A Cautious Man
November 17, 2005
 
Good Rockin' Tonight
The staff here at A Cautious Man had a great time tonight, and last night too, at Bruce Springsteen's solo performances here in New Jersey. Tonight's show was the first time we ever heard the song that inspired our title performed live. Thanks to Dave for needing someone to tag along to the show tonight.

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November 16, 2005
 
Armchair Warriors Often Fail
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (decorated Viet Nam veteran) once again is showing that not all Republicans are completely in the tank for the Administration and its war policy. He gave quite the speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations. While most people may focus on his direct rebuttal, of the President’s attempt to insulate himself from criticism about Iraq, Senator Hagel also had some interesting things to say about the issue of a President’s war powers, and about who should decide to send troops into a war.

But first, the pointed reply to the theme of the “It’s Not My Fault Tour” -
The Iraq war should not be debated in the United States on a partisan political platform. This debases our country, trivializes the seriousness of war and cheapens the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. War is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The casualties of war are from both parties. The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration’s policies.

Vietnam was a national tragedy partly because Members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the Administrations in power until it was too late. Some of us who went through that nightmare have an obligation to the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam to not let that happen again. To question your government is not unpatriotic – to not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices.

Today, the Senate engaged in a legitimate debate over exit strategy in Iraq as the Senate considered and voted on two Senate resolutions. This is a significant step toward the Congress exercising its Constitutional responsibilities over matters of war.
Senator Hagel continues, later in the speech, to address the issue of Congress’ “Constitutional responsibilities over matters of war” -
The Constitution also establishes Congress’ authority and responsibility regarding decisions to go to war. The course of events in Iraq has laid bare the failure to prepare for, plan for, and understand the broad consequences and implications of the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq. Where is the accountability? In the November 8 Washington Post, Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, wrote,

"Our Founding Fathers wanted the declaration of war to concentrate the minds. Returning to the Constitution’s text and making it work through legislation requiring joint deliberate action may be the only way to give the decision to make war the care it deserves."

The American people should demand that the President request a Declaration of War and the Congress formally declare war, if and when the President believes that committing American troops is in the vital national security interests of this country. This would make the President and Congress, together, accountable for their actions – just as the Founders of our country intended.
I think that’s powerful stuff. One of the issues the Iraq conflict has raised is, once again, that of the power to make war, and to decide to go to war. If a President were to have the same point of view as Senator Hagel, there could be a serious, and overdue, examination of a President’s assertion to unilaterally initiate a war.

One more thing, just to flash back, Senator Hagel also seemed to be one of the few Republicans who was talking sense on the eve of the Iraq invasion, back in February of 2003 -
Today, America stands nearly alone in proclaiming the urgency of the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein. In Europe and in many corners of the globe, America is perceived as determined to use force in Iraq to the exclusion of world opinion or the interests of our allies, even those allies who share our concerns about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. America must balance its determination with patience and not be seen as in a rush to war. As David Ignatius wrote in a recent Washington Post column, "A nation heading into war needs prudence and good judgment. America's best generals, people such as Grant and Marshall and Eisenhower, were at once cautious and decisive. Their greatness lay in the fact that they never lost sight of the long-term interests of the United States."

America must steer away from actions that could produce the unintended results of fracturing those very institutions that have helped keep peace since World War II. Allowing a rush to war in Iraq to create divisions in those institutions and alliances that will help sustain American security and world stability is a short-sighted and dangerous course of action.


We should put aside the mistaken delusion that democracy is just around the corner. Or that by force of arms we can remove Saddam and simultaneously place Iraq on the path to democracy by overlaying a blueprint for democracy on the region ... a so-called "Democratic Domino Effect." The spade work of building a free Iraq will take time. General Anthony Zinni, special adviser to the Secretary of State and former Commanding General, U.S. Central Command, reminded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that, with regard to Iraq, "there will not be a spontaneous democracy so the reconstruction of the country will be a long, hard course regardless of whether a modest vision of the end state is sought or a more ambitious one is chosen." The end of Saddam Hussein's regime will be all to the good, but building nations and democracy in the Middle East or anywhere is complicated and difficult, and success is never assured. We can try to help create the conditions for democratic change. But we must assume that it will not come quickly or easily.
I think we’ve forgotten that there was bipartisan unease with the President’s eagerness to initiate an invasion. “Everybody” may have been worried about Saddam Hussein, but not “everybody” felt that an immediate invasion was necessarily the right cure.

