By lex, on May 1st, 2007
It is proof once again that all politics is personal, and when it’s personal that no opportunity for low pettiness should be passed up in favor of any sense of institutional gravitas or decency: The US Congressional leadership – elected leaders of our highest branch of legislative government – plans what is in effect a work stoppage in order to delay delivering a critical piece of legislation that must in any case be reworked in order to fund the troops that they themselves committed to the field of battle.
The delivery to the President of a much labored over but fatally flawed and pork-laden war funding supplemental bill – itself a piece of absurd theater * – for his long-threatened veto will be delayed in order to celebrate what is for his political adversaries an important anniversary:
Democratic leaders in Congress are planning a special ceremony on Tuesday afternoon to send President Bush a bill that sets timetables for troop withdrawal from Iraq. *
The timing is no accident. It comes on the fourth anniversary of the day Mr. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier under the banner “Mission Accomplished” and declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.
Neener, neener, Mr. President.
That ceremony was intended to recognize the accomplishments of the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln, a ship that had just returned from an exceptionally arduous 10-month deployment – the longest combat deployment of an aircraft carrier in decades.
Six months is a long time at sea, enclosed inside a noisy, dangerous machine, working 14-hour days for weeks and months on end – no weekends off, no holidays aboard a carrier – surrounded by 5000 people you might not ordinarily choose to associate with, far removed from the creature comforts of home, family and friends.
Not everyone is built to hack a six-month deployment, people quit the service from the strain, families fly apart.
Ten months is unutterably longer. Especially when the sixth month comes and goes and you’re still in the Arabian Gulf and frankly no one knows when you’ll be heading home. It can seem like forever.
Everyone aboard that ship knew what the banner meant: Lincoln’s mission was accomplished, at least for that deployment – once they arrived in home port, delayed personnel transfers would take place, that particular crew would never again go to sea together. Major combat operations had in fact ended. The outline of the insurgency had not yet taken form and many of what in retrospect would appear to be mistakes in the occupation had not yet been committed. The wounding grievance of that ceremony would be first nurtured in private and then – increasingly – trotted out in triumph: The mission was not accomplished! You didn’t win your little war!
Everything about that ceremony grated against the raw nerves of fringe members a political left still traumatized by the election of 2000, a left whose self-loathing had been laid bare in the aftermath of 9/11, a left further enraged to the point of infantilism by the quick destruction of an illiberal Taliban regime that was supposed to show an imperialistic Amerikkka the error of its ways – after all, this was graveyard of empires, and the harsh Afghan winter, etc. They had such fond hopes!
This was the part of a political left already outraged that the Iraq war had been sought by a man they reflexively loathed, and authorized not just by their hated political opponents, but also by large numbers of what they conditionally thought of as their own party. The fact that the kinetic phase of the war had ended so quickly, with so few casualties, disappointing their ghoulish predictions of a months-long slugfest with thousands of telegenic casualties, military and civilian was bad enough. The fact that the President flew out to the carrier on a military jet with a sign waving on the island saying “Mission Accomplished”? Almost unbearable.
But I don’t think that’s really what sent them over the top, that banner. Because even the most rabidly foaming partisan can not really be pleased by the fact that nearly 3000 American lives have been lost to support their political perspective. That banner merely serves as a convenient foil, a “politically correct” substitute for what really made them mad.
No, this is the picture from that day that really sent them around the bend, for reasons best left to professional psychoanalysts:
There have been times when I dread that certain of the war’s most inveterately hostile opponents – the kind of people still so agitated by that banner, for example, and to whom the Congressional leadership now pays gratuitous obeisance by staging this little theater – would rather that their country lose a war, than that man in the flight suit there should be thought of as a president who won one.
* 07-31-2018 Links Gone; no replacements found – Ed.