I was reminded of my mid-1960s high school days in conservative Lebanon, Pennsylvania, when I read that Senator John McCain recommended that MoveOn.org, "ought to be thrown out of this country," because it paid for a full-page ad in the New York Times, which carried the headline, "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" McCain's outburst reminded me of the narrow-mind patriots in Lebanon, who used the illiberal cliché, "America, Love it or Leave it" to deny the patriotism of America's Vietnam War protesters.
Yet, there are at least two reasons to suspect that MoveOn's ad had merit and critics, like McCain, were wrong. First, we have Gareth Porter's exceptional reporting that General Petraeus' superior, Admiral Fallon, accused Petraeus of being "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" for serving as a "front man" for Bush's surge. Second, we have Alexander Cockburn's CounterPunch Diary report of September 15-16, 2007, in which he claims that Petraeus' testimony had been "freshly vetted and re-written by Vice President Cheney."
If Cockburn's report is accurate, then Petraeus not only lied when he asserted, "I wrote this testimony myself," he also failed to present the independent report he promised. And THAT failure should be considered a betrayal.
McCain's outburst also brings to mind the words uttered by counterterrorism expert, Michael Scheuer, during testimony to the House of Representatives on April 17, 2007. When Massachusetts Democrat Bill Delahunt told Scheuer, "You know, you are really tough on Senator McCain. You said he is 'a little man with mediocre intelligence, a taste for bullying, and an appalling temper who thinks the presidency is his birthright,'" Scheuer responded by asserting, "Sir, he is a perfect example of a man who is tremendously courageous and patriotic, but that does not necessarily correlate with brain power."
Moreover, now that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe this deadly and horrible war is lost and should never have been undertaken, were the hypothetical and illiberal question of who "ought to be thrown out of this country" ever seriously entertained (which I don't recommend), shouldn't we recommend deporting a handful of our warmongering neoconservatives to Israel, but only after shipping members of our executive branch, such as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, to a current-day equivalent of Elba?
More seriously, both the feckless response to the Petraeus testimony by congressional Democrats and the misplaced outrage over MoveOn among America's rightwing demonstrate that Americans must take matters into their own hands, before the war expands into Iran. After all, we still claim to be a free people, living in a democracy.
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To that end, we might follow the suggestion of Harper's Garret Keizer and begin to prepare for executing a nation-wide strike. Sound impractical? Consider Keizer's October 2007 Harper's account of Danes saving Jews during World War II: "In 1943 the Danes managed to save 7,200 of their 7,800 Jewish neighbors from the Gestapo. They had no blogs, no television, no text messaging - and very little time to prepare. They passed their apartment keys to the hunted on the streets. They formed convoys to the coast. An ambulance driver set out with a phone book, stopping at any address with a Jewish-sounding name. No GPS for directions. No excuse not to try."
Although Keizer proposes a general strike for the first Tuesday in November (Election Day) to halt the slaughter in Iraq, a nation-wide shutdown in response to the invasion or bombardment of Iran seems more appropriate. Preparations for such a shutdown just might persuade the Bush administration to attempt serious, comprehensive negotiations with Tehran before expanding its war in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, Keizer's absolutely correct to ask: "Are we willing to wait until the next presidential election, or for some interim congressional conversion experience, knowing that if we do wait, hundreds of our sons and daughters will be needlessly destroyed?"
Let's demonstrate to both the war's supporters in the Bush administration and congress, as well as their feckless congressional opponents, precisely where sovereignty resides in this country.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
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