USA 3rd Infantry Division Deploys to Iraq
Stephen Morton  /  World Picture News
Julie Norton holds her boyfriend, Staff Sgt. Eric Berglahl while waiting for him to deploy to Iraq for a year, at Fort Stewart, Ga., on Jan. 16. This is Berglahl's third deployment to Iraq with the Army. For many of the soldiers of the brigade this is the third tour of duty in Iraq since the division led the push into Baghdad in 2003.
Image: Joe Scarborough
By Joe Scarborough Host, ‘Morning Joe'
msnbc.com
updated 3/9/2007 10:27:06 AM ET 2007-03-09T15:27:06
COMMENTARY

I’m tired talking about Iraq. Let me rephrase that. I am tired of debating the war with stupid people.

Not just stupid people on the right or stupid people on the left. I don’t even discriminate against stupid people who get their news from Oprah or MTV.

I’ve just had it with stupid people in general. And as my family and friends know, I am patient to a fault. But no more — at least not on this issue.

My impatience has nothing to do with ideology. I have spoken with brilliant minds that believe our troops must leave Iraq before the next president is sworn into office. I have also listened as gifted thinkers have made a great case that we have no choice but to continue the fight for Iraq’s future until the last terrorist is dead.

My problem comes from nimrods who speak with great confidence while pontificating in sophomoric sound bites. Press these know-it-alls for details on Iraq or answers to the greatest foreign policy crisis in a generation and they mutter something about standing behind the troops or how the president is an idiot.

All very comforting for political hacks on the right and left but meaningless to the rest of us.

Threats to America
I gave a speech this weekend and was asked my opinion on Iraq. I suggested that the price to military readiness and the federal budget was too great to continue down a failed path indefinitely. After the speech I was confronted by a retired military officer who suggested that I was aiding terrorists, smoking dope and having sex with Jane Fonda. (Anyone who knows me will tell you I have never knowingly aided terrorists.)

After letting him finish his cross-examination, I drew a deep breath and explained what this gentleman should have already known.

The United States military is screwed if Washington forces it to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq.

Why? Four reasons: 1. Iran 2. Afghanistan 3. North Korea 4. Pakistan.

Most stupid people I engage have no idea just how dangerous Pakistan is to Americans’ safety. The world is one assassin’s bullet away from al-Qaida getting their hands on nuclear weapons, and no one in Washington would be surprised if Islamic terrorists killed President Pervez Musharraf tomorrow. 

What will happen when the president gets that call at 2 a.m.? What military options do we have with an Army more hollowed out than at any time since the Carter administration?

And what happens when we find out that Iran is months instead of years away from gaining a nuclear weapon? Do we sit back and let the same Islamic radicals who called for the destruction of the United States and Israel get nukes?

What do we do if most Americans start calling for military action against the state that has been the epicenter of terrorism since 1979? Well, if 140,000 troops are tied down officiating a civil war, then we don’t do a damn thing.

And what about Afghanistan? One of the most conservative Republican congressmen who had visited that country several times over the past few years pulled me to the side during this year’s State of the Union to tell me how we were losing the war in Afghanistan.

So do we stay the course in Iraq while the Taliban and al-Qaida rebuild in Afghanistan? And why is that? National pride? The domino theory? Because you don’t want the Times editorial page to be proven right?

The price of victory
I ask those of you in the stay-the-course crowd whether we will deter terrorism more effectively over the next decade if our troops are trapped in Iraq or rested and ready to strike Iran, North Korea or Pakistan in the event that our nation’s safety depends on our commander in chief being able to make that threat with a straight face. If you have to mull that one over you are too clueless to operate common household appliances, let alone debate military readiness in the 21st century.

The war on terror will not be helped by expending more American lives, trillions of dollars and American military readiness over a civil war where Sunni roadside bombs and Shiite death squads are the most advanced means of offensive weaponry. Grisly stuff to be sure, but not a threat to kill millions of Americans in Manhattan, Washington or L.A.

For those Republicans who continue to tell me we cannot lose in Iraq, I have one question: What is the price of victory? Is it worth a loss in Afghanistan? A nuclear Iran? A reinvigorated al-Qaida with nuclear weapons?

Blinded by contempt
If Republicans’ reasoning is impaired by national pride, too many Democrats’ view on Iraq is blurred by their contempt for George W. Bush.

