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By David Podvin

Conservatives refuse to cut and run in Iraq, claiming that a military withdrawal would disgrace America. Right wingers are implementing an alternative strategy that is called “Stay The Course”, which is the marketing phrase for “Stay And Die”. The tactic consists of perpetuating a war that cannot be won so as to avoid acknowledging defeat. It is the approach Richard Nixon employed in Vietnam when he prolonged the conflict after it became apparent that the United States was going to lose.

As a result of Nixon staying the course, many innocent people on both sides died needlessly and the American economy experienced its worst slump since the Great Depression. Yet for conservatives, the overriding consideration was that by extending a lost cause they were spared from admitting failure. They still refuse to admit it, insisting that certain victory was thwarted only when the Democratic Congress confiscated war funding. According to the right wing, everything would have worked out swimmingly if more money had been spent and more troops had been sacrificed. Were it up to conservatives the United States military would still be in Vietnam because anything other than total victory is unacceptable, even when total victory is unattainable.

Whatever illusions Republicans once possessed about Iraq have long since been shattered. There were no weapons of mass destruction strewn across the countryside. There were no Al Qaida cells cloistered in the presidential palace. There were no swooning crowds euphorically welcoming their liberators. The Sunnis and the Shiites and the Kurds did not forswear ancient hostilities to form a fraternity of soul mates. Every premise/pretext for prosecuting the war has been debunked, and conservatives know it. They know Iraq was an artificial construct of the British Empire that will ultimately dissolve into anarchy. One suspects they also know that the primary unresolved question is how many GIs must perish before right wingers are again dragged kicking from the crime scene.

Conceit is the worst of motives for protracting a war. When young Americans die defending the United States it is a heartbreaking but essential tragedy. When young Americans die to spare Republicans and their sycophants embarrassment, it is not a tragedy. It is an atrocity.

Each time a conservative declares that America must stay the course or be humiliated it confirms that for warmongers the battle is less about national security than personal vanity. Our country is the unchallenged superpower, possessing a military juggernaut that crushed the Iraqi army with the greatest of ease. George W. Bush has ousted Iraq’s government and stolen Iraq’s treasure. Every nation on the planet knows that given the right circumstances it could be next. Nevertheless, vainglorious conservatives insist that their Iraqi occupation is all that prevents villains from perceiving weakness and persecuting the United States.

It is unclear which villains might think that leaving Iraq would render America helpless. Upon seeing the U.S. military exit, which world leader would say to himself, “Finally, we have the Americans right where we want them. It is now obvious that if we antagonize the United States all Bush will do is carpet-bomb our land, loot our resources, torture our people, imprison me…and then leave. These feeble Yankee imperialists (diabolical laugh) are like putty in our hands!”

Perhaps it is the terrorists who would view withdrawal as comprising an ignominious American defeat, but not likely. Osama bin Laden knows that Bush’s belligerence is the best thing that ever happened to the terrorist cause. Al Qaida membership has soared since Bush took office, which makes him the Pied Piper of Islamic Terrorism. The longer the Piper occupies Iraq and the more Muslims he alienates in the process the better it is for Al Qaida.

Americans who opposed the Iraq war cautioned that an effortless military victory would be followed by a grueling occupational defeat. Conservatives responded that such warnings revealed the cowardice of traitors. Rather than admitting they were wrong, the reactionaries plan to stay the course. Belatedly, some Senate Democrats are challenging the Republican premise that it is better to rationalize a mistake than correct one. Congressional dissidents must become increasingly vigilant because history proves that if right wingers have their way the occupation of Iraq has only just begun.

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Last changed: December 13, 2009