Friday, November 18, 2005

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

House Speaker Dennis Hastert is pushing an immediate, non-binding vote on the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

This stunt is one of the most disgraceful episodes in his rather sorry tenure as Speaker.

The House Republicans, and their friends in the Bush administration, have mishandled virtually every aspect of American policy in Iraq. Now, rather than create a climate where the future of US policy in the region can be debated in a mature and reasoned manner, Hastert decides to launch attacks on the patriotism of administration opponents.

The most loathsome moment so far was when Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) quoted an alleged message from a Marine:

"He asked me to send Congress a message — stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman (John) Murtha a message — that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

Murtha, for the record, is a decorated Vietnam veteran and a respected voice on military policy. Schmidt has never worn a uniform.

The debate about Iraq must not be allowed to degenerate into simplistic posturing about "staying the course" versus "get out now". It's far too complicated and far too dangerous a situation to allow the dialogue to disintegrate. Let's hope that wiser heads prevail, and that we adopt a policy that sets clear and concrete benchmarks for progress, that engages and respects the international community, and that demands transparency, accountability and a respect for the rule of law.

And what about people like Jean Schmidt? They are a blight on Congress, and those members, like Jeb Bradley, who refuse to denounce their antics are little better.

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