The Brokeback Mountain war

    A few things have happened since we last met here. For instance…let’s see…oh yeah, I almost forgot: the war in Iraq ended!There won’t be any famous pix of sailors kissing nurses in a celebratory Times Square, but, nevertheless, President Obama’s Friday announcement, heralding the imminent withdrawal of all remaining troops by year’s end, will bring overdue closure to one of the most disgraceful foreign policy follies in U.S. history.And how do the Republicans celebrate the moment? By assailing Obama, because they deem it important to denounce or minimize every Obama foreign policy achievement. And, more importantly, by drawing inspiration from Brokeback Mountain and demonstrating that their star-crossed allegience to the war is still too tempting to resist. They just cain’t quit it.Foreign policy scholar Michele Bachmann called Obama’s Iraq position “a complete failure.” Rick Perry said he was “deeply concerned.” John McCain yesterday called it “a serious mistake.” Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who typically echoes whatever his pal McCain says, yesterday called it “a serious mistake.”And Mitt Romney said: “President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation, or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.”Let us first state the obvious: None of these characters ever said a peep when George W. Bush and his neoconservative handlers marched us into an elective war based on pre-cooked intelligence about purported weapons of mass destruction. None of them, over the span of eight long years, have ever publicly lamented the Bush regime’s decision to fight the war largely off-budget, with loans from China. None of them have publicly questioned whether it has been worth losing 4,479 Americans (as of last week), and worth wounding 30,182 more (as of last week), at an official cost of $806 billion (as of last week), in exchange for discovering a grand total of zero weapons of mass destruction.So if Romney wants to talk about “astonishing failure,” he might want to direct those phrases where they properly belong.In other words, Obama’s knee-jerk detractors have no credibility on Iraq. Take, for instance, their complaint that Obama should have been able to persuade the Iraqi government to accept a small U.S. troops presence starting in 2012. But we were in no position to persuade. The truth is, none of the Iraqi political parties wanted us to stay; “Yankee go home” is basically the only issue that all rival parties agree on. And it shouldn’t be so hard to understand why.They’re sick of the military occupation that Bush’s regime imposed. And they spurned Obama’s demand that any remaining troops be granted immunity from Iraqi law because they’re ticked off about past U.S. military abuses that went unpunished. Case in point: In 2006, when Bush’s war was going particularly badly, a number of Iraqi civilians, including some children, were inadvertently killed in a U.S. air strike – or so said the U.S. military at the time. But, as a diplomatic cable unearthed by WikiLeaks recently made clear, the civilians were actually killed in a U.S. troop raid. Iraqi officials are still upset about the coverup.The other Republican complaint is that a total U.S. troop withdrawal will strengthen neighboring Iran. (Translation: Obama weak on Iran!) But, as Secretary of State Clinton pointed out yesterday, the Iranians will still be confronted with a robust U.S. military presence elsewhere in the region, “in bases, in training, with NATO allies like Turkey.” And, frankly, if the Republicans are suddenly so worried about the prospect of Iranian influence, perhaps they should have questioned the Bush neoconservative team back in 2002 and 2003 – when it was obvious, to anyone with even a shred of Persian Gulf expertise, that the forced removal of Saddam Hussein and his Sunni allies (the main bulwark against Iranian influence in the region) would of course boost the influence of Iran and its Shiite allies inside Iraq. (Sure enough, those Shiite allies now run the Iraqi government. The current prime minister lived in Iran during much of Hussein’s long tenure.)One might think that the Republicans would be anxious to stop defending the Iraq misdaventure, once and for all, given the fact that their march to war and subsequent prosecution of the war cost them the House and Senate in 2006 and the White House in 2008. But, alas, even now, they just cain’t quit it.——-Meanwhile, closer to home last Friday, we had House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s decision to cut and run from UPenn’s Wharton School. What an amusing spectacle that was.Cantor had intended to visit the campus and deliver a speech about how the rich should be left in peace to count their money rather than sacrifice a teensy portion of it for the common good – and he had supposedly convinced himself that his defense of the GOP’s rich clients would be greeted with applause from a pre-selected Wharton audience.But it was not to be. Cantor’s office claimed it didn’t know until Thursday night that the speech would be open to (gasp!) the general public. Which apparently meant that his out-of-the-mainstream message would be delivered to an audience that was likely to contain some listeners from the mainstream – in other words, people who believe the rich should be paying more taxes, people who might disagree with Cantor.Oh, no. Cantor couldn’t possibly deal with that. And so he refused to show. (Meanwhile, the university said that the Wharton speaker series is always open to the general public, and that Cantor’s appearance was always billed that way.)The takeaway from this episode? It’s a cold, cruel world outside the Fox News-conservative think tank cocoon.——-In my Sunday newspaper column, I suggested that if the Republicans fail to nominate Romney, they’re nuts.


    I did a live chat earlier today, if anyone wants to tune in.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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