Zarqawi and Lesser-Evil Politics

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If you are looking for an alternative to the Bush agenda, you aren’t going to find it inside the Beltway. While President Bush makes a covert slog around Iraq to tout the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the other deadly performances of our armed forces, the Democrats back home are doing exactly the same.

In a radio address on June 10, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, praised Zarqawi’s death.

“This week, America received good news from a place we don’t often hear about, Iraq. First came reports that our military tracked down and destroyed al-Qaeda terrorist Zarqawi,” Reid said. “He was a cold-blooded murderer who got what he deserved. With his death, America continues to serve notice to those who would do us harm: you can run, you can hide, but you’ll meet a just fate.”

In November 2001, Bush emphasized similar rhetoric about bin Laden and al-Qaeda. “We’re smoking them out,” Bush remarked. “They’re running. And now we’re going to bring them to justice … we’ll use whatever means necessary to achieve that objective — and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Sen. Hillary Clinton praised the killing of Zarqawi as well. “I hope that this will be a blow to the insurgency in Iraq and affords an opportunity for the new Iraqi government to build on this success and provide greater security and stability for the Iraqi people.”

Both the Republicans and Democrats would have us believe that Zarqawi was a brilliant terrorist mastermind, whose death comes as a giant setback to the resistance movement in Iraq. But if Nir Rosen, Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and others are correct, Zarqawi’s death will make little, if any, difference in the long run — for all-out ethnic civil war is fast engulfing the battered land. The United States is being defeated and its occupational grip is weakening. Zarqawi’s departure from the scene won’t change that.

The fact that U.S. presence in the country is becoming less and less significant still doesn’t mean our troops will be coming home any time soon. The Republicans won’t bring them back, nor will their alleged opposition. Both parties will stay the course and keep the U.S. military there for the foreseeable future.

A few popular Democrats are calling for the exit of troops from Iraq, including past presidential disappointments John Kerry and Al Gore. Sen. Kerry wants to pull troops out of Iraq by year’s end, which of course he’s qualified by writing that only “troops essential to finishing the job” would remain. Such a bogus position won’t end the war. Gore, however, will not even back Kerry’s tepid plea.

“I would pursue the twin objectives of trying to withdraw our forces as quickly as we possibly can, while at the same time minimizing the risk that we’ll make the mess over there even worse and raise even higher the danger of civil war,” Gore recently told ABC News. “It’s possible that setting a deadline could set in motion forces that would make it even worse. I think that we should analyze that very carefully. My guess is that a deadline is probably not the right approach.”

As if the approach we are currently taking is making the situation any better. Iraq is becoming more bloody and chaotic by the day. The “war on terror” will carry on in its misguided and illegitimate direction as long as Democrats and Republicans continue to call the shots in Washington. The soft murmurs of dissent we are now hearing from a handful of Democrats amount to little more than a coordinated bluff. It’s an election year, remember?

That is the reality the antiwar movement better grapple with if it wants to end this crazy war.

Joshua Frank [send him mail] is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discount through Josh’s blog.

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