Bipartisan Senatorial Grandstanding

November 16, 2006

I thought President Bush has been lying to us about our troop requirements in Iraq and that the generals were too afraid of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to contradict his claim that we had enough troops. Isn’t that what the critics have been telling us? Well, Rumsfeld is on his way out and the generals are telling Congress that he and Bush have been telling the truth all along.

Our lofty politicians say we should never politicize the war, yet the 2008 presidential frontrunners of both parties, Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, did precisely that as they each tried to use Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Mideast, as an unwitting prop to launch their respective campaigns. I guess this is an example of the “bipartisanship” we can expect from the new Congress.

Unfortunately for these Oval Office aspirants, Abizaid didn’t succumb to their shameless grandstanding or defer to their simulated senatorial sagacity, but took them both to the woodshed when they tried to manipulate him during his Senate testimony into supporting their differing positions on the war.

McCain was visibly frustrated with Abizaid’s refusal to bow to his imperious wisdom that we should have more troops on the ground in Iraq. Other senators questioned whether we had too few troops.

Abizaid’s response, which left some stupefied, was reminiscent of a scene from the movie “Amadeus.” When the Austrian emperor criticized Mozart’s piece as having “too many notes,” Mozart replied, “No, your Excellency. It has just the right amount of notes: not too many, not too few.” So it was with Abizaid to McCain and Clinton: “There are neither too many troops, nor too few troops, but, all things considered, approximately the correct number of troops.”

Clinton, though having shrewdly positioned herself as a centrist hawk, has routinely taken shots at Bush and Rumsfeld. If you are running for office these days and presenting yourself as pro-military, you have to find a way to distinguish your position from the president’s Iraq policy so to avoid its taint.

Abizaid and others testifying made it very clear that the Democratic allegation that Bush has been lying about troop requirements in Iraq is maliciously false. How sweet it would be if these blowhards could be held accountable just once in this life for repeatedly bearing false witness against the administration about the things that matter most!

Clinton, looking through her pedantically professorial reading spectacles, said, “We don’t have a military force that is creating a secure environment. Hope is not a strategy.”

Unfazed by her empty platitude, Abizaid denied the military (or, by extension, the administration) had ever “misled” about Iraq. “With regard to hope not being a method, Senator, I agree with you, and I would also say that despair is not a method.” Touché.

Even more delicious was Abizaid’s statement, “When I come to Washington, I feel despair. When I’m in Iraq with my commanders, when I talk to our soldiers, when I talk to the Iraqi leadership, they are not despairing.” I hope Americans were listening. It’s the mainstream media and naysaying politicians who are responsible for a great deal of the public’s “despair” on Iraq.

In response to a question from Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Abizaid also confirmed Bush’s position that a premature withdrawal of our troops would increase violence and instability in Iraq. Other witnesses supported the president’s longtime contention that it would embolden Al Qaeda and make us less secure. Abizaid also shot down as “not viable” the proposal of some Democrats that Iraq be partitioned into three regions.

While the Iraqi Study Group has yet to complete its report and we are admittedly experiencing tremendous obstacles in Iraq, these Senate hearings revealed that many of the president’s war critics have been shooting from the hip without sufficient hard facts to substantiate their harsh attacks.

Bush and Rumsfeld, just as they’ve told us, have been letting the generals, not self-anointed armchair experts, run the war. Thus, as discerning minds have contended all along, criticism of the administration’s policy has been tantamount to criticism of the military, which has been in charge.

It’s been easy for accountability-avoiding politicians to treat the administration as a leper colony on Iraq. How ironic that Bush has been accused of politicizing the war when he has been the one politician who has remained steadfast in attempting to do the right thing regardless of how it would affect his approval ratings in the moment. For this I believe he deserves enormous credit and gratitude, as counterintuitive as that may strike those who demand perfection and immediate results.