BOB KATRIN: Now They're Saying We've Won the War?
As retiring Republican members of the House leave office bemoaning the failure of the latest Republican administrations agenda and the almost inevitable ascension of Democrats, the latest news I've seen this past week was two conservative columnists saying we've won the war in Iraq.
Wow! Talk about a pre-emptive conclusion!
But I've got to hand it to them: Conservatives know how to grandstand, they die hard, and they've certainly been spectacularly successful manipulating public opinion.
That really got started during the Reagan administration, guided by the thinking -- if you could call it that -- of the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Then fast forward to Bush, Rove, Cheney, et al., a political machine that operated a propaganda onslaught attempting to regulate human lifestyles. It was better than turning water into wine -- it created enemies by polarization to win votes.
Continuing the path of the Moral Majority, their strategy was to politicize religious issues, using the theologically unsophisticated political thinking of "right"-minded fundamentalist Protestant evangelicals reduced to family values (theirs) versus gays and gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, pornography, and people who believe in evolution -- all placed under an umbrella of moral decay.
I'd ask: If all of this is a Christian initiative, where is the emphasis on concern for the poor, racial equality, justice, and living simple, morally dutiful lives without the getting-rich part?
Additionally, there were the traditional enemies of Republicans: big government taxing the wealthy, liberals, secularism, nonpatriots (by their definition), symbolized by anyone who doesn't wear a flag pin or wave a flag, anyone who doesn't think free trade is always a good idea, and anyone who supports the evidence for global warming.
The cultural and political problem with an overzealous emphasis on winning is that the strategies employed destroy cooperation. Bipartisanism seems a thing of the past, leaving out a whole middle of divergent opinion and nuance. Under a dualistic right/wrong, us/them, left/right approach, only the winners win, not the people. If your goal is winning at any cost, you can say anything, no matter how absurd or untruthful.
Honestly, I don't think this is solely the province of Republicans, although they're superb at it; it is a jaundice infecting politics in general.
Obviously, to me, this latest exaggeration about the war is a desperate attempt to try to win the presidential election, no holds barred. Truth is a funny thing; so much of it becomes reduced to "belief."
Politically charged statements can have questionable validity and insufficient substantial evidence, can be argued both ways, and can't easily be denied except by rigorous analysis and research that most people won't, or can't, take the time to get into.
Even media commentators, such as Rush Limbaugh, are so busy spending their money that many of them rely on flimsy research done by their staffs. It's a free country, even though that doesn't have anything to do with journalistic integrity and intelligent informed opinion grounded in responsible investigation of the issues.
This kind of political marketing reminds me of all the ads we've seen through the glorious years of the Bush administration's unhinging of financial markets by crippling government regulation. You know, ads that said you were "saving by spending," and all the mass consumer insanity influenced by advertising manipulation and lying.
The credo in back of all this is: Always look out for No. 1, and don't care about other people. That was the driving force behind widespread corporate perpetration of mortgage scams that resulted in the crash of our economy.
What exactly have we won in Iraq? Even if it were true, which it isn't, at what cost? How many innocent Iraqis have been killed? How many billions have been squandered on crooked contractors? How many American soldiers have lost their lives, not to mention the legion of maimed and wounded that will have to fight the Department of Veterans Affairs for adequate care?
How much have we increased the national debt -- maybe into additional trillions in the future -- on what was really an expeditionary, exploratory war launched on the basis of misinformation? What will happen to the country when we leave? Or if we don't, how long will it take to support even a nascent democracy in Iraq?
What are the chances of any kind of democracy working in a country with a weak government and infrastructure and the lack of a solid majority of the country's people willing to fight and die to create a democracy in the face of tribal, sectarian, and insurgent and terrorist factions?
Without Americans there, who will the Iraqi army fight for or against?
Bob Katrin is a retired Sandhills Community College instructor.
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