Monday, February 19, 2007

Wrong as usual

Conventional conservative wisdom

Conservatives have amply demonstrated their incompetence at both domestic and foreign policy, but there's one thing they're still good at. When it comes to the mindless repetition of political talking points, they're masters. The points may be false, but they develop the sheen of truthiness from constant use. We get a nice sample of this in a recent stirring defense of President Bush's hapless policies.

From the February 18, 2007, Letters to the Bee:

Why do they want Bush on trial?

I'm so weary of seeing letters such as “Impeach Cheney for treason,” Feb. 10, and “Let military people do their jobs,” Feb. 12. These opinions were misguided.

One inference was misleading. Gen. Eric Shinseki's tour of duty as Army chief of staff was over in 2003. He was not fired nor forced to retire, unlike Gen. Wesley Clark, who was fired for attempting to insert helicopters in the war against Serbia after President Clinton vetoed his recommendation.

Remember, that war was not approved by Congress or the United Nations, and Serbia was not a threat to the United States and had no WMD, and civilian targets were bombed, including the Chinese embassy.

So, these writers “know” Bush is guilty of something and now just want to go through the process of a trial, any trial. How sad!

President Bush values the opinions of the military, unlike the previous president, who stated he loathed the military. So, don't say they have no input; that is just plain wrong.

The biggest problem in Vietnam was that Washington politicians made the battlefield decisions and now the Democrats in Congress want to do that again. Some people never learn.

Ken Ely, Orangevale

I don't accuse Mr. Ely of mendacity, since I suspect he is one of the sincere types (unlike most of the Bush apologists in Washington, who almost certainly know they are speaking lies). I believe Mr. Ely is simply ignorant of the truth. For instance:

Bill Clinton never said he loathed the military. Are you shocked? But everyone knows he said it. No. He didn't. This is what he really said:

I am writing too in the hope that my telling this one story will help you understand more clearly how so many fine people have come to find themselves still loving their country but loathing the military, to which you and other good men have devoted years, lifetimes, of the best service you could give.

The quote is from a letter Clinton wrote to a colonel with the University of Arkansas ROTC, in which the 23-year-old future president discussed his reasons for opting out of the service. One can easily criticize Clinton (as so many have) for his deft avoidance of the draft during the Vietnam era (although one's gorge rises when other dodgers like Limbaugh express their outrage), he certainly did not claim to hate the military. He was instead explaining how the emotions aroused by the Vietnam war had embittered others of his generation and caused them to develop extremely negative feelings about the armed services. Clinton was making a good point.

Does George Bush show the military more respect than his predecessor? Hardly. The generals told him that Iraq would require a much bigger occupation force than the president and his secretary of defense were willing to approve. The disastrous aftermath is what we're stuck with today, with even Bush now acknowledging that errors were made (in that special passive voice that suggests the buck stops somewhere other than the Oval Office).

Did Bill Clinton go off adventuring in the Balkans without either rationale or authorization? Mr. Ely makes the point that the Kosovo air strikes were not approved by Congress or the United Nations. They were, in fact, a NATO operation, an intervention designed to stop Serbia's policy of ethnic cleansing. In sharp contrast to Bush's foreign adventurism, Clinton's Kosovo campaign ended without the loss of a single member of the U.S. armed services. Also, when it came to a vote, the Republican-led Congress endorsed President Clinton's peacekeeping plan, despite many criticisms from some of the same GOP legislators who unblinkingly support Bush's Middle East bloodfest.

I wish Speaker Pelosi and Representative Murtha good fortune and strong majority votes as they seek to shut down Bush's catastrophic intervention in Iraq. They're the good guys.