Cleland on Bush

It’s getting harder and harder to support President Bush. I supported the Iraq war and so did friends of mine living abroad. My friend in Germany took a lot of flack from his neighbors as the Bush administration bulldozed through the U.N. on its way to war in Iraq. My friend in Paris, as you can imagine, felt even more heat. Here in Japan, where most native English speakers are not from the U.S., I stood up for my country’s efforts to stamp out terrorism.

Now, all three of us feel that the rug has been pulled out from under us. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There is no connection between the former Iraq regime and September 11th. We fought a war to get a single man — and billions of dollars and thousands of lives later we still haven’t got him. We’re spending a billion dollars a week and the national debt under this administration is getting so out of hand that we’re about to have our nation’s credit rating cut. Have you noticed the freefalling dollar? That’s good for me as a holder of Japanese yen, but it doesn’t look good for America as our debt approaches 7 trillion dollars. It doesn’t take a financial wizard to realize that falling income in the form of tax cuts combined with skyrocketing expenses for endless wars creates an imbalanced balance sheet.

But the real thumbs-down comes from this increasingly unjustifiable Iraq war. To hear people talk of the good we did by removing a bad man is nauseating. Come on. How many bad men are there in the world? How many more will there be? How many are waiting right now to pounce on Iraq once we leave with fewer than we came with? If we went to war to get rid of one dictator who posed no direct threat to us or our allies and had no connection to September 11th, we’re driving a pathetic foreign policy. Guess what? We’re driving a pathetic foreign policy.

Meanwhile, in this part of the world, Japan is scratching its head over the North Korea situation. No need for faulty intelligence briefings here. No need for carefully massaged speeches that give the impression of cause and effect. The bad man in North Korea came right out and told the world that he has a nuclear program and is stepping it up. The result from blustering Washington? Talk, talk, and more talk. No WMD means war in Iraq; known WMD means talk in North Korea. The situation is so tense that Japan, the world’s most anti-nuclear country because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is considering arming itself with nuclear missiles.

The situation is deteriorating abroad. The situation is deteriorating at home. This is some record, Mr. President. I feel very proud to have stood up for my country and for you against foreign criticism. To their credit, none of the detractors has said to me, “I told you so.” They certainly could.

For a clear look at the president’s follies in the desert, I suggest reading former senator Max Cleland’s article that ran in an advertisement in the New York Times. To understand why he is uniquely qualified to level such criticism, consider his bio:

Former U.S. Senator Max Cleland volunteered for duty in Vietnam where he lost both of his legs and his right arm in a grenade explosion. He headed the Veterans Administration in the Carter administration and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. In 2002, Cleland lost his bid for reelection when his opponent ran attack ads that questioned his patriotism and featured photos of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. He has received numerous awards for his bravery and service including the military’s Silver Star for Gallantry in Action. When the Reserve Officers’ Association named Cleland its “Minute Man of the Year” for his work in the Senate, he joined past Presidents Bush, Reagan and Ford in receiving the association’s highest honor. Currently, Max Cleland is a distinguished adjunct professor at American University’s Washington Semester Program.

Now, brace yourself and read Mr. Cleland’s article, Welcome To Vietnam, Mr. President.

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