Speak now, without indignation

In the decades since the United States lost the Vietnam war, right wingers from the Republican Party to the American Legion have blamed the press, the liberals, the soldiers—everything but the misbegotten and ignorant decision to intervene in Vietnam in the first place.

Now the task of deciding how to end another foolish military misadventure has been thrust by voters onto Congress. There is a wide ranging dialogue under way on how to bring our occupation of Iraq to an end.

If there is a way for the United States to make sense out of the mess, now is the time to speak up. We don’t want to see another case of the right telling the public that they were sold out.

Sen. John McCain has been so bold as to propose sending more troops to Iraq to provide greater stability in order to make an ultimate withdrawal more possible. One can argue the merits of the proposal, but McCain is at least spelling out his plan.

If Gov. Gibbons, late of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, or any other critics of peace advocates have a proposal, let them say so now. This is the time to produce it. Loudmouths like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh should not be given another license to abuse those who bravely opposed a war.

That is a message mostly for Republicans. Now, here’s one for Democrats: Knock off the righteous indignation.

It is true that Congress was misled by the Bush administration on the reasons for going to war, as were we all. But the Democrats in Congress, unlike the rest of us, had a remedy.

They could have withheld their votes for war until they saw the evidence of weapons of mass destruction instead of taking Bush’s word for it. Indeed, 23 members of the Senate and 133 in the House did bravely vote against authorizing force in Iraq because they felt Bush had not made an adequate case. But nearly all Democratic leaders—and all the major Democratic presidential contenders—were terrified of bucking public opinion and so voted for war without seeing the evidence. Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, Christopher Dodd all joined in the rush to a foolish and unnecessary war. And now they scream their tardy outrage at being misled.

But their anger is unearned. They misled themselves. They very much wanted not to know the truth.

Now, we need to say to the Democrats: Do what you have to do to bring this war to an end, but spare us the indignation. It is the public that is entitled to be outraged, at both George Bush and the Democrats who were once allied with him.