Now that we got rid of our first man in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein, for good, why not make room for another? John McCain made an unannounced appearance in the Iraqi capital last Sunday with no word of when troops will be making their disappearance. Instead, the likely Republican presidential nominee continues to make noises about the umbilical link between his own political ambitions, and what he sees as military victory in Iraq. Yes, folks, John McCain's default position is, and will continue to be, commander-in-chief.
The Arizona senator insists that the purpose of his visit was to counter media depictions of violence, throughout the country, with what he sees as the "full picture" of the progress he thinks has been made in Iraq since the addition of more than 30,000 troops about a year ago. McCain is so certain of the success, and direction, of the war which has now lasted half a decade, he says he's willing to stake his political life on it, and lives of thousands more over the next century which is how long, theoretically, he's prepared to make it last..
Details of his trip were classified "for security reasons," and phone calls to McCain aides went largely unanswered, but what we do know is that there is concern that the so-called militants, who oppose the occupation, will try to sabotage the November election because, as the Arizona senator says, "of the intercepts we have of their communications." (AP) Yes, he knows the "militants" pay attention to what's going on in the U.S., because we're tapping their phones. So, we have a Kodak moment — the guy who may well be our next president now publicly admits that he has information obtained from wiretapping.
Curiously, for an administration so intent on collecting data by any means necessary, police in Baghdad are not authorized to speak to the media. Can it be that the Republican nominee wants to keep the "full picture" of what's going on in Baghdad from coming out?
The same police who have been prevented from speaking up disclose, anonymously, that there is ongoing violence, but there appears to be a news blackout of the news blackout on the part of the mainstream media. Obviously, if McCain prevails in November, the Iraq war, as well as his hyper-militarism, won't be the only thing to survive the Bush administration, a campaign of secrecy will continue, too.
If Barack Obama gets the Democratic presidential nomination, we will have a stark contrast between a senator who opposed the invasion, and occupation, of Iraq, in the first place, and one who has been a fierce proponent of the five year old war from the outset. While this polarity has yet to escape the attention of pundits, and journalists, alike, the trio is not being grilled about the perils of pursuing military expansionism in the face of economic disaster. Arguably, the lowest common denominator among all three candidates, McCain, Obama, and Clinton is foreign policy and, so far, none has connected a weakened economy with threats to our national security.
Instead, we've been treated to a contest as to who would answer the red phone first were it to ring at 3 A.M. with each of the candidates boasting of being the one first in line protect this country from those who threaten us. Not one suggests that the biggest dangers, and what we should be losing sleep over, come from what's happening in our own backyard.
Senator Clinton suggests she will take aggressive and decisive action as commander-in-chief; McCain implies that he will be first and foremost at the helm of the military, and Obama says he will use "judgment" as his first line of defense. But, apart from the obvious question, don't any of these candidates have voicemail, one must ask: how is it that answering the phone in the middle of the night will help Mr. and Mrs. Middle America when the bank comes to foreclose on their home?
Leadership that refuses to acknowledge that financial turbulence compromises our national security is leadership that has failed America.
What's more, despite any illusions to the contrary, when it comes to Iraq, and deploying the military option, Clinton and McCain are largely on the same page, and so much so that there could even be a McClinton ticket.
But, what happens, or doesn't happen, in Iraq, over the several months won't make or break our democracy. Moreover, what happens, or doesn't happen, in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Palestine, and North Korea won't make or break our democracy either.
The gravest threat to our national security we currently face comes from misplaced priorities, misdirected anger, economic inequity, and national debt which compromises global security, as well as the continued diversion of funds away from programs, and infrastructure, that will strengthen this country, and into the coffers of those who have most profited from munitions sales in every war dating back to World War I. While Obama has alluded to this, it is time for the Democrats to start driving this issue home instead of their foolish attempts to compete with McCain on his military home turf. The battle lines that count now, in this country, and that will continue to count for our lifetimes are the ones between rich and poor, and the only candidate who deserves our vote is the one who promises to show leadership on the front lines of economic reparation.
Regrettably, none of the Democratic candidates for president, who remain in the race, has turned McCain's monologue about national security, and fitness to serve as commander-in-chief, into a dialogue about which Party, historically, has best served the needs of the working man and woman of this country. And, as we know, that is the Party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
While George H.W. Bush had the good sense to know when to walk away from the table, the last major foreign policy president we had was Ronald Reagan, and we're still suffering from the aftershocks of Reaganomics. Yet, when McCain handed his Democratic rivals their strongest opening yet by admitting that the economy isn't his strong suit, neither adversary stepped up to the plate by saying that what this country needs most now is a president who thinks that by sinking $3 trillion dollars of our resources into war, we are destroying our economy, and squandering our strongest asset, the American people.
Senator McCain insists that his trip to Baghdad, earlier this week, was not a photo-op. No doubt, he is right. We've had our Hillary moment, in this campaign year, so why not a John McCain moment, too? Why not superimpose a picture of John McCain onto the photo of Michael Dukakis perched on top of a tank.
After all, it was 20 years ago that Dukakis ran against the first president Bush who cooked up the first crisis in the Persian Gulf, and McCain's visit coincides with the twentieth anniversary of a chemical weapons attack in northern Iraq, so juxtaposing the two images is not out of the question. Indeed, any difference between the platform Dukakis tried to ride on, and failed, and the one the senator from Arizona is running on now is only marginal, and we can only hope McCain's effort meet with the same fate.
What's more, since he feels so strongly about the efficacy of the surge, maybe it's time for the senator from Arizona to suit up, and spend the next hundred years in Baghdad himself. Oh, and he can talk George Bush with him, too.
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