Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism.”
— Nazi official Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials
Even for the battle-hardened veterans, presumably accustomed to the bloody machinations of the fog of war, the scene must have been eerie.
President Bush, standing beneath a banner that read “Strategy for Victory,” was delivering a Veterans Day speech that seemed neither strategic nor particularly concerned with victory. Indeed, in a desperate ploy to paint his critics as a danger to the United States’ war effort, Bush has never seemed so defeated.
After a series of bruising political bungles, Bush has apparently deemed it necessary to return to his characteristic combativeness, lashing out at politicians who have confronted his administration over discredited prewar intelligence. “The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important,” said Bush, “for politicians to throw out false charges.”
Sermonizing to a crowd of friendly military officials, veterans and families, Bush must have seemed convincing. But his argument, that criticism is somehow detrimental to the soldiers who were thrust into an alien country under the ambiguous auspices of “national security,” is as irresponsible as it is inaccurate.
Even a brief glance at the evidence would suggest that we went to war on terms that were fabricated at worst and unfounded at best. But by focusing on his critics rather than our embattled military, Bush renders himself unable to shape the terms of our departure.
More harmful to soldiers than patriotic criticism is Bush’s almost vitriolic rhetoric, for as long as the president paints critics as unpatriotic, the longer American men and women are in harm’s way without a leader who has a plan to bring them home. Bush should spend less time lashing out with his tried-and-true trope, and more time honestly assessing an ultimate exit strategy.
At a time when American soldiers are being made to endure increasingly brazen attacks, when Iraq’s various religious factions are beginning to consider violence as a viable alternative and when the international community looks even less willing to offer its assistance, denouncing critics does little to remove our soldiers from their position of vulnerability.
To be sure, the president is free to don his rose-colored glasses, but to do so would be a disservice both to his country and to the very veterans to whom he was supposedly paying tribute on Friday.
As defined by Bush, patriotism doesn’t seem to include room for dissent or criticism. But as many veterans well know, patriotism should never be allowed to obstruct the kind of criticism that could save American lives.
Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Damion LeeNatali, Aaron Mackey, Mike Morefield, Katie Paulson and Tim Runestad.