REALLY, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of themselves for libeling John McCain. As a growing chorus reiterates, their refrains that Mr. McCain is “willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq” (as Mr. Obama said) or “willing to keep this war going for 100 years” (per Mrs. Clinton) are flat-out wrong.
DON'T get me wrong; it's nice to see Frank Rich, one of the last defenders of fair and honest discourse in our nation's press, a man who marched off to Theatre Siberia rather than be a part of his paper's decade-long Festival of Making Shit Up About the Clintons and Al Gore, rising bravely to defend the defenseless Republican party, itself the final bastion of the scrupulously truthful. It's just that, I dunno, if one feels such a need to defend our heretofore rigorous public rhetoric one might consider the ground one chooses for the stand; McCain's remarks deserve a damned good whacking. Omega:
The Democrats should also stop repeating their 100-years-war calumny against Mr. McCain. There’s too much at stake for America for them to add their own petty distortions to an epic tragedy that only a long-overdue national reckoning with hard truths can bring to an end.
All well and good; it's just that we'd like to suggest that this national reckoning be conducted by people who show signs of understanding the depth of the problem, of the direct link between the Iraq war and the Truman Doctrine, of sixty years of paranoid right-wing fascism and multinational corporate greed driving a perpetual war machine and dunning the American public for the privilege of being "defended".
And to me, at least, that doesn't include Frank Rich, who in the run-up to war was writing about Saddam Hussein's fictitious accounting of his weapons arsenal and the hapless UN inspectors nobody could believe, and who contrasted the masterful PR (at least) of Bush's carrier landing with the hapless 2004 Democratic hopefuls nobody could believe, especially when they went windsurfing.
There's no sin in being wrong, of course, only in the failure to own up. The problem is that this public reckoning is guaranteed to exempt everyone who decided five years and countless thousands of deaths later that the war was a bad idea, but who didn't stop to consider that before diving in (Rich's Pearl Harbor Day 2002 column specifically asks if we're headed into "a war as necessary as World War II or to a tragedy of unintended consequences redolent of World War I," but that merely confirms our intention to whistle while we hike; Americans remain convinced of The Great War as a victory for our side--and a hopeless stalemate broken only because We went Over There--albeit one which began as an unfortunate misunderstanding. And we're convinced that WWII was a Western [read: stalemate broken when We went You Know Where] effort to shave Hitler's sui generis mustache, plus a side excursion into the Pacific to deal with some trendy fanatics in the East. None of this even approaches the truth, but the lure of turning global conflict into satisfying moral tales for children is great, and it pays well enough to keep Victor Davis Hanson from having to shovel real manure for a living.)
McCain's original comments were of a piece with this: America Stands Ready to send her sons and daughters to far-flung locals to further Peace--just so long as nobody gets hurt, he adds, which afterthought is now picked up and used to rap errant Democratic knuckles. But who says nobody gets hurt? Who says this isn't, or doesn't require, a continuation of war? McCain, as usual, was sounding a bite from the Right's Neener Neener Collection, but it won't stand even a cursory examination. Yes, we're still "occupying" Germany and Japan. But those are missions which, in the former case, morphed into a Cold War tripwire, then, after Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviets, into a sort of Trans-Atlantic pen pal relationship, except with guns. Can anyone explain what we're still doing there? The primary benefit seems to be that many of our 19- and 20-year-olds get to find out what real beer tastes like. And we've got someplace nearer the action to send bombers from and remove casualties to. As for the latter we haven't even bothered to concoct that much of a story for Nippon, which is simply the westernmost outpost of our Pacific Ocean.
Korea? Well, we might ask how we got there in the first place, and why we're still there preventing the International Communist Conspiracy from realizing its plans for world domination so many years after we discovered the simple but effective expedient of Just Buying It Off. I wouldn't wish the Kims on anybody, but it's not like Syngman Rhee was some sort of prize.
I'm not proposing we simply re-write the history, but the fact is that Korea is technically a UN operation, that it is technically a war zone, not a peacekeeping mission, and that our people there serve in harm's way. The main reason we're still there is there's no real impetus to find a solution when we'd be the major beneficiaries of one, and when making fun of Kim's hairdo and scaring children about his nuclear "capabilities" accounts for so much fun, and so much political profit. One admires the spirit of the attempt, but the man who gets stuck in a cesspool and explains he's just checking the fill level has more style than brains.
But is no one being harmed? We've got a single combat brigade sitting across some barbed wire from the world's forth-largest army. It used to be two brigades, but then came Afghanistan and Iraq, after which the Bush administration suddenly decided we didn't need the troop levels we'd been maintaining for fifty years.
We haven't been harmed? Hell, if you so believe in the Iraq mission, as McCain claims to, then we might note the sort of contribution this made to our insufficiency of troops. At the height of the Cold War these missions could muster only stop-gap or tripwire numbers; now we're going to add the Middle East and hand the bill to the next three generations, just to save face?
And just so long as nobody gets hurt?
We regret to inform the Times that the "long-overdue national reckoning" of this sort of thing precisely involves John McCain's public bullshit, and if that requires taking his statements out and shooting them, if it requires saying "waging a 100-year-war" instead of the more accurate "paying for a 100-year-war and hoping the casualties remain 'acceptable' on John McCain's watch", well, it's often the innocent who suffer in wartime. And who foot the bill.