sassa Posted April 17 Report Share Posted April 17 THE REASON WHYBy George McGovernThe NationFrom the April 21, 2003 issuehttp://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030421&s=mcgovern"Theirs not to reason why,Theirs but to do and die."--Alfred, Lord Tennyson"The Charge of the Light Brigade"(in the Crimean War)Thanks to the most crudely partisan decision in the history of theSupreme Court, the nation has been given a President of painfullylimited wisdom and compassion and lacking any sense of the nation'strue greatness. Appearing to enjoy his role as Commander in Chief ofthe armed forces above all other functions of his office, andunchecked by a seemingly timid Congress, a compliant Supreme Court,a largely subservient press and a corrupt corporate plutocracy,George W. Bush has set the nation on a course for one-man rule.He treads carelessly on the Bill of Rights, the United Nations andinternational law while creating a costly but largely useless newfederal bureaucracy loosely called "Homeland Security." Meanwhile,such fundamental building blocks of national security as fullemployment and a strong labor movement are of no concern. The nearly$1.5 trillion tax giveaway, largely for the further enrichment ofthose already rich, will have to be made up by cutting governmentservices and shifting a larger share of the tax burden to workersand the elderly.This President and his advisers know well how to get us involved inimperial crusades abroad while pillaging the ordinary American athome. The same families who are exploited by a rich man's governmentfind their sons and daughters being called to war, as they were inVietnam--but not the sons of the rich and well connected. (Let menote that the son of South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is now on dutyin the Persian Gulf. He did not use his obvious politicalconnections to avoid military service, nor did his father seekexemptions for his son. That goes well with me, with my fellow SouthDakotans and with every fair-minded American.)The invasion of Iraq and other costly wars now being planned insecret are fattening the ever-growing military-industrial complex ofwhich President Eisenhower warned in his great farewell address. Warprofits are booming, as is the case in all wars. While youngAmericans die, profits go up. But our economy is not booming, andour stock market is not booming. Our wages and incomes are notbooming. While waging a war against Iraq, the Bush Administration iswaging another war against the well-being of America.Following the 9/11 tragedy at the World Trade Center and thePentagon, the entire world was united in sympathy and support forAmerica. But thanks to the arrogant unilateralism, the bullying andthe clumsy, unimaginative diplomacy of Washington, Bush converted aworld of support into a world united against us, with the exceptionof Tony Blair and one or two others. My fellow South Dakotan, TomDaschle, the US Senate Democratic leader, has well described thecollapse of American diplomacy during the Bush Administration. Forthis he has been savaged by the Bush propaganda machine. For theirpart, the House of Representatives has censured the French bychanging the name of french fries on the house dining room menu tofreedom fries. Does this mean our almost sacred Statue of Liberty--agift from France--will now have to be demolished? And will we haveto give up the French kiss? What a cruel blow to romance.During his presidential campaign Bush cried, "I'm a uniter, not adivider." As one critic put it, "He's got that right. He's unitedthe entire world against him." In his brusque, go-it-alone approachto Congress, the UN and countless nations big and small, Bush seemedto be saying, "Go with us if you will, but we're going to war with asmall desert kingdom that has done us no harm, whether you like itor not." This is a good line for the macho business. But it flies inthe face of Jefferson's phrase, "a decent respect to the opinions ofmankind." As I have watched America's moral and political standingin the world fade as the globe's inhabitants view the senseless andimmoral bombing of ancient, historic Baghdad, I think often ofanother Jefferson observation during an earlier bad time in thenation's history: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that Godis just."The President frequently confides to individuals and friendlyaudiences that he is guided by God's hand. But if God guided himinto an invasion of Iraq, He sent a different message to the Pope,the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the mainline Protestant NationalCouncil of Churches and many distinguished rabbis--all of whombelieve the invasion and bombardment of Iraq is against God's will.In all due respect, I suspect that Karl Rove, Richard Perle, PaulWolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice--and other sidelinewarriors--are the gods (or goddesses) reaching the ear of ourPresident.As a World War II bomber pilot, I was always troubled by the titleof a then-popular book, God Is My Co-pilot. My co-pilot was BillRounds of Wichita, Kansas, who was anything but godly, but he was askillful pilot, and he helped me bring our B-24 Liberator throughthirty-five combat missions over the most heavily defended targetsin Europe. I give thanks to God for our survival, but somehow Icould never quite picture God sitting at the controls of a bomber orsquinting through a bombsight deciding which of his creatures shouldsurvive and which should die. It did not simplify matterstheologically when Sam Adams, my navigator--and easily the godliestman on my ten-member crew--was killed in action early in the war. Hewas planning to become a clergyman at war's end.Of course, my dear mother went to her grave believing that herprayers brought her son safely home. Maybe they did. But how could Iexplain that to the mother of my close friend, Eddie Kendall, whoprayed with equal fervor for her son's safe return? Eddie was tornin half by a blast of shrapnel during the Battle of the