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War Critics Are Mainstream, Not Fringe

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    Posted: 17 August 2006 at 4:44am
Joe Conason: War Critics Are Mainstream, Not Fringe
Posted on Aug 10, 2006
By Joe Conason

As Connecticut Democrats went to their polling places to choose a
Senate nominee, waves of rhetorical hysteria burst forth from the
mouths of excitable conservatives. At stake in the primary was not
only the fate of a single politician but the “soul of the Democratic
Party” and perhaps even the fate of the West.

Old terms like “appeasement” and “Stalinist” have been brandished to
insinuate that anyone who dares to dissent from the failed policies
adopted by Joe Lieberman and the Bush administration is at best a
fool and at worst a traitor.

Such overwrought commentary, often phrased in terms of deep
concern for the future of the party of FDR, JFK and Harry S. Truman,
usually emanates from commentators whose political objective is
continued Republican domination of all branches of government.
Democrats should reject this propaganda barrage—which reveals an
extraordinary capacity for self-deception on the right.

The propagandists charge that opposition to the war in Iraq is an
obsession of the far-left fringe, and that the Democrats will be
destroyed by any attempt to extricate our troops from the quicksand.
Every reputable survey of public opinion refutes that assertion.
Support for the Bush administration’s conduct of the war, and for the
president himself, has been declining steadily since the end of 2004.
And every anchorperson, pundit and squawking head seeking to
suggest otherwise is either inexcusably ignorant or purposely lying.

But let’s look at the numbers found by recent surveys. In June, CNN
and USA Today separately asked Americans—not Democrats and not
left-wing bloggers—whether they favor a “timetable” or “plan” for
withdrawing from Iraq. Fifty-three percent said yes to CNN, and 57%
said yes to USA Today. Both polls were taken shortly after the killing
of Al Qaeda terror chief Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the latest advertised
“turning point” in the war.

Those jaundiced views of the war have not changed over the past two
months. ABC News and The Washington Post jointly conducted a poll
last week that asked whether Americans approve or disapprove of
the Bush administration’s handling of “the situation in Iraq.” Thirty-
six percent approved, while 62% did not.

That same ABC/Washington Post poll found 59% felt the war had not
been worth the cost, 64% felt the Bush administration had no clear
plan for victory, and 53% felt the number of U.S. troops in Iraq
should be decreased. By a plurality of 38%, respondents said that a
congressional candidate who supported the Bush policy would be
“less likely” to get their vote. Most remarkably, although 66% said
that Democrats had no clear position on the war, a slight plurality of
43% said they trusted Democrats more than Republicans to do “a
better job” in Iraq.

A CBS News poll came up with much the same result in late July. So
did a Gallup poll taken around the same time. And similarly negative
results have appeared in polls taken for Fox News, the Associated
Press and the Harris Organization, among others. If more than half of
the public supports withdrawal from Iraq, and nearly two-thirds
disapproves of the president and his policy, isn’t that the
“mainstream” position?

To be “strong on national security” does not mean supporting the
misconceived and incompetently executed policies of the Bush
administration. American security in years to come will depend on
undoing this government’s grave mistakes, which have weakened
this country’s military posture and undermined support for us
around the world. Terrorism experts across the spectrum, from
conservative Republican to liberal Democrat, agree that the “struggle
against violent extremism” has suffered from the foolish decision to
invade and occupy Iraq.

Evidently, the neoconservatives hope to escape responsibility for
their debacle by complaining that the rest of us lack sufficient zeal.
So they now pretend that Democrats and progressives, who
overwhelmingly supported the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban
and still do, want to abandon that effort. This is another partisan lie
invented by the likes of William Kristol, who will answer to history for
his role in promoting the Iraq war.

There have been times in recent years when war was unavoidable, in
Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo. For the neoconservatives, however,
the answer to every international conflict is shock and awe, so long
as they remain safely distant from the carnage. The American people
are turning away from that mindless and dangerous attitude, which
is leading us toward disaster. Politicians of both parties should do
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