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Jewish World Review Sept. 23, 2004 / 8 Tishrei, 5765

James Lileks

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Kerry's almost just about final position on Iraq


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | President Bush recently insisted that Iraq was en route to stability, and Sen. John Kerry shot back: "With all due respect to the president, has he turned on the evening news lately? Does he read the newspapers? Does he really know what's happening? Is he talking about the same war that the rest of us are talking about?"


This would seem a rather inopportune time to claim the evening news as the font of truth unvarnished.


It's hard to imagine the American people reassured by a president who bases his decisions on things he sees on the tube. President Kerry! What is your response to the Iranian nuclear test? "I was in a meeting when the news came on, but I think my aides taped it. I'll get back to you once we find the remote."


To answer his question: No, Bush was not talking about the war Kerry sees, because Bush hasn't spent his life contorting everything into the thin and squiggly template of Vietnam. Bush is talking about a war he intends to win, a war in which Iraq is one front. Kerry is talking about a war he believes was a mistake, and his success depends on bumming everyone out until we concede defeat and beg Kofi Annan for forgiveness.


At least Kerry has returned to his roots. His recent speech was indistinguishable in tone and timbre from the sonorous recitation of American woe he related before the Senate in 1971. We are losing, the "insurgents" are growing, the Beaujolais is late, and Saigon — sorry, Baghdad — does not yet resemble Beacon Hill. We must wash our hands and bow our heads and slump our way back home.

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In other words, Kerry has a new strategy: He's Howard Dean without the hoarse, impromptu screeches. New slogans: "Just as anti-war — but lankier!" Or "Even a fish on the dock stops flipping eventually." He has flopped back and forth on Iraq, but the exigencies of his guttering campaign have forced a final position: He's the bug-out candidate.


Wrong, you say! He wants "to fight and win the war on terror," as he put it.


Really. Just as he wanted to fight and win the war against the Soviets? Kerry wanted a nuclear freeze, the fashionable concept that we could shame the Soviets into disarming by climbing up on the moral high ground and singing "Kumbayah." Just as in the war against Vietnamese collectivism? That was the "biggest nothing" in human history, according to war protester Kerry. A bigger nothing than, say, World War I? Yes, because his generation was involved. It's one thing to mow down 50,000 Britons in an afternoon, but don't you think of mussing the hair on a boomer's precious head.


The war against Soviet influence in Central America? He took up the Sandinista cause, trusting Daniel Ortega over Ronald Reagan. The war against Saddam Hussein? He voted against the first Gulf War, even though it had a seriously bodacious coalition. Why? Because it was a war, and if he learned anything from Vietnam, it's this: You can get a lot of votes in securely liberal districts by pulling long faces every time the United States sends troops anywhere but home for Christmas.


Like the second Gulf War? He's admitted he wouldn't have taken out Saddam, and don't think other dictators didn't perk up when they heard that. Under a Kerry presidency, Saddam would have died a happy old man in bed, handing his money and weapons and hatreds to his sons. What's one more prison-camp oil-rich nation, after all.


All this nonsense about bringing in "allies" is window dressing for American withdrawal. In your gut, you know it — Kerry wants out. He's revealing the same ideas that have characterized his entire career: appeasement and naivete, shot through with self-servicing drama. He has spent his entire political career shouting "Theater!" in a crowded firehouse, and this attempt to paint Iraq as the new Vietnam is nothing different.


It's hardly inspirational. It doesn't exactly fire up the troops. Kerry once said: How do you ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake? Simple. Just tell him to hold his position until his retreat is covered by Ivory Coast peacekeepers. If that doesn't boost morale, nothing will.


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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.

Up

09/21/04: Will anyone trust them again?
09/09/04: Now can you name the enemy?
09/02/04: Save America from those who would save it
08/26/04: The character (or lack) behind the Kerry candidacy
08/19/04: Time for Old Media to make like McGreevey
08/12/04: Another Swing Vote: the Sufferers of Sudden Bush Hatred Fatigue Syndrome
08/05/04: Is Kerry's Problem nuance? Or is it obfuscation?
07/30/04: Intimate liability
07/26/04: Sandy Berger's classified wardrobe
07/15/04: Pretty faces, ugly words
07/08/04: Genocide can't happen if we banish the word
07/01/04: Dropping political discourse level
06/24/04: Kerry's Science Buddies and the Silly Sanctity of Life
06/17/04: Behold the Summer of Bill Clinton!
06/10/04: Whatever happened to respect for the presidency?
06/03/04: Tales at the intersection of war and popular culture
05/20/04: Athletes on Notice: Strive Unflaggingly
05/13/04: America likes Rumsfeld, and the Dems can't take it
05/07/04: Kerry Supporters Have a New Take on Vietnam War
05/05/04: New cell phone does everything, but there's a problem...
04/29/04: John Kerry, prisoner of symbolic politics
04/22/04: Shall we grovel? Kerry Plan to Restore America's Place in the World
04/08/04: Sept. 11 Might Have Been Different If ...
04/02/04: Slinging slime or citing facts?
03/26/04: One War, One Enemy
03/22/04: Bloodied Spain Rejoins Old Europe
03/12/04: Why All Those Foreign Leaders Want Kerry to Whup Bush
03/08/04: Introducing the Kerry Doctrine
02/27/04: Introducing the AWOLs: Angry White Outraged Libs
02/20/04: Sifting the headlines of election year 1992
02/18/04: Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004?
01/29/04: Every Laptop a Truth Squad
01/27/04: When the battle over artistic freedom goes over the edge
12/31/03: For the Left and Right, Some New Year's Resolutions
12/22/03: Dean's black helicopters
12/15/03: Dems Are Mainstreaming the Extreme
12/08/03: Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth
11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks