The cowards of the country

A little while ago, I ripped Congress for their appallingly craven approach to the “surge” plans in Iraq. They hemmed and hawed and bleated, and finally decided on the “appropriate” course of action: a “non-binding resolution” opposing it. It was mealy-mouthed, half-assed, utterly pointless, and without a single redeeming feature.

Oh, wait, I exaggerate. It did have one redeeming feature: it kept them from doing other stupid things that might actually achieve something.

The reason I use “craven” as the first term is that I can’t think of a better term for their conduct without resorting to severe profanity, and I try to limit my usage.

The moves against the “surge” plan are craven. They are duplicitous. They are two-faced. They are cowardly. And they are hypocritical.

General David Patraeus is the current commander of allied forces in Iraq. He assumed that position after being confirmed by the United States Senate by a vote of 81-0 on January 26 of this year.

And he is the architect and chief proponent of the “surge” plan.

General Petraeus went before the Senate and laid out his intentions for all to see. He described the “surge” plan. He said it represented the best option for securing Baghdad, and Iraq in general. He made it abundantly clear that he intended to go to Iraq with this plan, and carry it out to the best of his ability.

And when it came down to a vote on whether to order this soldier to do just that, more than four out of five United States Senators said yes. 18 couldn’t be bothered to express their opinion on the matter. (I’m giving Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) a bye, because he’s still recovering from a massive cerebral hemorrhage last December.)

So, almost exactly a month after giving their imprimatur to General Petraeus and his plan, the Congress now wants to undercut him and shred the mandate they handed him — before he’s even had a chance to fully put his plan into action.

Worthy ladies and gentlemen of the United States Senate, I respectfully submit to you that you’re acting like assholes.

This fighting over the “surge” is not about military strategy. It’s not about what is in the best interests of the nation. It’s pure partisanship.

One month ago, it was hard to take a stand against the “surge.” Standing before you was a man who had devoted his entire life to serving our nation, earning accolades and decorations and promotions. He stood before you and said that his plan, as developed by the best military minds our nation can produce, had the best chance of bringing peace to Iraq. He said that if you approved of his taking command in Iraq, he would carry out that plan to the best of his ability. And at that time, not a single one of you would stand and contradict him.

So, with 81 of your votes in his favor and not a single dissenter, General Petraeus left his home and family and went off to Iraq to carry out his duty.

His plane was barely off the tarmac before you started frantically attempting to undercut your own votes. Once he was out of your face, you began undermining and denouncing his plans, the very ones you had endorsed so solidly.

Ladies and gentlemen of the United States Senate, there is a proper time and place for criticizing a military plan. In fact, there are several.

The first opportunity is when the plan is first presented and submitted for your approval. That was a month ago. You blew that one. No, in fact, you deliberately and consciously chose not to criticize it, but to endorse it.

The second opportunity is after the plan has been started and developed, and it’s beginning to show whether it’s working or not. That is still some time off.

The third opportunity is once it’s in full swing, when it’s clear whether it has a decent chance of succeeding.

The fourth opportunity is after it is over, or pretty much so, when it’s time for second-guessing and evaluating.

Kindly note that we are between the first and second opportunity — when the plan is just being started. That is not the time for challenging. It’s the time to sit down and shut the fuck up, to keep your word and stand by your prior commitment to support the plan.

So, just what has changed since the Senate gave its approval to the “surge” plan barely a month ago? A couple of factors.

For one, the physical presence of General Petraeus. It’s far easier to critique his plans when he’s halfway around the world than when he’s standing right before you.

For another, the political calculus of the Senate leaders. One month ago, they didn’t feel they could openly confront the Bush administration over Iraq. Since then, they’ve used their chickenshit “non-binding resolution” as a check on the general mood of the Congress, and feel that they have the numbers to actually try something substantive — and make it stick.

The one thing missing from the debate: whether or not the “surge” — and this wrangling at this particular time — is in the best interests of the nation.

Because such principled concerns are too old-fashioned, too trivial, for our learned solons of Capitol Hill.

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