Boxer’s Comments to Rice

I caught it on a TV debate forum last night while channel surfing. Picture shrill defensive Democrats attempting to out-shout hostile, outraged, blustering razorback Republicans. The discussion was out of control. If I owned the studio I would turn off the cameras and send everyone home in disgrace.

It seems Barbara Boxer told Condoleeza Rice that Rice couldn’t understand the impact Bush’s Iraq war “troop surge” would have on American families, because Rice is single and childless.

“Who pays the price [for the war]?” Boxer asked during the hearing. “I’m not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young.”

“Outrageous”, said Tony Snow, spokesman for the White House and former Fox news commentator. A huge step backwards for femininism, he said. He could only say that because Boxer and Rice” happen to be female. If they had been males, Snow would have had to stick to the war as the real issue, so he ends up looking like the real big step backwards for feminism.

While I bet Boxer wishes she’d phrased her charge differently, both women know exactly what’s being talked about here: a raw nerve, the bleeding disembowelled underbelly of a no-win war plan with no definable limits, checkpoints or endpoint. The Republican administration in the past has successfully deflected efforts to examine the impact on American families with appeals to blind generic patriotism, “supporting the troops”, and “you either support the war or you’re a loser” ad-hominems.

As a Vietnam veteran, I would like to clarify this emotional “support our troops” smokescreen once and for all. Of course we support our troops. They are too valuable as individuals, family members and defenders of the nation to sacrifice mindlessly in mindless conflicts. When we do ask them to serve in conflict, we owe it to ourselves, to them and to our national pride to make sure we have thought this thing through.

In this case, a majority of the population and Congress has come to see that we haven’t thought this thing through. Fewer than ever think that American war policy is defending either America, or the self-determination of a free Iraqi people struggling toward democracy. More than ever think our war policy is designed to perpetuate a failed Administrative political and strategic gambit.

It’s encouraging to see Republican solons saying that it no longer matters what you think about how we got into this war. Now, what matters is re-thinking how we’ll get out of it.

National honor is a nice, over-used concept. It really just acknowledges, indirectly, that history will indeed judge us by our actions today. There was no national honor in our Vietnam exit strategy, nor could there have been. Is it too late in Iraq?

If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

Pro-war critics often charge the loyal opposition with being short on alternative plans of action. Given that the Administration doesn’t really have a plan, that’s a cheap shot.

It’s clear our stated goals won’t prevail in Iraq by throwing the lives of more troops on the problem. And yet the Iraqi people are in a hell of a bind. Like it or not, that’s largely of our doing. Firemen will try to put out almost any fire, but they don’t pump water on chemical conflagrations. We didn’t create Iraqi sectarian violence, but we’re pumping gasoline on it. It’s up to Congress to figure out how to salvage something that works for Iraq out of this mess, while preserving American lives.

We are quite right in telling Congress, get our sons and daughters out of this.

Boxer’s “insensitive” comments to Rice re-focused the argument. It seems the biggest personal loss for most of those in the seat of American power has been the unseating of the Rumsfeld dynasty.

Beyond over 3000 war dead so far, America’s war engine is additionally turning out a new generation of embittered war veterans scarred by physical wounds, personal loss and combat fatigue. We are “re-upping” troops, again placing in harm’s way those who were scheduled for rotation back home, with involuntary and unbroken second and third tours.

Even senior Republicans are beginning to see Vietnam all over again, or even worse. And they don’t like it either.

If you have kids of enlistment age, or soon to be eligible, ask them how they’d feel about being sent in a wave of “surge troops” to prop up the current Iraqi bloodbath.

If you don’t have kids, try telling your neighbors (who do) that you think that your emotional investment in the Iraq war entitles you to vote to send their kids to war.

That’s what Boxer was talking about.

And Rice, whatever else you may think of her, is one sharp cookie. She knows what Boxer is talking about too. Politely or not, the debate has been re-framed.

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