Northern Valley Beacon

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Sunday, November 20, 2005


Winning elections and losing wars and Ms. Herseth

As often as it was quoted at the time we found out he said it, Colin Powell's Pottery Barn Rule has slipped into the clouds of American memory, which has become overcast damn near all the time. When the invasion of Iraq was being discussed, Secretary Powell cited the rule: you break Iraq, you own it.

It doesn't take a Ph.D. in English literature to figure out the analogy. You break a piece of pottery in a pottery barn, you have the obligation to make it right, to make reparations, to compensate the creators and owners of the pottery piece for the damage done. It applies to Iraq. If we went in and broke it, which we did, we owe it to somebody to make it right.

Our problem is that we have not the vaguest notion of how to go about doing that. We don't even understand how Iraq is broke, although we are beginning to grasp that it had fractures and cracks in its culture that goes back generations. We cannot reconcile with a country that can't reconcile with itself.

The reverberations from Iraq's disintegration are causing tremors in our own culture. The schisms between American progressives and conservatives of the fundamentalist strain are getting as irreconcilable as the schisms between Islamic fundamentalists and moderates. About a third of the U.S. did not believe the reasons we invaded Iraq were trustworthy in 2003. We were listening when Germany and France said the WMDs and Hussein's alliance with Al Qaida were simply not established facts. We were listening when our President and his regime conducted a campaign accusing France and German of perfidy. We were listening when members of our own intelligence and military communities explained why they had reservations about the reasons for going to war. And we were listening when Bush and regime slimed Hans Blix, Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson, and Paul O'Neill, who all have accounts of how Bush and regime was so determined to get into a war that they could not tolerate any information or any person that cast doubt on their reasons. We were listening. And the rest of the world was, too. And now a majority of Americans are paying attention.

So now, a majority of Americans agree that we had no business getting into this war. Congress, which gave Bush authorization to go to war, is also backing away from its support. John Murtha made the tough point that our troops have done all they can do to repair the damage we have done to Iraq. He calls for an immediate withdrawal process to begin. He recognizes that military action can do nothing to repair the damage and it is pointless to waste one more American life.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth disagrees with Rep. Murtha. She thinks we ought to see what happens in the December elections in Iraq before we start removing our presence. We get the impression that Rep. Herseth feels that we have not as yet fulfilled the provisions of the Pottery Barn Rule. We have not made adequate reparations for what we broke in Iraq. The issue between her and Rep. Murtha is a matter of whether any more loss of American life will count toward any effective reparations. We don't think so. According to the news accounts over the weekend, the GAO reports that thousands of the most critical military jobs involved in our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are going unfilled. Joining the military is like volunteering for a death sentence. We as yet have not developed an incentive which promises the suicidal a romp in the Garden of Allah with 70 virgins. And so, the military is lagging far behind in reenlistments and recruitments.

The irony in regard to Rep. Herseth is that she is a Democrat in a state that is red from the neck up. She threaded a platform theme that satisfies the conservative mentality while promising the liberal spending that the state is so dependent on. And she has not been in Washington long enough to be accused of declaring it her home. She won two elections.

In being a Blue Dog Democrat, she is suspected, openly, by many in her party of betraying the progressive values in order to get votes. Sometimes her Democratic constituents get down right pissy about it. Oddly, these are some of the same people who chided us when we said that politics is not just about winning elections, but about finding ways to assert values and ideas. We were quickly informed that it is all about winning elections. So, Ms. Herseth won elections. What the hell is the gripe? She supports the war effort. That is what a majority of South Dakotas think. Tom Daschle's "I am saddened" speech about rushing into war was used against him. South Dakota Democrats gained a seat in the House. It probably took someone who could give support to the war to do it.

We need some way out of it. Perhaps Ms. Herseth could put together legislation that would provide any would-be suicide bombers vests full of explosives, and a place where they could all gather surrounded with American flags with replicas of the Twin Towers, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the White House, the Capitol Building, and Mount Rushmore, and they could blow up themselves and all those symbols in one huge rush to the Garden of Allah and 70 virgins awaiting each bomber. The only question is what enticements does one use for female suicide bombers who are not Islamic lesbians. If there are such things.

We were never for the war on Iraq. While the Bush administration pushed intelligence that seemed to require the war, there was countering intelligence on both the world and national levels that called Bush and regime into question.

But we broke the damned place. So what to do? If we pulled out, it wouldn't make much difference on the world stage. We are not exactly revered throughout the world. There are plans advanced by people who have been there to get some key neighborhoods up and running and keep them safe for people to rebuild their lives. A diplomatic effort on the international front and a rebuilding effort on the home front and ending the loss of lives of our troops are keys to regaining some self-respect and some hope for our own future.

Perhaps, it is time for Rep. Herseth to get together with Rep. Murtha and come up with a plan. We need something.

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