Thomas L Friedman: Insulting Our Troops, and Our Intelligence

Tom’s latest column contains the following words well worth considering:


George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld think you’re stupid. Yes, they do.

They think that they can get you to overlook all of the Bush team’s real and deadly insults to the U.S. military over the past six years by hyping and exaggerating Mr. Kerry’s mangled gibe at the president.

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to the U.S. military than to send it into combat in Iraq without enough men — to launch an invasion of a foreign country not by the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force, but by the Rumsfeld Doctrine of just enough troops to lose? What could be a bigger insult than that?

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than sending them off to war without the proper equipment, so that some soldiers in the field were left to buy their own body armor and to retrofit their own jeeps with scrap metal so that roadside bombs in Iraq would only maim them for life and not kill them? And what could be more injurious and insulting than Don Rumsfeld’s response to criticism that he sent our troops off in haste and unprepared: Hey, you go to war with the army you’ve got — get over it.

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than to send them off to war in Iraq without any coherent postwar plan for political reconstruction there, so that the U.S. military has had to assume not only security responsibilities for all of Iraq but the political rebuilding as well? The Bush team has created a veritable library of military histories — from “Cobra II” to “Fiasco” to “State of Denial” — all of which contain the same damning conclusion offered by the very soldiers and officers who fought this war: This administration never had a plan for the morning after, and we’ve been making it up — and paying the price — ever since.

And what could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in Iraq than to send them off to war and then go out and finance the very people they’re fighting against with our gluttonous consumption of oil? Sure, George Bush told us we’re addicted to oil, but he has not done one single significant thing — demanded higher mileage standards from Detroit, imposed a gasoline tax or even used the bully pulpit of the White House to drive conservation — to end that addiction. So we continue to finance the U.S. military with our tax dollars, while we finance Iran, Syria, Wahhabi mosques and Al Qaeda madrassas with our energy purchases.

… the most patriotic thing to do in this election is to vote against an administration that has — through sheer incompetence — brought us to a point in Iraq that was not inevitable but is now unwinnable.


I agree completely, especially when Tom says we are at a point in Iraq that is unwinnable.

I decided shortly before we invaded Iraq that while we would succeed in the invasion we would ultimately lose the war –the administration didn’t have the strategy, will, and competence to do what had to be done once we had taken over Iraq.

I am an optimist by nature and so have hoped there was a chance things would turn out well.

But that changed this past Wednesday morning when I read the Kirk Semple’s lead story on the front page of the New York Times:


Iraqi Demands Pullback; U.S. Lifts Baghdad Cordon

BAGHDAD, Oct. 31 — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki demanded the removal of American checkpoints from the streets of Baghdad on Tuesday, in what appeared to be his latest and boldest gambit in an increasingly tense struggle for more independence from his American protectors.

Mr. Maliki’s public declaration seemed at first to catch American commanders off guard. But by nightfall, American troops had abandoned all the positions in eastern and central Baghdad that they had set up last week with Iraqi forces as part of a search for a missing American soldier. The checkpoints had snarled traffic and disrupted daily life and commerce throughout the eastern part of the city.

The language of the declaration, which implied that Mr. Maliki had the power to command American forces, seemed to overstep his authority and to be aimed at placating his Shiite constituency.

The withdrawal was greeted with jubilation in the streets of Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite enclave where the Americans have focused their manhunt and where anti-American sentiment runs high. The initial American reaction to the order, which was released by Mr. Maliki’s press office, strongly suggested that the statement had not been issued in concert with the American authorities.

“Our commanders have his press release and are reviewing how best to address these concerns,” Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said early Tuesday afternoon, about an hour after the order was issued.


That’s when I knew all hope was gone, since Prime Minister Maliki had decided that the future of Iraq would be determined not with the assistance of our military forces, but by the multitude of militia groups that have thrown Iraq into such chaos.

The decisive battle is taking place in Baghdad. Our military has realized that to have any chance of success we must establish order in Baghdad. But Mr. Maliki doesn’t share that view, and no time remains for us to attempt to bring new leadership to his country.

Our military forces always strive to obey the orders they are given. But I believe that our military leaders on the ground in Iraq have already collectively decided — or will so decide soon — that the best interests of our country now require they need to pay more attention to the mothers of the brave young men that we have entrusted to their care than to the incompetent politicial — and all male — leaders who got us into this mess.

The front page of Monday’s New York Times contains a haunting picture of a family in Arlington Cemetery, with the caption:


A Mournful Month Relatives of Army Cpl. Carl W. Johnson II watch as his coffin is taken for burial Friday at Arlington National Cemetery. Burials there took on a grim regularity in October, when more than 100 Americans were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Tom’s column also says:


They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry — a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service — and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.

Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, “They must think I’m stupid.” Because they surely do.

They think that they can get you to overlook all of the Bush team’s real and deadly insults to the U.S. military over the past six years by hyping and exaggerating Mr. Kerry’s mangled gibe at the president.


Senator Kerry has apologized for his remark. But I think he will be best remembered for a question he posed over thirty years ago, one that unfortunately applies to our current situation:


How Do You Ask a Man to Be the Last Man to Die in Vietnam?

By John Kerry

“One day he’s saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons,” Dole said. “The next day he’s standing there, ‘I want to be president because I’m a Vietnam veteran. “Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn’t the only one in Vietnam,” said Dole, whose World War II wounds left him without the use of his right arm. — Associated Press (Aug. 22, 2004)

Following is the statement John Kerry made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 23, 1971.

We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?….We are here in Washington to say that the problem of this war is not just a question of war and diplomacy. It is part and parcel of everything that we are trying as human beings to communicate to people in this country – the question of racism which is rampant in the military, and so many other questions such as the use of weapons; the hypocrisy in our taking umbrage at the Geneva Conventions and using that as justification for a continuation of this war when we are more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva Conventions; in the use of free fire zones, harassment interdiction fire, search and destroy missions, the bombings, the torture of prisoners, all accepted policy by many units in South Vietnam. That is what we are trying to say. It is part and parcel of everything.


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