Many of these dumb Democrats remind me of dumb Republicans who roamed the Earth during the Clinton years. And like those Republicans, some Democrats now seem more concerned with payback on the president than helping America. Whether George W. Bush is an idiot, or lied to get us into Iraq, or has left us stranded in Iraq is no longer relevant to solving the crisis there. Besides, too many of those calling the commander in chief an idiot seem far more dense when pressed on Iraq.

I really don’t think I can continue being polite to idiots who keep telling me how George W. Bush lied about WMDs so he could drag us into war. The suggestion is that Bush concocted his plan while cutting brush on his Crawford ranch and somehow sold it to Congress and the world. But this intriguing narrative overlooks the fact that when Bush pushed his CIA director on whether WMD evidence was too thin to justify war, George Tenet jumped off the Oval Office couch and shouted, “Mr. President, it’s a slam dunk!”

The CIA director wasn’t alone.

Intelligence directors in Britain, France, Russia, China and across the world also concluded Saddam Hussein had WMDs. The U.N. Security Council concluded the same thing. Hell, even Saddam Hussein admitted he had WMDs. But that doesn’t stop idiots from shouting slogans that have nothing to do with how we extricate ourselves from the crisis we now find ourselves in.

Too many Democrats still call George Bush an idiot for believing that most Iraqis would greet American troops as liberators. Those critics would keep their mouths shut if they weren’t so ignorant about Iraq’s demographics.

For the first three years of this war, most Iraqis wanted Bush’s democratic experiment to succeed. It had less to do with ideology than raw numbers. More than 80 percent of Iraq is made up of the Shiites and Kurds, who were brutally oppressed by Saddam Hussein. Say what you will about the leaders in the Bush administration, but they know how to count votes. And having eight out of 10 Iraqis on your side is not a bad base of support.

The situation was so grim for Saddam’s Sunni terrorists after two successful elections (where a higher percentage of Iraqis turned out than Americans in the 2004 presidential election) that their only hope of killing Iraq’s democratic revolution was drawing Shiites into a bloody civil war. They succeeded, but not because George Bush was an idiot. They succeeded because of their unfathomable ability to blow up grandmothers, babies, wedding parties, university students, places of worship, hospitals and any soft targets where innocents could be slaughtered. Civil war finally broke out after Sunni terrorists blew up the Golden Mosque in Samarra on Feb. 22  last year. That tipping point unleashed Muqtada al-Sadr’s death squads and launched the country into civil war.

One year later, Americans have succeeded in chasing al-Sadr out of the country — for now. And once again we find ourselves where we were before the Samarra bombing. Sunnis are killing Shiite pilgrims, and we can’t do a damn thing to stop it.

The time for name-calling is over
So what do we do, Republican hot shot? Stay the course? Keep the Shiite militias disarmed so Sunnis can slaughter thousands of Shiites in the coming years? Do we let al-Sadr reengage to protect his people, while allowing him to commit atrocities every bit as brutal as Saddam’s?

Do we send our sons, daughters, moms and dads in the middle of this civil war with targets on their backs? Or do we give them the freedom to go out there and kick ass? Throwing ourselves more aggressively into that urban civil war might guarantee some military successes but would also create the type of human rights violations that Americans no longer tolerate.

So what’s the answer, Democratic genius? Calling George Bush an idiot? A liar? Have a plan? If not, shut your mouth.

The time for name-calling is over. Republicans or Democrats will not solve this crisis. Americans will. We need leaders. Stupid people need not apply.

Will America be the world’s 911? Will Congress fund the 200,000 new troops needed to continue fighting every Islamic extremist movement across the world over the next 40 years? Will our presidents recognize the limits of U.S. power? Will we remind ourselves 10 years from now that while we can win any war on the globe, we can also lose any occupation? Will we force Europe to end its vacation from history and start acting like grown-ups?

Perhaps. But it would help if we started acting like grown-ups first.

We must overcome our petty political differences if we are to protect our homeland. The time for fighting each other is over. The time for putting party over country has ended. The time to come together is now.

"When shall we expect the approach of danger?” Abraham Lincoln once asked a divided America. “Shall some transatlantic giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever, or die by suicide."

The American Hour is upon us. This is no time for childish debates. Will we unite as Americans or die while fighting among ourselves?

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