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Endless war, endless spin: GOP keeps lying about Iraq
Chicago Sun-Times
April 13, 2007

Most of us thought that the last election settled the Iraq issue. The voters by a substantial majority rejected the Iraq war. It now appears that Iraq will be the focus of the presidential election next year. In an exercise of political legerdemain almost as ingenious as that which launched this stupid, inept and immoral war, President Bush has somehow reintroduced it as the focus for political debate this year and next year.

Despite the sentiment of the voters and the wise advice of the Iraq Commission, victory is still possible in Iraq if only we have the patience and the courage (are willing to accept more deaths of other people's children). We must protect Iraqi democracy. The consequences of failure are unthinkable. We must keep faith with our dead troops. If we don't fight the terrorists in Iraq, then we will have to fight them here at home.

There is nothing new in any of these arguments, and nothing true either. Yet they are advanced as new insights to support a "new" strategy and they are propounded by White House spokespersons, Republican members of Congress, commentators on the Fox network and conservative columnists and editorial writers as if they were wisdom that has not been heard before.

Now at last, they seem to be saying, we've finally got it right. The war is lost. It was lost before it started. It is immoral and it was immoral before it started. The Republicans running for re-election know the public is fed up with the war but they are caught in recycled old rhetoric and cannot slip out of it.

More disturbing, however, are the arguments being advanced by the three musketeers who are the major Republican candidates. They are still spinning the war in Iraq as the real war on terror. Rudy Giuliani seems eager to take on Iran. That might not be fair to Alexander Dumas' gallant warriors. Perhaps they should be compared to the "see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil" trio of simians.

If the jingoistic militarism of the candidates persists for another year, the public will have to choose between support for a war it doesn't like anymore and the charge that it is cowardly and traitorous. It seems unlikely that this "framing" of the issue could win the election. But in the last couple of decades, American voters have been erratic in their responses to the constant spinning of slogans and fallacies, and especially those spun by the words "Sept. 11, 2001." The Iraq war, solidly beaten in 2006, could bounce back again and win in 2008. That would mean that a new Republican president would have waded full into the Big Muddy and taken the baton from his predecessor.

The "endless war" would continue. More flag-draped coffins would be flown in during the dead of night, more maimed bodies turned over to the dubious care of military and veterans hospitals, more national guardsmen fired from their civilian jobs, more traumatized veterans wandering about in an emotional fog, and more life-ruining tragedies imposed on Americans, young and old.

I do not want to question the motivation of the Republican candidates. They need the support of hardcore Republicans to win the primaries -- men and women who will put great emphasis on loyalty to "our" president. Yet the picture of Sen. John "Straight Talk" McCain standing in a marketplace in Baghdad, wearing body armor with helicopters buzzing overhead and celebrating the new safety in the city suggests that he is already trapped in the Big Muddy.

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