As I mentioned in this post, I was pleased when Barack Obama spoke against the following advertisement from MoveOn.org:
If you cannot read the text in the image, I’ve put the body text of the ad after the jump).
Now, I am against the Iraq War, as I have been since it started. I even participated in an anti-war rally in Appleton, WI a few weeks before we invaded on March 17, 2003. And for the most part, I feel that Petraeus’ testimony was overly optimistic.
However, he is a general who is taking orders from the Bush administration, where the policy is actually set and is thus only doing his job, which is to fulfill his mission to the best of his ability and report on its progress. The real onus should be on the Bush administration for hiding behind a general as a way to push through policy.
However, what annoys me about the ad is not so much that they are directing their energy at the wrong target but that they have reduced their discourse to petty name-calling, and not only is it petty, but it also harkens back to the beginning of the war when many war proponents questioned the patriotism of war opponents.
By accusing Petraeus of betrayal for carrying out his mission and reporting on it optimistically, MoveOn.org has lost the high ground. This of course, did not go unnoticed by Senate Republicans who rallied around a resolution put forth by Senator Jon Conryn (R-TX), which condemned the ad and passed it with a 72-25 vote.
This vote was an obvious pander to the pro-war constituency, which makes up a majority of the Republican base but it was more than that: it was a political trap for the Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate. Senators Chris Dodd and Hillary Clinton took the option to use the vote to pander to the ardent anti-war crowd.
However, the other two presidential candidates in the Senate, Joe Biden and the candidate I support, Barack Obama took the, in my opinion, more intelligent, principled path of abstaining from the vote. Both have spoken against the ad before, with Biden calling it “dead, flat wrong” and Obama calling it “counterproductive”.
But the ad was not the only thing silly in this episode. So was the vote which was nothing more than a political gimmick, something that Obama recognized when he said in a written statement:
The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not
on criticizing newspaper advertisements. This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. It’s precisely this kind of political game-playing that makes most Americans cynical about Washington’s ability to solve America’s problems. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared.
All of us respect the service of General Petraeus and all of our brave men and women in uniform. The way to honor that service is to give them a mission that is responsible, not to vote on amendments like the Cornyn amendment while we continue to pursue the wrong policy in Iraq.
I wasn’t sure he’d do it, but Senator Obama hit the nail on the head.
The text of the MoveOn.org ad.
General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts. In 2004, just before the election, he said there was “tangible progress” in Iraq and that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” And last week Patraeus, the architect of the escalation of troops in Iraq, said, “We say we have achieved progress and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress.”
Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed. Yet the General claims a reduction in violence. That’s because, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don’t count. The Washington Post reported that assassinations only count if you’re shot in the back of the head — not the front. According to the Associated Press, there have been more civilian deaths and more soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we’ve been there. We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed.
More importantly, General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows: Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war. We may hear of a plan to withdraw a few thousand American troops. But we won’t hear what Americans are desperate to hear, a timetable for withdrawing all our troops. General Petraeus has actually said American troops will need to stay inIraq for as long as ten years.
Today, before Congress and before the American people, General Petraeus is likely to become General Betray Us.