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Fri

09

Mar

2007

Your Weekend Citizenship Assignment
Friday, 09 March 2007 21:36
by Stephen P. Pizzo

On Thursday Congressional Democrats finally decided to “dance with them what brung-em.”
Congress plans Iraq pullout deadlines

March 8, 2007 — Laying out their toughest challenge for the Bush administration since taking control of Congress, Democrats in the House and Senate moved Thursday to set firm deadlines to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 2008. (Full)
God knows they tried to avoid dancing with us, but we insisted, and so now the real debate, the one that should have been had years ago, begins. The time to debate if the US should even be in Iraq in the first place is long gone. All that's left now is to figure out how much longer we stay and how to engineer a disengagement that doesn't make matters worse than we already have. The first task, deciding when to leave Iraq, will not be easy, politically and emotionally. But that decision is inevitable.

The second task, insuring our departure from Iraq doesn't make matters worse is a laudable goal, but matter quite out of our hands. The Iraqis will decide what happens after we leave, not us.

So, after four years it's finally here — crunch-time for all sides in this debate. Time to put all the political posturing,  speechifying and blame-shifting away and get down to the nuts and bolts of the matter. Be it “stay the course” or “surge” or “phased redeployment” or “cut and run,” the devil always has been and remains in the details of each camp's plans. And never has that little devil been more devilish than when it comes to any matter involving the sectarian rats nest, Iraq.


This is the time for all sides here at home to stop talking past one another and start listening — time to consider the beliefs, thoughts and passions that underpin and drive each side's positions. Because a house divided can do little, least of all end a war.

Former State Department official, George Kenney has done is all a huge favor in that regard – and just  just in the nick of time. If you don't remember George, in 1992 he was in charge of the State Department's Yugoslavian Desk. The son of a career Foreign Service officer he resigned that post in protest over the Bush 41 administration's inaction in the face of rampant ethnic cleansing by Serbs in Bosnia. (See 1992 interview here)

Earlier this week I got an email from George:

Dear Steve,

I thought you might be interested in a podcast (click to listen {mmp3ex}www.electricpolitics.com/media/mp3/CDI2007.03.05.mp3{/mmp3ex}) of a panel discussion I put together on Iraq, last Wednesday at the National Press Club, under the auspices of the Center for Defense Information. It's an unusual and outstanding panel, moderated by Alton Frye (former President of the Council on Foreign Relations), and with panelists Ted Galen Carpenter (VP for Defense and Foreign Policy at CATO), Helle Dale (former editor of the Washington Times Op-ed page and now at Heritage), Col. Doug Macgregor (Ret.), Frank Gaffney (President of the Center for Security Studies), and Frank Anderson (former CIA, was chief of the near east division and had served three tours as station chief in the middle east).

It wasn't easy to get prominent neocons and prominent anti-neocons on the same platform, especially not for two hours with questions, and most especially not with someone of the caliber of Alton Frye as moderator, of whom I think it's fair to say that he's the soul of the Washington foreign policy establishment. Alton, btw, steps out of his role as moderator at the end and excoriates the administration in a most eloquent and high-minded way.

If you want to hear just one side they're plenty of places to go. If you're interested, however, in comparing the pro-war and anti-war perspectives at the same time I think this is a unique discussion — lively, full of good, current information, and good ideas. Myself, I've been anti-war from well before the war, but I do think it's important to be able to interact with the pro-war side of things.

One or two prominent liberal bloggers have responded to my notice of this podcast by saying they would never give time to some of the people on the above panel. My response to that is, it seems to me that the neocons still get numerous high-level media venues to spout their ideas unchallenged. You'd be surprised, actually, at how few were willing to volunteer to appear in a forum where they would be challenged — I went through over a dozen names prominent here in DC and in NY before getting to Gaffney.

I must say, I believe that neocons should be vigorously challenged and refuted in public so that they cannot live in a Washington bubble and delude themselves that there are no other opinions. Thus opponents of this insane war must persistently engage and defeat them wherever possible, particularly in front of the media.

I hope you have time to listen. If you do, and if you find the panel worthwhile, please pass the link along as you may feel appropriate.

Regards,
George Kenney

Later that same day I made time to listen to George's 2-hour long panel. And, with the exception of panelist  Helle Dale (the former editor of the Washington Times Op-ed page was simply parroted administration talking points,) the other four presenters were absolutely riveting.

And if you listen, don't bail out before the question/answer session that follows as some of the most passionate and pointed remarks can be heard there.

I understand that asking you to carve two hours out of your weekend to listen to this podcast is asking much. And frankly I wasn't going to listen the to the whole thing myself, but ended up doing just that. And I'm glad I did. Because, as I said above, it's crunch-time on Iraq. The “easy part” — being for the war, or being against it — is over. The time to act has arrived, indeed late, but here it is. And if we're going to act wisely going forward, we need to listen, learn and base our actions on facts rather than passion.

The motto of this administration could best be summed up as, “Ready. Fire! Aim.” Let's make sure those of us that oppose Bush's actions in Iraq get that order right. And a great place to calibrate our sights is George's panel.
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