Opinion » Ted Rall

Memo To Republicans: Shut Up, Shut Up, Shut Up!

Iraq fiasco exposes faith-based reasoning

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NEW YORK--Attention right-wing neoconservative Republicans: We Americans have done things your way since 1981, when an actor named Reagan convinced us that we weren't entitled to anything from the government other than a canceled check for our taxes. We supported dictators against democratic movements. We started wars against tiny weak countries like Grenada and Panama and Afghanistan just because we could. Even when we had a Democratic president, he bought into Reagan Republicanism, Clinton cut rich people's taxes, signed NAFTA and got rid of social-welfare programs. Twenty-six years into the neocon nightmare, everybody hates the United States. We're broke. Here's how screwed up we are: We can't even get out of a war that 91 percent of Americans are against. Republicans got us into this mess.

I say: Enough is enough. Three thousand dead soldiers and $2 trillion say it's time for anyone who ever argued in favor of invading Iraq to shut the eff up. Sell your laptop on eBay, Ms. Coulter. Use your ill-gotten gains to take some Middle Eastern history classes, Mr. Friedman. Step away from the golden EIB microphone, Mr. Limbaugh. Resign, Senators Clinton and McCain, and never show your faces in public again. Yeah, right.

Since these pundits and politicians were and are so spectacularly wrong about such a straightforward and momentous issue as this idiotic war, no one should take them seriously again. Right-wingers deserve to be marginalized and ignored. The American left--the real, non-accommodationist non-Hillary, left--ought to define the mainstream from now on. Only the left, from Noam Chomsky on the left left to Howard Dean on the right left, have been consistently correct. Not to worry, we still have two legitimate political parties: Democrats and the Greens.

The post-Iraq bankruptcy of the GOP thinkers came into sharp relief the other night in the form of Dinesh D'Souza's latest radio editorial, on NPR, of all venues. "Iraq," he began, "is not Vietnam. And here's why."

I listened closely, for Stanford University's D'Souza is one of America's most--arguably the most--respected conservative thinkers. He has written several New York Times bestsellers. His speaking fees start at $10,000. D'Souza has done so well as a pundit that he lives in an exclusive gated community near San Diego. According to the San Diego Reader, his "nearly 8,000-square-foot house has six bedrooms, seven and a half baths, and a four-car garage, where [he and his wife] keep their maroon 1992 Jaguar XJS."

I thought I already knew why Iraq wasn't like Vietnam: We might have won in Vietnam. Since D'Souza is raking in a lot more pundit bucks than me, however, I paid close attention.

"First, we had no vital interest in Vietnam," he said. "The United States got involved in Vietnam starting in the 1950s, due to an elaborate, but misguided theory of dominos. So if Vietnam went communist, the whole of Asia would become communist. Well, it didn't happen. But my larger point is that when Vietnam did fall to the communists, America's foreign policy interests and economic interests were largely unaffected."

Fair enough. The Domino Theory was used to sell the war by political leaders, some of whom actually believed it. D'Souza continued: "Iraq, by contrast, is strategically vital." How? My butt crept up to the edge of my seat. "Consider [Iraq's] neighbors: Iran. Turkey. Kuwait. Jordan. Syria. Saudi Arabia. If Iraq falls into the hands of the Islamic radicals, they would control two major countries: Iran and Iraq. Next, we would expect them to target Egypt and Saudi Arabia." Huh?

Call me a loser who couldn't afford to heat an 8,000-square-foot home, much less buy one, but isn't that--well--a Domino Theory? "Second, in Vietnam," D'Souza continued, "we were allied with the bad guys. The South Vietnamese government was corrupt and tyrannical, and our only reason for supporting it was that it was a better alternative to the communist regime in the North. In politics, it is often a necessity: You ally with the bad guys in order to avoid the worse guys. But the bad guys remain bad guys. They alienate their people and the popular resentment that they provoke often carries over to us."

OK. I was with him again. We've repeatedly paid a high price for our partnerships with unsavory regimes--most recently on 9/11.

"By contrast, in Iraq," D'Souza went on--"we are allied with an elected government. Braving bullets, the Iraqi people went to the polls and elected the current regime." Ahem. Iraq's government is so corrupt that it sells weapons we give it to fight insurgents on the black market, often to the insurgents themselves. Oh, and South Vietnam did hold presidential elections in 1967, a year before the Tet Offensive turned the American public against the war. Doesn't D'Souza know that?

"We have a government that represents the will of the Iraqi majority. That's a good thing, because it means we have local allies in Iraq who have popular support."

I'd had it. "Moron! Idiot!" I shouted at the radio. This was a succinct way of expressing what I was thinking, which was: Even if it's true that the current Iraqi regime has majority (i.e., Shiite) support--and it's doubtful--the problem is what it does with that electoral legitimacy. Prime Minister Maliki employs Iraqi police units that carry out ethnic cleansing operations against Sunni citizens. Shiite death squads employed by the Maliki government dump the bodies of dozens of Sunnis in the streets of Baghdad every day, some murdered by electric drills driven into their heads. Definitely not "a good thing." D'Souza's pleasant voice droned on.

"Finally, in Vietnam, there was no way to win the war and preserve our dignity. The United States and Vietnam faced several hundred thousand resolute communists on the other side. These were guerilla fighters fighting on familiar territory against American boys who didn't know why the heck they were going over there ... Vietnam was a no-win situation. Iraq is not."

Sigh. The Pentagon itself estimates that at least 90 percent of Iraqi insurgents are locals fighting on their own turf. These guerillas are fighting American soldiers who've been fooled into thinking Saddam had something to do with 9/11. What's the difference?

"America can win in Iraq ... All the strength in the world is useless if you don't have the will to fight. We saw the same loss of will over the Vietnam War. But Vietnam was a lost cause. In Iraq, we are in danger of losing a war we can win." And...? That was it. Not one single line supporting his thesis that Iraq isn't another Vietnam; if anything, I am now more convinced than ever that the two quagmires have a lot in common.

D'Souza wallows in the circular logic that has become the rhetorical currency of the right: 1. The Domino Theory that led us into Vietnam was bogus, but we have to stay in Iraq because of a New Domino Theory (but we won't call it that); 2. Our South Vietnamese ally was unpopular, but our Iraqi ally isn't (if you ignore the millions of Iraqi refugees voting with their feet); 3. We couldn't win Vietnam but we can win in Iraq because, well, we just can.

If this eye-rolling sophistry were a sloppy homework assignment turned in by a student in 10th-grade debate, it would merit an "F" and a chuckle in the teachers' lounge. But these scattered ravings are the product of one of the brightest minds of our current political establishment, representative of thinking at the highest levels of government, and thus contribute to the deaths of thousands of people.

It's frightening that conservatives continue to believe in economic and military theories that have been proven wrong again and again. I've been against the Iraq War since the beginning, yet I could compose a logical argument for staying the course. Why can't those who are for it do the same? And why is NPR--or any other media outlet--paying attention to these idiots' faith-based reasoning?

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