Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, you now know that Public Enemy No. 2, at least as appointed as such by the Bush Administration, has been caught. This must mean it’s time for some soul-searching! Perhaps it’s time for Democratic presidential candidates to reconsider the race which lies before them, and for voters to do likewise? This has been the tenor of much of Day One’s pundit roundabouts and insular media discussions, e.g. Elisabeth Bumiller and David E. Sanger’s musings in the New York Times:
“The capture was both a personal and political victory for President Bush, who had been frustrated that a man he had described as an archenemy of the United States had eluded American troops for so long. The capture also came at the beginning of the president’s 2004 re-election campaign and steals ammunition, at least for the moment, from the Democratic presidential candidates who had criticized the war and the American occupation.”
Are assertions such as those which appear in bold above even remotely as black-and-white as is lazily implied by Bumiller and Sanger? The assessors have conflated “anti-war” status with some arbitrary gauge for the end of said war, when, of course, the two issues are entirely irrelevant. If one doesn’t believe a war should have been fought, does that mean they “look bad” when the war “concludes”? Certainly not; it’s about framework.
Think a bit more carefully about the issues at hand when discussing so-called “anti-war” candidates: specifically, criticism by Democratic presidential candidates of elements such as the war itself, the unilateralism, the pre-emptive invasion, overthrow, and occupation of a sovereign nation, the insertion of Western ideology onto a distinctly non-Western canvas…have any of these issues been addressed by this largely symbolic gesture, the capture of the invaded nation’s prior leader?
Of course, one can argue that the documented removal of this figurehead may lead to that oh-so-elusive rising tide of Middle Eastern democracy we’ve been hearing so much about. But not when the means to that end have sown disproportionate amounts of dissension in the hearts of those whom we would claim to be helping.
The United States still, as of last checking, has and had embarked upon each of the items in the brief checklist of unilaterlalist behavior detailed above, which are each, on their own, perfectly meritorious reasons to abstain from drum-beating war fever, circa February 2003, or circa December 2003. Or, for that matter, November 2004.
Even on their own, the aforementioned failures of American esteem and diplomacy, are, furthermore, reasons to embrace hearty politicking and rational debates on matters such as failed American internationalism and the deceptions that have led us to where we are today, namely, having left underemployed American taxpayers in possession of both a thunderously gargantuan federal deficit directly linked to our Iraqi endeavor, and economic and governmental responsibility for a Middle Eastern nation the size of the state of California.
For all of the spinning that may ensue, remember this: the “anti-war” Democratic contingent still has justice, diplomacy and responsibility in its corner, and, more significantly, the ability to contextualize fleeting moments of present jubilation amidst the larger struggle of American education and quality-of-life woes. Spin away.
As per the optimistic words spoken by President Bush Sunday morning (ostensibly to the people of Iraq, but we know otherwise), “A dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived.” Such optimism is noble, indeed, but not without realistic accountability–particularly when the “tomorrow” we so desperately anticipate comes at great cost to both “yesterday” and “today”.
This fall, the city of Boston awaits. With the 2004 Democratic Convention slated to be held In a city that prides itself on its Revolutionary role in American history, it’s time for the followup, two-and-a-quarter centuries later. Embrace the race, but frame the issues accordingly.