I was blessed to celebrate the Fourth of July this year in the Napa Valley, the most American of places, a splendid locale where fine wines, fine weather, and fine friends combined to make this, for me at least, a perfect holiday. In these crowded political and economic times, even a newspaper publisher needs downtime.
But while reading the baseball box scores in the San Francisco Chronicle one morning last week, a thought came to me about the larger "game" being played in Iraq by the Bush administration while we celebrate this great national holiday.
As far back as the summer of 2001, the Bush administration was clearly spoiling for a fight in Iraq. And in March, the President went to the plate ready to swing for the fences. When the American team took the field, there was no question that Bush was trotting out the varsity.
But alas, George W. Bush has struck out. Mightily.
Strike One was his use deliberate or otherwise of clearly tainted evidence as his rationale for that war. No weapons of mass destruction have been found, nor at this point appear likely to be discovered. Either President Bush has surrounded himself with incompetents (called strike) incapable of giving him accurate intelligence information, or he himself played a role in misrepresenting that information (swinging strike) to the American people and the world.
Strike Two was the President's decision to go it alone in Iraq against the wishes of a majority of the members of the U.N. Security Council. Yes, he put together a "coalition of the willing," including Britain, Australia, and Spain, and whatever other minor countries' support could be bought. But for the first time since the U.N.'s founding in 1945, the U. S. has taken military action a preemptive strike, at that in clear defiance of the wishes of the majority of the U.N.'s members.
Had we had the "show of hands" on the Security Council which Mr. Bush promised would be taken (in his March 10th press conference) but never was, the U.S. would have found itself on the outside looking in, for the first time ever facing the vetoes of at least two of the council's permanent members. FDR had to be turning in his grave, with generations of American foreign-policy makers both Republican and Democrat shaking their heads in shame.
Strike Three has come in the aftermath of this misguided war, after it was "won," as the President declared in May. Since that declaration, dozens of Americans have perished, and Iraq is fast descending into chaos. "Quagmire" is the word used increasingly to describe the situation on the ground in that troubled country, where 24 million people are at best uneasy about the occupation of their homeland by 150,000 foreign "liberators" who know next to nothing about Iraqi languages, cultures, and values. This is a recipe for disaster that any reasonably competent American political and military leadership should have foreseen and prevented.
Strike Three and you're out, Mr. Bush! This should be the mantra chanted by the Democratic Party leadership, and shouted from the treetops. This is the clarion call that the party, if it had any gumption at all, should be making to the American people. Indeed, the "outing" of a President who is, at best, utterly incompetent should be a first priority of the Democratic congressional leadership.
Senator Robert Byrd speaks out eloquently on this subject in the Senate almost daily. Think of the national impact if each and every House and Senate Democrat also did so. It wouldn't hurt, either, if responsible, patriotic Republicans in the Congress did the same. On this of all weekends, every American who cares about and loves his country should have been thinking about how we might restore our nation's integrity, honor, and good name in the world.
Kenneth Neill is publisher of the Flyer and other publications of Contemporary Media, Inc.