Four Featherweights 

Where Idaho's hawks dared not go

I start by explaining why I pursued (and got) a conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. It's simple. It's because I was conscientious enough to recognize murderous, wrong-headed, corrosive bullshit when I saw it, and I felt obliged to object to it. I'm not bragging, nor am I ashamed. I'm only telling you this again (particularly to those who have started reading my column since the last time I brought this up) because I want to make it clear that I have never been to war. In that regard, I am exactly the same as Larry Craig, Mike Crapo, Bill Sali and Mike Simpson. I and Idaho's entire Congressional delegation, not a one of us has ever been to war. With that—along with the obvious fact that we're all healthy white guys whose ages fall within a range of years that would have given us ample opportunity to have gone to war had we so chosen—all similarities end.

A glaring example of the dissimilarities between myself and Misters Craig and Crapo, Sali and Simpson has to do with the Iraq spending bill that passed both the House and Senate week before last—the bill stipulating American troops have to start coming out in October ... the bill that was the congressional majority's first serious attempt to throw a rein on the shambling bum who got us into this ... the very bill the bum used as an opportunity to strut and posture over and pretend he's one tough hombre with a mighty hankerin' to veto something—and I was for it.

Not 100 percent for it, actually. H.R. 1591 wasn't demanding enough because October isn't soon enough. I'd pull our troops out tomorrow, if I were doing the deploying. This afternoon, if I could. I'd have every last one of them home by supper, if I could. I figure when we have close to 30,000 casualties without a damn thing to show for it but perpetually evolving administration spin, our soldiers have given all they should be called on to give. There's nothing to be gained by even one more of them losing a limb or a life.

What's more, with each new turn of the emerging truth screw (e.g., George Tenet's revelations), it is increasingly clear this Iraq venture was not a mistake or a miscalculation, but a crime. A vile crime. And you don't undo a crime by continuing with the criminal activity.

With that said, I still understand why the Congressional Democrats feel they must move in incremental measures against this ignoramus who dubs himself "the decider," and I support their efforts. In contrast, Craig/Crapo/Sali/Simpson were against the bill. Like confused children hanging onto their momma's leg, they cling desperately to the Bush doctrine. You know the doctrine I mean (if you'll allow me a bit of paraphrase): "When the Iraqis stand up—as they have shown little inclination to do after four years of slaughtering one another for the same sectarian reasons that have been dictating Mid-Eastern politics for 15 centuries—we'll stand down."

On Craig's Web site, someone (I doubt it was Larry, himself; I suspect he's much too nervous over what may be Popkeying up over the horizon to trouble himself with blogging) wrote: "... terrorists are pressuring us to leave Iraq by murdering innocent Iraqis. America doesn't negotiate with terrorists. Unfortunately, Democrats are meeting their demands to declare defeat and withdraw."

As with every other contrived rationale for Bush's war, there is nothing to support this statement. All evidence suggests terrorists are delighted with the occupation, as it serves as the best recruiting incentive they've ever had. But that's not the point, is it? Honestly, I doubt even toadies like Craig believe their own crap anymore.

Take the oft-repeated threat of terrorists following us home if we don't fight them in Iraq. Ask yourself ... what can our soldiers be doing in those Baghdad barrios today that would stop al-Qaida from sending 19 more dedicated killers to America tomorrow? And can we afford to assume this enemy is stupid enough to believe they, each and every one of them, must confront us in Iraq before attacking here again? (And can the Republicans really be so stupid as to not see this?)

Or, about the specter of sectarian violence getting worse if we leave ... it probably will. At whatever point we pull out—one year from now or 10 years or 100 years from now—it will likely get worse. Even if a democracy were possible in Iraq, democracy won't stop it from getting worse, any more than living in a democracy stopped Americans from killing one another by the thousands in our own civil war. The only thing that might squelch an increase in the sectarian violence is if some brutal strongman rises to the top and ends the slaughter by slaughtering everyone who stands in his way. A Saddam repeat. And how many more American soldiers are Craig & Co. willing to sacrifice for that glorious outcome?

I held out no hope that anyone in our congressional delegation would vote like a thoughtful, independent-minded, conscientious citizen. On the Iraq spending bill, they tipped exactly as expected. There is nothing in their histories to indicate even a hint of the courage it would take for Idaho Republican lackeys to buck the White House line. They are appeasers, not apostates. They are hacks, not Chuck Hagels. They are abettors to this crime, not objectors. Any concern they feign for the well-being of our troops has more to do with their re-election plans than honest empathy, and it most certainly has nothing to do with personal experience with the horror to which they condemn and re-condemn those troops.

I leave it for you to judge for yourself the moral depth of leaders who saw no value to themselves in military service, yet have no qualms about treating soldiers as expendable tools with which to disguise a disastrous foreign policy as one that might work. But notice, when you examine closely the list of people who dropped our soldiers in this barrel and keep them there, you'll understand this murderous, wrong-headed, corrosive bullshit was started (and is prolonged) almost exclusively by healthy white guys who, at one point in their lives, had the option to go to war themselves and took every opportunity not to.

(I invite Misters Sali, Simpson and Crapo to respond on these pages with their excuses for why they chose not to serve in the military, and as to Sen. Craig, he's welcome to explain why his stint in the Idaho National Guard lasted less than four years, rather than the customary six.)

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