On Point

Bush's Vietnam - NOT!

by Austin Bay
February 8, 2005

The week before the Jan. 30 Iraqi election, Sen. Ted Kennedy branded Iraq a hopeless quagmire. "Bush's Vietnam," Kennedy bellowed.

"Quagmire." "Vietnam." "Bush." Indeed, the Massachusetts senator's dire sermon invoked his fundamentalist faith's demons old and demons au courant. Sen. Barbara Boxer joined the snake dance, adding her own poisonous sanctimony.

The Iraqi people, braving car bombs and waving ink-stained fingers, demonstrated that Ted is more than a bit "tetched," to use the colloquial term. Iraqis weren't going to miss the chance to damn Saddam's legacy of theft, murder, thuggery and war.

Beltway political experts explain Kennedy's action as a tactical political gamble. See, Bay, ole Ted was simply staking out political territory. If the Iraqi elections failed --as the conventional media wisdom said they would -- he was positioned to "take the moral high ground" from the Bush administration. "Moral high ground," accompanied by appropriate friendly media magnification, would translate into the political power to dominate the Bush administration.

It's tactical, Bay, tactical.

No, it's sad. It's blind. It's also bitterly small. That's why I pity Mr. Kennedy.

Jan. 30 was crunch time for the people of Iraq. The War on Terror is crunch time for the 21st century. We are living in a moment that really matters, when blood, sweat, toil and tears fueled by hope and courage can lay the political foundation for a more just and prosperous century.

With the exception of Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party's senior leaders have either vacillated in their support or been dead wrong about Iraq. This doesn't bode well for the United States. Last July, I met Lieberman at a reception in Baghdad. I told him I wished he were the Democratic nominee for president. He smiled wryly and said he wished he was, too.

Lieberman gets it. He understands the stakes and appreciates the risks, but he also understands the opportunities. He's an armed liberal in the tradition of Harry Truman and Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- and, for that matter, John Kennedy.

America needs the Democratic Party of Truman and FDR -- and that's a party willing to drop A-bombs and "bear any price" for freedom on the planet. Instead, the Democratic National Committee infects itself with Mad How disease, the political bacillus spread by Park Avenue's Typhoid Mary of ulcerous anger, "Mad How"-ard Dean.

This is a serious strategic illness. Symptoms include lack of spine, especially when sustaining international action to defeat tyranny and terror. There are some humorous side-effects: As the disease progresses leftward, particularly among bi-coastal and academic elites, a desire to recast America as France emerges.

The more extreme manifestations include activist nostalgia for 1960s narco-politics, where gray-haired profs with ponytails rant about -- you guessed it -- "quagmires" and "Vietnam."

"Left-wing denial" has become a redundant phrase, just like "left-wing defeatism." Remember, Afghanistan was supposed to be a quagmire. Millions would die in the harsh Himalayan winter. Instead, U.S. forces and Afghan allies quickly drove the Taliban from power and Al Qaeda's claim to "divine sanction" for its war against America went poof. The October 2004 Afghan election ratified the victory.

The Vietnam War -- so costly and destructive -- was strategic defense, a Cold War attempt to buy time while avoiding nuclear conflict until the Soviet Union "mellowed," to use George Kennan's phrase.

Iraq, like Afghanistan, is part of a strategic political and military offensive directed at the dictators and genocidal ideologues whose design for the 21st century is 12th century autocracy imposed by death squads, men in turbans and nukes.

China's Mao Tse-Tung wrote that guerrillas are fish swimming in the sea of the people. Translation: It takes popular support to sustain a genuine guerrilla conflict. The Saddmist thugs and Al Qaeda zealots who kill Iraqi civilians and coalition troops are reactionaries with scant political appeal. They are murderers, not soldiers in a wider people's war.

Check the ink-stained fingers -- the Iraqi elections demonstrated just how politically marginal these fascists are.

Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean can't hear that, can't see that. Saddled with defeatism and blinded by cynicism, their old-time '60s political religion is now the quagmire.

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