Madison County Opinion...

MAY 12, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
May 12, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Let he who is without sin throw the first stone

“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone. . . .” John 8:7

“He should immediately resign,” they declared. This demand has been issued repeatedly by people who believe themselves to have been insulted, or who try to use a statement by someone on their political opposition. The latest chorus of demands comes from the left-wing Democrats attacking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
A handful of American soldiers have been caught brutalizing prisoners in Iraq. Their actions are inexcusable. Immediately, congressional left wingers demanded that Rumsfeld resign. Their political attacks on our military and their leader are equally inexcusable.
One reason these demands come so quickly is that they often work. Numerous conservative congressional leaders have either abandoned their careers, or had their influence drastically reduced. A number of coaches or athletic directors, usually accused of racist sentiments because of some insignificant comment have lost their jobs. Even a Las Vegas oddsmaker was kicked out when he made an observation that black athletes have inbred advantages.
Now, let’s consider the most recent incident. We have a situation in which inexperienced, untrained members of the Army are attempting to interrogate prisoners. Because of their inability, they utilized many of the same derogatory techniques of the previous administration. They were put in that position, in my opinion, because we do not have enough trained agents to handle all the work.
These same critics were among those who stripped our intelligence services of funds and personnel. Thanks to them, the CIA, military intelligence and other information gathering agencies have been unable to cover all the bases. One can make the case that Rumsfeld’s critics are more responsible for the atrocities than any of the military leadership.
Clearly, the interrogation of military prisoners is best handled by such experts. In my opinion, the CIA at its most powerful could have solved the problem of Iraq with minimal involvement by the military. It was the CIA that made it possible for allied forces to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan with such ease. But they had to use so much of their limited resources that they had little left for Iraq. If they had been able to put the same level of effort into Iraq, the results there would have been similar.
The stone throwers in Congress who are attacking Donald Rumsfeld are not without sin. They need to look at their own voting records to find the conditions that lead to this fiasco. They need to consider their own motives in launching political attacks without knowing the details of the event. They need to be fully aware of the damage they are doing to our nation’s foreign policy.
I will not sit here and demand that the rock throwers themselves should resign. To do so would be to proclaim myself to be free of sin and that is not the case. But if they were to fully consider their motivations and actions, they might find it appropriate for them to step aside and allow more fair-minded people to replace them.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
May 12, 2004

In the Meantime

Father-son relationship a factor in war decision
Few things cut to the soul as much as a person’s relationship with their dad. That’s true of little kids and adults alike. Every son wants approval from his pop.
So I read with interest this week about what George W. Bush said to Bob Woodward about his relationship with his father, George H.W. Bush.
Of course, the father and son are unique in sharing the presidency of the United States and sending this country to war with Iraq. Thus, their relationship carries historical weight and global significance.
And while it’s simple-minded to reduce the current war in Iraq to a father-son issue, it’s naïve to say that the relationship had no bearing on our current president’s decision-making regarding war.
We all remember that the legacy of the elder George Bush was, primarily, that he didn’t finish the deal in Iraq, didn’t get Saddam out of power.
Whether or not you think this was a mistake, it’s hard to deny that Bush’s explanation of why he stopped the first Gulf War when he did is quite prophetic in light of the current state of Iraq.
In the book “A World Transformed,” co-authored by the former President Bush and his senior national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and published in 1998, the elder Bush stood by his decision to stop short of removing Saddam.
“Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs,” wrote Bush and Scowcroft. “...We would have been forced to occupy Iraq and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would have instantly collapsed, the Arabs deserting in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was no viable ‘exit strategy’ we could see, violating another of our principles. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different — and perhaps barren — outcome.”
This past week, along with an article about the prison abuses in Iraq, The New Yorker Magazine published a review of Bob Woodward’s “Plan of Attack,” a book detailing the lead-up to the Iraq war. The book includes in-depth interviews with the Bush Administration, including Bush himself.
In the book’s epilogue, Woodward recounts a taped interview with the president in which the younger Bush says he can’t remember a poignant moment with his father.
“I can’t remember a moment where I said to myself, maybe he can help me make the decision,” said Bush. “...You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to.”
That interview may reveal a firm religious conviction, but it also shows a true father-son strain.
And while we engage in countless, tired arguments related to the war, the Bush father-son relationship seems overlooked as a mere footnote in relation to the politics of our current war.
There have been many other things to look at, such as whether there were really weapons of mass destruction, whether Saddam really intended to attack us, whether we should listen to the United Nations, whether the war had anything to do with oil, whether supporting our troops meant keeping them alive and at home or whether it meant supporting their cause, whether the war made us safer from terrorism or actually served as a distraction from the pursuit of Al Qaeda, making us more vulnerable.
Ultimately, Bush took us to war on his beliefs, on a gut decision.
Many praise that, lauding his boldness, his conviction, adding that we must simply have faith in him as a leader and that anything less is a betrayal of national unity in the post-9/11 era. Others believe he was reckless and led us into peril and that blind support of that decision is to turn your back on moral rightness and to ignore the need for more direct confrontation of terrorists in places like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Certainly, there was prayer involved in his decision.
But there was also the earthly father involved, whether directly or indirectly in that decision process.
Consider that if successful in Iraq, the younger Bush could — at least in part — redeem his father’s legacy for falling short of getting Saddam. He could bridge a distance with his father by getting the man who attempted to kill his dad. In getting Saddam and reforming Iraq, he could even exceed his father in history as the more bold and daring president — the stronger of the two, the one who consulted a higher power and had the faith to follow his conviction. If successful, he could ultimately be the Bush president who was right.
No doubt, there were many considerations in going to war. Like I said, it’s overly simple to reduce the war to an issue of father and son.
But to exclude that father-son element from the decision to go to war is to portray George W. Bush as a robot, as purely analytical. Even if it’s subconsciously, those motivations to correct his father’s mistake, redeem his dad’s legacy and, in the process, gain his dad’s approval, had to factor into that gut choice he made for many other fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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