Thursday, March 01, 2007
Saying that which must not be said.
“Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be. We’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives.”Democratic leadership was quick to pounce on McCain. Unfortunately, they were following the lead of the loud mouthed Republican blogdiots, whose hounding led to Senator Barack Obama's retraction of the same sentiment which he expressed during a campaign rally.
A look at the definition of the word wasted proves the truth of the sentiment expressed by both McCain and Obama.
Wasted: to wear away or diminish gradually, to spend or use carelessly to allow to be used inefficiently or become dissipated.Frankly, I do not understand the controversy with using that term in conjunction with the occupation of Iraq. Republicans of all stripes, up to and including the President have said that the state of affairs in Iraq is not acceptable, and that mistakes have been made. One would naturally think that the consequence of error in wartime is the needless loss of life. Is simply using the word "wasted" somehow worthy of universal condemnation when talking about American lives in Iraq? I find it offensive that telling the truth of the matter leads to the person telling that truth being attacked by the other side. Only the most radical, died in the wool, koolaid drinking freaky right wingers (Michelle Malkin, meet Dick Cheney) actually think nothing has gone wrong in Iraq
Quite honestly, saying that we are wasting American lives in Iraq is correct, no matter how you feel about the worthiness of the occupation of Iraq. Let me draw an example based upon my limited knowledge of military history. I believe whole heartedly that the Union side of the Civil War was right. The Gettysburg Address is a fitting tribute to the right side of that struggle. But there were many thousands of lives wasted by northern soldiers in that struggle. One small example was the ill fated battle of Cold Harbor in the early summer of 1864. The northern commander, General Ulysses Grant threw human wave after wave upon the defenses of southern commander Robert E. Lee. The slaughter was enormous and mainly suffered by the northern army, which side again I think was just in that war. The casualties suffered in that battle were wasted lives. It was a poorly conceived battle, with Grant saying to his staff afterwards that "I regret this assault more than any one I have ever ordered".
There are many examples in the Civil War of just such needless waste of lives by the north. Frederickburg stands out in the annals of warfare as a singularly futile exercise in the wreckage of human life. That battle was so disastrous that the distraught northern general commanding determined to mount another assault on Lee's lines and personally lead the charge in what can only be called a willful suicide. His subordinates were able to talk him out of the idea.
It is in this spirit that McCain talked to Letterman about the American wasted lives in Iraq. McCain wants to surge even more troops into Iraq than Bush. McCain's commitment to the cause in Iraq can not be questioned. It is his stance to the right of Bush on Iraq that is costing McCain in the polls. When he talks of wasted lives, he is talking about how the bungled occupation and wrong headed thinking by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld have led to the conditions we have today.
When Republican Senator Gordon Smith gave his speech and said of the conduct of the war that it "may even be criminal", the military's "tactics have failed" and that "we have paid a price in blood and treasure that is beyond calculation" based upon bad intelligence... he might not have used the actual word wasted. But does he have to actually utter that word in order to mean the same exact thing? Frankly Smith's verbiage covers both the conduct of the war, and the worthiness of invading Iraq in the first place. It is this lack of belief in the original mission which is the crux of the rage for Obama from the right.
Obama's use of the word wasted, in this context, may be more politically controversial but he was still spot on. Obama has believed since before the war started that it was a mistaken policy. His remarks prior to the invasion make clear that he saw the difficulties that would present themselves, and correctly judged that proceeding as Bush wished was a mistake. It is clear to a wide majority of the American people at this point that Obama was right the entire time.
Saying that giving ones life in the cause of a mistake is somehow not a waste is what ought to offend our sensibilities... not being honest with each other about it.
Finally... let me reluctantly say that the example provided by those Democrats who jumped all over McCain because of this is a shame. It was wrong when the Malkinites and that ilk did it to Obama, and it's wrong when my side does it as well. I would have been happy had our side defended McCain after the right wing bloggers had savaged him. Or, if they had let him slide, used that as a reason to point out the right's hyprocisy on the issue.
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