Truly, sometimes I think there is nothing new on the face of the earth. Here’s a quotation cited by Mark Twain around the turn of the 19th century. Read it and see if you don’t recognize it from today’s political discourse:
"Even if the war be wrong we are in it and must fight it out: we cannot retire from it without dishonor."
That war was in the Philippines. Perhaps you remember it from your history books. We "liberated" the country from the clutch of Spanish colonialism, but then decided we would just replace the Spanish rather than grant the people independence. They resisted, and we fought a second war in the islands against Filipino patriots.
Today, all of our politicians, with few exceptions, take the same position in regard to Iraq: Well, it may have been the wrong thing to do, but we’re there and we can’t leave without a victory. I heard the same refrain about the Vietnam War. Whatever happened to the saying "Inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war"? The only thing that delaying our departure from Vietnam accomplished was more casualties on all sides. The only thing that delaying our departure from Iraq will accomplish is more casualties on all sides.
Why would it be a stain on our honor to end the occupation of Iraq and hand the country back to the Iraqi people to govern as they please? It is, after all, their country, not ours; the oil is their oil, not ours. Not one candidate has the guts to say, "As soon as I’m president, I will order American troops to begin withdrawal." What happens after we leave is an Iraqi problem, not ours.
Americans had better get shut of their imperial delusions and fast, because we are following the path of every empire that has ever existed toward bankruptcy. Do you really want high gas prices, food rationing, health-care rationing and unbearable debt? What kind of standard of living do you think we can maintain with a collapsed education system, a broken infrastructure, a debilitated manufacturing sector and a debt-imploded failed economy?
George W. Bush has proven himself to be the worst president in American history. He’s piled up more public debt than all his predecessors combined. He’s ruined America’s reputation among the nations of the world. He’s wearing out an Army far too small to do what he demands of it. His diplomacy is a joke. His administration is riddled with dishonest and incompetent people. I don’t know what world his little mind inhabits, but it’s not the one the rest of us live in.
Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul, had the nerve to say recently at a meeting of the Atlantic Council what our own politicians are too cowardly to say — namely that our so-called North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies are not pulling their own weight. They, of course, never have. One reason we are so in debt is that the brainless in our country have been paying for the defense of Europe and Japan ever since the end of World War II.
That allowed Europe and Japan to modernize their factories while ours deteriorated. We are no longer the arsenal of democracy. In fact, most of our strategic weapons require imports. If we continue to overplant grains and irrigate normally dry land, we will soon be dependent on imports for food. It’s all well and good that foreign car companies build plants here to take advantage of our relatively cheap labor (compared with their own countries), but one should not forget that the profits from those countries flow back across the seas.
For a republic to survive, it needs a well-educated people with self-discipline and high morals, healthy agricultural and manufacturing bases, sound money and a frugal but wise government. I don’t see much of that around these days.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.