For those who can stomach it, the politics of the occupation of Iraq provides a fascinating spectacle. With something like 130,000 U.S. troops in a country the size of, what, California, there is always going to be a negative story — troops taking casualties, Americans misbehaving, a museum being looted, an irate cleric spewing venom, or whatever. The smart play for the Democrats, especially Kerry, is to let the media play up these stories while they themselves remain silent. In this way, support for the war may erode without the Democrats being seen as bearing, or taking advantage of, bad news.
The problem is that most leading Democrats simply cannot carry out this approach. Their anti-military, and anti-militaristic, sentiments run so deep that every perceived set-back or instance of misconduct is seen as an affirmation of their core values and beliefs, thus giving rise to the irresistable impulse to carp and/or gloat, even to the point of slandering the American military.
How else to explain this statement by Senator Carl Levin, quoted by Hugh Hewitt: “This is not just a few guards in some kind of aberrant conduct. This is a much more systemic problem here. And military intelligence, including I believe the CIA have got to be held accountable, right up the chain.” Levin offers no evidence to support his slanderous claim. Moreover, as Hugh explains, the statement endangers American lives by providing powerful propaganda to our enemies. Nor is there any apparent political advantage in making a claim like this. Americans do not want to believe that the military is undertaking “systemic” (Levin’s word) acts of evil, and thus will not look kindly on unsupported claims that this is the case. Yet Levin hates our military and our intelligence agencies too much too resist these sorts of utterances.
John Kerry hates our military and our intelligence agencies at least as much as Carl Levin. Although he has more at stake this year, his self-restraint on these matters, including the prison scandal, has not always prevailed. His struggle to make it prevail will be, as I said, a fascinating ongoing spectacle.
UPDATE by BIG TRUNK: For a graphic illustration of Deacon’s general point, see Joel Mowbray’s Monday FrontPage column regarding Rep. Fortney Stark: “Stark raving mad.”
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