And that’s the point of the criticism, of how America got into this war.

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November 15, 2005
 
"The American Way So That Truth Will Out"
The discussion continues, about who may have been a little too aggressive when trying to get the Iraq invasion to happen. A lot of people are writing much more informative things about President Bush’s current “It’s Not My Fault Tour – 2005”. This is my two cents’ worth.

Yesterday, the President gave another speech, on a military base in Alaska, attacking his critics. He’s revisiting old lines from past speeches, poor guy – he really needs a new writer. Interestingly enough, as he travels around arguing that people are rewriting history by claiming that he was misleading people about Iraq – he’s, well, rewriting history and misleading people. For example, this is how he describes the start of the war -
After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein a final chance to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions, ordering him to disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. When he refused, we had a choice: Do we take the word of a madman and forget the lessons of September the 11th, or do we take action to defend our country? Given that choice, I will defend America every time.
As pointed out here before, the reason the U.N. weapons inspectors ultimately left Iraq was that President Bush was about to launch a war to, well, enforce the inspections (or something like that). As reported by Fox News on the eve of war -
U.N. weapons inspectors climbed aboard a plane and pulled out of Iraq on Tuesday after President Bush issued a final ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to step down or face war. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday ordered all U.N. inspectors and support staff, humanitarian workers and U.N. observers along the Iraq-Kuwait border to evacuate Iraq after U.S. threats to launch war.

After failing to secure U.N. authorization to use force to disarm Iraq, Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to step down or face war in a speech Monday night.


U.N. weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad for the first time in four years on Nov. 27, 2002, and resumed inspections two days later. During four months of inspections, arms experts traveled the length of the country hunting for banned weapons of mass destruction.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has said that during those inspections, inspectors never found any "smoking gun."
At another point in his speech yesterday, the President said he can respect those who disagreed with him all along, and decried those whom he said were playing politics with the war -
Some of our elected leaders have opposed this war all along. I disagreed with them, but I respect their willingness to take a consistent stand. Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are playing politics with this issue and they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that's irresponsible.
As has also been discussed here before, the President did not have that same respect for different opinions, and he played politics with war, when he was trying to badger the Congress into giving him authority to invade, if he so chose. As he said in response to a question in September of 2002 -
Q Mr. President, thank you. Are you concerned that Democrats in Congress don't want a vote there until after U.N. action? …

THE PRESIDENT: … And the first part of the question was, Democrats waiting for the U.N. to act? I can't imagine an elected United States -- elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision. It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States. If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.

And so I -- we'll see. My answer to the Congress is, they need to debate this issue and consult with us, and get the issue done as quickly as possible. It's in our national interests that we do so. I don't imagine Saddam Hussein sitting around, saying, gosh, I think I'm going to wait for some resolution. He's a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible.
So, let’s re-cap. The inspectors were in Iraq, and the President decided to invade anyway, based on a resolution which he obtained from Congress in the middle of the 2002 elections. Yesterday, the President repeated that his decision to invade was authorized by that Congressional action -
Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people. Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq, and reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein was a threat.
But, the decision to invade, even though there were inspectors on the ground in Iraq, was the President’s alone. The Congress was irresponsible in giving him the authority to make that final decision to go to war, requiring only that he send a letter saying that he thought it was necessary to invade -
March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Sincerely,

GEORGE W. BUSH
Did you catch that? The President said based on information available to him, only some of which he provided to Congress, it was time to invade. And, we all know how true either (1) or (2) turned out to be.

So, should everyone say, "Okay, Mr. President, we'll stop asking questions"? Don't think so. As noted here before, maybe the best response to anyone, who opposes looking into how America stumbled into this war, is a statement from Mr. Springsteen on his tour a couple of years ago -
"The question of whether we were misled in the war with Iraq is neither a liberal or conservative question or Democratic or Republican question. It's an American question. And protecting the democracy we ask our sons and daughters to die for is our responsibility and it's our trust. And demanding accountability is our job as citizens. That's the American way so that truth will out."

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