World-Herald Wants Simplicity - Not Sanity - in Iraq War Debateby Kyle Michaelis
In a matter so complicated and convoluted as the Iraq War, I'm willing to give our elected officials a lot of latitude for their mind to change and their thinking to evolve. In fact, as the situation has worsened and the future become more bleak for the people of Iraq, I have to give a great deal of credit to Nebraska Senators Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel for doing what President George W. Bush and Nebraska Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry, and Adrian Smith cannot - overcoming their reactionary fear of ever admitting that they might have been wrong about this war to embrace a true change in policy that actually responds to the American people's demands that this war be brought to an end.
Sadly, the powers that be in the Nebraska media seem to have a different opinion. They've turned a blind eye to Congressmen Terry and Smith's recent claims of "progress" in Iraq that are not only baseless in fact but absolutely insulting and dismissive to the memories of those lost in this war's rising death toll. Honestly, how hard is it to point out in the face of such statements that April was one of the deadliest months yet for U.S. Armed Forces and that the last 6 months have been the deadliest since the war began? Those numbers don't lie, and they sure as hell don't support these self-serving, super-partisan claims of imagined "progress."
Instead, while holding these statements up to no scrutiny whatsoever, the Omaha World-Herald chose to single out Sen. Ben Nelson in familiar fashion. In Friday's "Furthermore" editorial, they wrote:
U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson often deserves credit for his nonpartisan demeanor, but of late the complexities of his approach to the Iraq War have been growing exponentially. In late March, he voiced opposition to a troop withdrawal timeline even as he helped provide a key vote for a Senate measure that included a timeline provision dear to the hearts of war opponents. He helped kill an amendment removing the timelines. Now, to his credit, he is working with the Bush administaration to help craft a needed overall compromise. Such is the zigzagging that results in trying to satisfy the demands of rabidly anti-Bush Democrats while also striving for needed nonpartisanship.It was just a few months ago that Sen. Hagel pulled off a complete 360-degree turn-around on Iraq over the course of a few days without the World-Herald giving him any grief whatsoever for the inconsistency. Now, they're stretching the facts and distorting the situation to make Nelson appear a hypocrite and panderer when he's been nothing of the sort.
The truth is, despite the World-Herald's supposed confusion, Nelson has been remarkably consistent on the Iraq War. He saw the need for a change in policy long ago, and he's bringing it to fruition - no easy task when you're up against the head-in-the-sand lunacy of Fortenberry, Terry, and Smith as they continue to cling to their partisan fantasy of the situation.
Needless to say, Nelson has been a little more outspoken since last fall's election, but that's perfectly understandable after being emboldened by a landslide victory and in responding to the new dynamics of a Democratic Congress. Also, Nelson's speaking with more force and ugency is well-supported by the realization of Iraq's continued deterioration that any independent observer simply cannot avoid. But, his basic message and his calls for tying our continued military support to benchmarks for improved security and political progress within the Iraqi government have not changed.
What's so stupid about the World-Herald's attempt to portray Nelson as inconsistent is their intentional failure to grasp Nelson's putting aside his long-standing and deeply-held doubts about setting any sort of timeline for troop withdrawal as an entirely reasonable and expertly calculated political move. It was most important at the time that a forceful voice for change be heard from Congress. With a President who has refused to listen to the American public, Nelson rightfully erred on the side of reform, sending an essential message that extraordinary measures are possible if Bush continues to display such extraordinary contempt for the will of the people.
Forcing President Bush's veto of this latest Iraq War spending bill may not do much good in the grand scheme of things, but - thanks to Ben Nelson - democracy was served and Congress was able to demonstrate that there is enouh dissatisfaction and dissent to offer a true challenge to Bush's endless embrace of the status quo.
Now, with Nelson at the negotiation table with the White House, Nelson might actually has the authority and the leverage to get the benchmarks he's been pushing for all along. That wouldn't have been possible had he not joined those pushing a timeline for withdrawal. The World-Herald has spun this move as some sort of buckling to "rabidly anti-Bush Democrats" when it's probably one of the more impressive and effective political moves throughout this long-stifled four year debate.
Nelson is getting things done and keeping faith with Nebraska's voters - delivering on his promises and putting his approach into policy. He's practically positioned himself as the power broker on Iraq - perhaps the most credible and legitimate voice for an eventual compromise in the entire Congress.
To this, the only questions the World-Herald should be asking is: How the hell has Nelson been able to pull this off - shaping the tone and setting the pace of debate for the entire country?
Seriously, it's ridiculous. But, it's true. And, it's high time someone give credit where credit is due.