Bulge--deadat age 19, during the opening days of the battle--the best baseballplayer and pheasant hunter I knew.I most certainly do not see God at work in the slaughter anddestruction now unfolding in Iraq or in the war plans now beingdeveloped for additional American invasions of other lands. The handof the Devil? Perhaps. But how can I suggest that a fellow Methodistwith a good Methodist wife is getting guidance from the Devil? Idon't want to get too self-righteous about all of this. After all, Ihave passed the 80 mark, so I don't want to set the bar ofacceptable behavior too high lest I fail to meet the standard for apassing grade on Judgment Day. I've already got a long list ofstrikes against me. So President Bush, forgive me if I've been tootough on you. But I must tell you, Mr. President, you are thegreatest threat to American troops. Only you can put our youngpeople in harm's way in a needless war. Only you can weakenAmerica's good name and influence in world affairs.We hear much talk these days, as we did during the Vietnam War, of"supporting our troops." Like most Americans, I have alwayssupported our troops, and I have always believed we had the bestfighting forces in the world--with the possible exception of theVietnamese, who were fortified by their hunger for nationalindependence, whereas we placed our troops in the impossibleposition of opposing an independent Vietnam, albeit a Communist one.But I believed then as I do now that the best way to support ourtroops is to avoid sending them on mistaken military campaigns thatneedlessly endanger their lives and limbs. That is what went on inVietnam for nearly thirty years--first as we financed the French intheir failing effort to regain control of their colonial empire inSoutheast Asia, 1946-54, and then for the next twenty years as wesought unsuccessfully to stop the Vietnamese independence struggleled by Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap--two great men whom weshould have accepted as the legitimate leaders of Vietnam at the endof World War II. I should add that Ho and his men were our alliesagainst the Japanese in World War II. Some of my fellow pilots whowere shot down by Japanese gunners over Vietnam were brought safelyback to American lines by Ho's guerrilla forces.During the long years of my opposition to that war, including apresidential campaign dedicated to ending the American involvement,I said in a moment of disgust: "I'm sick and tired of old mendreaming up wars in which young men do the dying." That terribleAmerican blunder, in which 58,000 of our bravest young men died, andmany times that number were crippled physically or psychologically,also cost the lives of some 2 million Vietnamese as well as asimilar number of Cambodians and Laotians, in addition to layingwaste most of Indochina--its villages, fields, trees and waterways;its schools, churches, markets and hospitals.I had thought after that horrible tragedy--sold to the Americanpeople by our policy-makers as a mission of freedom and mercy--thatwe never again would carry out a needless, ill-conceived invasion ofanother country that had done us no harm and posed no threat to oursecurity. I was wrong in that assumption.The President and his team, building on the trauma of 9/11, havefalsely linked Saddam Hussein's Iraq to that tragedy and thenfalsely built him up as a deadly threat to America and to worldpeace. These falsehoods are rejected by the UN and nearly all of theworld's people. We will, of course, win the war with Iraq. But whatof the question raised in the Bible that both George Bush and Iread: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and losehis own soul," or the soul of his nation?It has been argued that the Iraqi leader is hiding a few weapons ofmass destruction, which we and eight other countries have long held.But can it be assumed that he would insure his incineration byattacking the United States? Can it be assumed that if we are tosave ourselves we must strike Iraq before Iraq strikes us? This samereasoning was frequently employed during the half-century of coldwar by hotheads recommending that we atomize the Soviet Union andChina before they atomize us. Courtesy of The New Yorker, we arereminded of Tolstoy's observation: "What an immense mass of evilmust result...from allowing men to assume the right of anticipatingwhat may happen." Or again, consider the words of Lord Stanmore, whoconcluded after the suicidal charge of the Light Brigade that it was"undertaken to resist an attack that was never threatened andprobably never contemplated." The symphony of falsehood orchestratedby the Bush team has been devised to defeat an Iraqi onslaught that"was never threatened and probably never comtemplated."I'm grateful to The Nation, as I was to Harper's, for giving meopportunities to write about these matters. Major newspapers,especially the Washington Post, haven't been nearly as receptive.The destruction of Baghdad has a special poignancy for many of us.In my fourth-grade geography class under a superb teacher, MissWagner, I was first introduced to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers,the palm trees and dates, the kayaks plying the rivers, camelcaravans and desert oases, the Arabian Nights, Aladdin and HisWonderful Lamp (my first movie), the ancient city of Baghdad,Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent. This was the first class inelementary school that fired my imagination. Those wondrous imageshave stayed with me for more than seventy years. And it now troublesme to hear of America's bombs, missiles and military machinesravishing the cradle of civilization.But in God's good time, perhaps this most ancient of civilizationscan be redeemed. My prayer is that most of our soldiers and most ofthe long-suffering people of Iraq will survive this war after it hasjoined the historical march of folly that is man's inhumanity toman. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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