One hundred years in Iraq?

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By Rick Howell

Several weeks ago, long before Sen. John McCain enjoyed his current status as the Republican Party’s “presumptive nominee” for president, he was holding a campaign rally somewhere.

With him was pro-Iraqi war Senator Joe Lieberman, a “Democrat” (if I may borrow Dr. Barnhart’s quotation marks) who has endorsed McCain almost exclusively because of their shared passion for “victory” in Iraq.

A member of the audience rose to ask a question of McCain. His concern was that the American occupation of Iraq had already gone on too long, and he noted that some people were “talking about being in Iraq for 50 years.”

McCain, without missing a beat, and completely ignoring the concern in the attitude of the questioner, quipped “make it a hundred.” As in 100 yearsee.he then went on with the usual “we can’t afford to lose” kind of talk that is generally heard from the minority of Americans who refuse to recognize the disaster that Bush’s war in Iraq represents.

But let’s put this in the proper perspective. John McCain, who will be running for president in the fall, actually suggested that being in Iraq for 100 years is perfectly fine with him. The short way to approach this, in the form of a few questions, might simply be: Is he crazy? Can he possibly be serious?

It’s difficult to imagine that the Republican candidate for president in 2008 is going to simply ignore the fact that a clear majority of Americans think the war in Iraq should never have been launched, and that it most certainly should be ended as soon as possible. They voted that way in 2006, and it cost Bush and McCain control of the Congress.

But it appears that not only will John McCain do that, he will also employ an enthusiasm for that war that flies in the face of everything we know that has made it such a disaster. The costs in both lives and money has been astounding. If the economy is about to go into recession, certainly the billions we have wasted in Iraq plays an important role in that. Maybe some people believe it’s okay that we’ve lost about 4,000 American lives to this “preemptive” war. But I don’t.

I don’t think a single grieving American family - much less thousands of them - should have been the price to pay for the fact that George W. Bush came into office wanting a war with Saddam.

Consider, too, the others costs of this war that McCain thinks is worth 100 more years. Repeated deployments of our soldiers has caused them stress and hardship, contributing to the high rates of soldier suicides, and the break-up of many families. The scandal of inadequate veteran care has not been limited just to Walter Reed hospital. Many wounded veterans of this unnecessary conflict have seen their benefits denied by a military apparatus that has shown neither mercy nor compassion.

None of those truths are canceled or justified by some notion that “the surge is working.” If we leave Iraq in a year or two, and if there’s a stable government at that time, there could still be a military coup or even an invasion of that country by Iran. Nothing can make democracy a guarantee in a country and a culture that has no tradition of it. This is not a burden we should ever have taken upon ourselves.

Barack Obama understands this. He refers to the war as something that “should never have been authorized, and should never have been launched.” His position on the war is one reason he’s on the road to the Democratic nomination.

And if Sen. McCain is really so gung-ho as his remark indicated, he will lose the presidency for himself and his party. There’s plenty of tape of him making that statement. He has a lot of explaining to do

Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.