April 11, 2007

Leaving? Not the day after tomorrow.

A diarist on Daily Kos writes about former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton's cackling disdain for the audience and his fellow panelists BBC Question Time panel on Iraq (link to the video file at the top right of the page) that also brought together former MP Tony Benn, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, MP Des Browne, MP Liam Fox and MP Charles Kennedy for an hour of responding to audience questions.

Bolton was introduced as a powerful voice in U.S. foreign policy, and he surely is that. Though even if he weren't personally powerful, his was the voice Bush sent to speak to the world as U.N. ambassador, after they finally had their war and could quit pretending that they were nominally reasonable people like Gen. Colin Powell was once believed to be.

Tony Benn, president of the Stop the War Coalition and a former MP for Labour, made the following points about halfway in: "Nobody has mentioned oil. That's what the whole war is about. From the very, very beginning. And if you read the diaries of Paul O'Neill, who was Bush's first treasury secretary, he said Bush was talking about going into Iraq at the first Cabinet meeting in 2001, long before 9-11. And now they're signing up oil arrangements under which the Iraqi oil will be developed by foreign companies for the next 25 years."

Benn continued, "And the other thing that has to be mentioned is the terrible danger of building a war around religion. Bush said that God had told him to go into Iraq. Now that is very dangerous. You'll never have peace if God is on both sides. ... Would it have been better to solve the problem of apartheid in South Africa by bombing Praetoria? Only the South African people could have solved it. And if Mandela had insisted on the South African leaders being hanged, there'd have been bloodshed in South Africa from that day to now. ..." He went on to emphasize once again his belief that the U.N. held the key to resolving such situations.

Earlier, Benn had described the U.N. charter as the response of his generation to two World Wars responsible for the deaths of millions, including his brother and many friends who died in the London Blitz, saying that the current generation of leadership had just "tore it up."

When Bolton was asked to respond to this and the general line of questioning that surrounded it, he said, "I think this is fantasyland. The threat posed by Saddam Hussein was the threat of a dictator who had sought and used weapons of mass destruction. This is not hypothetical, this has been documented repeatedly. His invasion of Kuwait showed that he was prepared to use military force to dominate the Persian Gulf region, and yes, that would have an impact on oil, and many, many other things as well. Including the safety of the state of Israel, and many other United States and UK allies and friends. How to deal with a threat like that is a very serious proposition, and the idea that you can caricature it like, uh, has been done during this program, I find very disturbing. These are consequential decisions for a president of the United States ... [crosstalk] when to send American troops into harm's way. Now let me finish here. And I think the idea that somehow this is based on a whim or caprice is not just wrong, it's fundamentally irresponsible."

Bolton doesn't mention the U.N., of course. Because matters of war and peace are "consequential decisions for a president of the United States."

One of those guys was probably very shrill.

Considering that the British public is overwhelmingly against the Iraq war, however, most of the discussion would not have sounded entirely out of place on on American television. Except for the general lack of shouting and spittle. Only Benn and Kennedy put the antiwar position forward strongly. Everyone else on the panel seemed at pains to make war apologists of themselves, including Bhutto. Though Bhutto did compare the situation in Iraq to that of occupied India, saying that if the "last chance" surge didn't work to bolster a federal Iraq, the decision about its future needed to be left to its people, just as the Indian population was allowed to decide to partition their country.

Ms. Bhutto, when Thomas Friedman decides to retire to his billion dollar estate, I shall personally recommend that the New York Times hires you to be their new Official Goalpost Mover.

The moderator went almost directly to another audience question instead of leaving time for the panel to respond to the charge of an audience member that accused the United States of having become the rogue regime that posed the most significant threat to world peace. But cogent criticism from the audience did get through.

This from a British woman whose son died in Iraq: "I'm very proud of my son. I'm ashamed of my government for sending him to this war. Also, in my opinion, they keep going on about democracy, surely we need it here. Because our own government don't listen to what we want."

Certainly, a plurality of Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq, and as of last year, most of the troops thought we should leave. The Senate Republicans are starting to crack. But Bush and his Boltonettes will have to be dragged out kicking and screaming, whether by congressional insistence or by the final term limit on his presidency. What did some of our 2009 prospects have to say for themselves at MoveOn's recent online Town Hall meeting on Iraq? (Shorter Town Hall: Richardson and Edwards support complete withdrawal.)

Sen. Joe Biden: "Iím against building permanent US Military bases in Iraq, and Iíve led this fight to make sure we donít do that. Last year I introduced a law barring US Military bases in Iraq."

Sen. Hillary Clinton: "I am absolutely clear, we do not plan a permanent occupation or permanent bases, but ... we have tried to be responsible in saying there may be some continuing missions to protect America's vital interests, and to support an Iraqi government that we hope to be an ally going forward," and she supports the time limits for beginning troop withdrawals next March, as recently passed by Congress.

Sen. Chris Dodd: I believe that we ought to begin re-deploying our troops this evening. ... I believe that we ought to have an end-date of March of í08 to provide a year-long opportunity for redeployment."

Sen. John Edwards, emphasis mine: Congress should use its funding authority to force President Bush to end the war, and start immediately bringing American troops home from Iraq. ... This is not about making friends or keeping Joe Lieberman happy. This is about life and death."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: "[S]top the funding and the occupation, withdraw the troops as you close the bases, create a parallel process which involves the United Nations, which is the only international organization to go to mobilize the (inaudible) to authorize peace-keeping troops, move those troops in, as our troops leave ..."

Sen. Barack Obama: Wants to get all the troops out in March of 2008, before any of them could even take office.

Gov. Bill Richardson: "I would have no residual force whatsoever."

What are the Republicans saying? Does anybody care? Could they have been more wrong every step of the way? But I guess maybe it's still kind of relevant what they do for their photo ops. Like when Sen. John McCain, the original Mr. Joe-Lieberman-Is-My-BFF, went carpet shopping in grand style in Baghdad with a couple of his buddies, a trusty bullet-proof vest and a hundred or so U.S. military bodyguards. (And don't you want to know what brand of body armor McCain was wearing? I do.)

John McCain got to come home from the war zone he's worked so hard to create. The troops still in Iraq and the ones waiting for deployment have just been told that their standard year-long tours will be extended to 15 months to cover the troop shortages that can't be filled even by redeploying wounded soldiers. Shortages exacerbated by the numbers of those who come back shattered, ranks thinned by those who didn't come back at all. And while it may be a tragic news story for many urban dwellers, 75% of rural voters know someone who's been shipped to Iraq.

Bring them home. Because al Qaeda is still at large and killing people, while the American people are paying to pour out the blood of our fellow citizens and the people of Iraq like water in the gutters. As long as that's the case, we are going to have a damn hard time getting the cooperation we need to bring terrorists to justice and put an end to their mayhem. As long as that's the case, people are going to die that shouldn't have, which is a tragedy for us all whether we know it or not. It's even a tragedy for Mr. Bolton, and I bet he doesn't know it.

And so I leave you with Tom Waits singing "The Day After Tomorrow" on The Daily Show. Because he still says 'bring them home' so much better than I could, even with all the Googleverse at my fingertips.

Update: Jeffrey Feldman provides a more thorough analysis of the MoveOn Town Hall and a bombing in the Green Zone leaves three Iraqi MPs dead and possibly dozens hurt.

Posted by natasha at April 11, 2007 09:29 PM | Iraq | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |