If the Iraq War should be lost, it will be the fault of the Democrats, the peaceniks, the “left” and all the other American traitors who question the righteousness of the war and the competence of the Bush Administration. So said President Bush — almost that bluntly.
Bush ratcheted this divisive, delusional and mendacious narrative up a notch in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention. He said,
“Our troops are seeing this progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they’re gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq?”
The right-wing narrative to explain why the United States may lose the Iraq War was launched over a year ago. It has been advanced both by Republican politicians (and Senator Joe Lieberman) and by right-wing talk show “pundits.” It is the American version of the dolchstosslegende, the Stab-in-the-Back Myth, which holds that Germany didn’t lose World War I on the battlefield but was sabotaged by its own leaders. Hitler exploited the myth to seize power and establish the Third Reich.
This myth sustains many diehard right-wingers who believe that the Vietnam War was lost only because Democrats and peaceniks sapped America’s will to fight for victory there. That delusional belief (ignoring realities that have been documented by libraries full of books and articles) was behind the scurrilous accusations made by the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. They accused him of not deserving his Vietnam War medals, but they were motivated by their belief that thirty years earlier, he had betrayed the American war effort in Vietnam by testifying (truthfully) before a congressional committee about war crimes committed by American troops. By failing to respond to the Swift-Boaters in time, Kerry destroyed his own presidential ambitions.
The Republican propaganda machine is at it again. Accusing all elected officials who want to withdraw American troops from Iraq of “pulling the rug out” from under the troops is no different from accusing these officials of stabbing the troops in the back. Already, House minority leader John Boehner jumped on the President’s bandwagon, questioning whether the Democratic congressional majority will seek to “pull the rug out” from under U.S. troops, according to the Washington Times.
The Stab-In-The-Back ploy is designed to have a devastating psychological impact on the electorate as well as to cow the Democrats into silence (or ineffectual stammering about the need to “redeploy” troops gradually).
The Democrats will likely lose yet another presidential election – unless they are both courageous and clear. They must confront the myth-makers and shatter the myths. They must explain not only how talk of “victory” is based on delusion and misrepresentation of facts rather than the ugly truth which is unfolding in Iraq. They should invite the public to view the current film about Iraq, No End in Sight, which documents the incompetence of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Bush. Citing the abundant archives of sources and authorities, they must expose the false assumptions underlying Bush’s speech. For example, Iraq is not the “central front” in the war against terrorists. The Iraq War was not launched for noble reasons, but was based on lies about WMDs and nonexistent al Qaeda connections. The “they” in Iraq are not the “same” terrorists who were behind the 9/11 attacks, but consist of many different groups of disgruntled Iraqis who have good reason to be angry with the Americans. The mayhem and murder occurring in Cambodia after the Americans withdrew from Vietnam was not triggered by the withdrawal. Although the United States will likely suffer from lost prestige for leaving Iraq, its prestige will sink even further if it stays to enrage the Iraqi people further, while flailing around and blaming Iraqis for American failures in executing the reconstruction plan (if there ever was a plan).
During the past few months, several writers have attempted to warn the country about the Republicans’ unscrupulous Stab-in-the-Back election strategy. The warning bears repeating, and we ignore it at our nation’s peril.