Milosevic) was still in power at the time the comments were made or
b) we were actually “winning the postwar” whatever that means or
c) the bombings and assassinations were proven to be part of the WOT.
The fact is that we already removed the terrible dictator and are now engaged in a guerilla war against Gawd knows who and we don’t have any idea if it has fuck-all to do with the so-called war on terrorism or not. It’s entirely possible that the people who are blowing up Americans in Iraq are Iraqis who (not completely unreasonably) see us as an enemy --- not because of Holy Jihad, but because we invaded their country, killed a bunch of people and look like we're going to be staying around and running things for some time to come. Just because Arabs are doing the killing doesn’t automatically mean that it’s Islamic terrorism. And, even if it is, since there wasn’t any Islamic terrorism in Iraq until we invaded you’d have to conclude that we brought terrorism to the Iraqis.
But sadly I think that Sir Evenhand might be making the braindead point that any assassinations and bombings are part of the War On Terror, in which case we have always been at War With Oceania … er, Terror. Bombings and assassinations were not invented Osama bin Laden. Why, now that I think about it, even the good ole US of A is a terrorist nation by that definition.
Any comparison between what Wes Clark said during major combat operations in Kosovo as the commanding general and what he’s saying now after 6 months of complete chaos in post war Iraq is absurd. You might as well say that if you ever defended any war then you must defend all wars because other than the fact that a bunch of guys in uniform were conducting some kind of military operations in a foreign land, the two situations are completely different.
Furthermore, Clark, unlike patriots Tom DeLay and Trent Lott during Kosovo, isn’t saying that America should just up and leave in the middle of combat. He’s criticizing the president for not having a plan, which is true, not having a firm attainable goal, also true, and for not producing a winning strategy, which is indisputable. He contends that the only way to get these things is to hold up the money --- the only power the congress has when it comes to foreign policy. If Clark had fucked up the Kosovo campaign as badly as this, you can believe that the Republican congress would have flayed both him and Clinton like a couple of dead fish.
Oh wait. They did. Only they did it in the midst of combat operations that proved to be tremendously successful within mere weeks, producing not one American combat death, and the lessons from which were thrown into the shredder when the big swinging Dick Cheneys came into office.
Saleton dutifully reported this at the time and now we see that he is doing his usual church lady superior dance by trying to stretch the Republicans’ laughably inept and silly criticisms of the Kosovo military campaign as equivalent to the ongoing worldwide condemnation of the Bush administration’s inept handling of the occupation of Iraq and the lies that brought us there.
He’s saying that Clark's stating he wouldn’t authorize 87 billion dollars more for an occupation that was billed as cost free and which the president seems to be running by the seat of his pants, without any clear strategy is the same thing as these comments made by leading Republicans during combat operations in Kosovo. (Interestingly, what they wrongly said about Kosovo has actually come to pass in Iraq:)
"Once the bombing commenced, I think then [Slobodan] Milosevic unleashed his forces, and then that's when the slaughtering and the massive ethnic cleansing really started," Nickles said at a news conference after appearing on Meet the Press. "The administration's campaign has been a disaster. ... [It] escalated a guerrilla warfare into a real war, and the real losers are the Kosovars and innocent civilians."
Nickles questioned the propriety of "NATO's objectives," calling its goal of "access to all of Serbia ... ludicrous." DeLay, meanwhile, voted not only against last week's House resolution authorizing Clinton to conduct the air war--which failed on a tie vote--but also in favor of legislation "directing the president ... to remove U.S. Armed Forces from their positions in connection with the present operations against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."
"I don't know that Milosevic will ever raise a white flag," warned Nickles. DeLay agreed: "He's stronger in Kosovo now than he was before the bombing. ... The Serbian people are rallying around him like never before. He's much stronger with his allies, Russians and others." Clinton "has no plan for the end" and "recognizes that Milosevic will still be in power," added DeLay.
Unless Clinton finds "a way to get the bombing stopped" and to "get Milosevic to pull back his troops" voluntarily, NATO faces "a quagmire ... a long, protracted, bloody war," warned Lott. Clinton "only has two choices," said DeLay--to "occupy Yugoslavia and take Milosevic out" or "to negotiate some sort of diplomatic end, diplomatic agreement in order to end this failed policy.
Cohen said it was "highly unlikely" that Clinton would meet with Milosevic in response to Yugoslavia's release of the three captured American soldiers over the weekend, since the Serbs were continuing their atrocities and weren't offering to meet NATO's conditions. DeLay called this refusal "really disappointing" and a failure of "leadership. ... The president ought to open up negotiations and come to some sort of diplomatic end." Lott implored Clinton to "give peace a chance" and, comparing the war with the recent Colorado high-school shootings, urged him to resolve the Kosovo conflict with "words, not weapons."
And here's my favorite:
And DeLay suggested that the United States should pull out unilaterally: "When Ronald Reagan saw that he had made a mistake putting our soldiers in Lebanon ... he admitted the mistake, and he withdrew from Lebanon."
Saleton says, “Bush is right, just as Clark was right: War is a contest of wills.”
Tell it to the 50,000 plus Americans who died in Vietnam and then ask them if that "contest of wills" made any damned difference. Not all wars are the same and this so-called “War On Terror” isn’t a war in any conventional sense, isn’t going to be won by conventional means and can’t be compared with conventional battles that were conventionally won.
Anybody who cannot see the difference between the success of the war in Kosovo (and the disingenuousness of the Republican “peaceniks” who opposed it) and this quagmire we’ve gotten ourselves into in Iraq, much less the ephemeral War On Terror is, as I wrote, either stupid or drunk.
digby 10/29/2003 01:39:00 AM