The Real Test for the Democrats

Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror November 15, 2006  edition, p. A6.

A prominent local pundit wrote that the firing of Donald Rumsfeld came “at [a] tremendous cost to America.” Actually, America was paying too high a price keeping the man employed.

Rumsfeld, whom the adoring local pundit described as a “handsome devil as a US Navy pilot,” was a chickenhawk. A chickenhawk is “someone who is enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war; most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person’s youth.”  (Definition from the New Hampshire Gazette.)

Rumsfeld was a Navy reserve pilot during the Korean War. His combat missions consisted of flying war planes in war games thousands and thousands of miles away from where real dog fights took place.

At least Rumsfeld’s fans can say he donned a uniform. Dick Cheney did not.  He dodged the draft five times, the last time because he had gotten married to a future writer of lesbian novels.

There is another definition for chickenhawk but it applies to disgraced politicians like Republican congressman Mark Foley:  “older men who prey on under-aged boys.”

Rumsfeld is lucky that the enlistment age for military service in America is 18. Otherwise both meanings of chickenhawk would have applied to him. Sending young men to die in a war based on false pretenses is, in a manner of a speaking, also preying on innocent boys.

Getting rid of Rumsfeld was easy, getting out of Iraq is not. The Democrats must not allow themselves to be tricked into proposing an alternate exit strategy from Iraq. They should let Bush extricate himself from the mess he created. Besides, an alternate Iraq exit strategy is not what should define the Democratic party between now and the 2008 presidential elections.

The Democrats must identify themselves with something more profound than what Bush described as a comma in the history of mankind. They must restore fundamental human rights that were sacrificed at the altar of the war on terror.

The guarantee that all Americans have the right to habeas corpus, to an attorney present during interrogation, to privacy, to the safety of one’s person and property against warrantless arrests, searches, and seizures has been revoked.  All it takes is for Bush or one of his factotums to declare a person an enemy combatant and those rights are taken away.  The rule of law has been replaced by the rule of caprice.

Torture has been legalized and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez justified it in terms of a new paradigm that “renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.”

The new paradigm is symbolized by commercial jets crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It replaced the old paradigm symbolized by the Statue of Liberty.

The new paradigm is what gave the world Abu Ghraib, Camp X-ray in Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons and interrogation centers, and “rendition”— the handing over of suspected terrorists to the intelligence agencies of countries where torture is a virtue.

The Democrats must deal with this new paradigm. Can they fight terrorism without turning their back on what made America “the shining city on a hill?” Will they restore Lady Liberty as the focal point of America or will they bury her in that gaping hole in the ground where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood?

The international community does not expect American politicians to treat them any differently from their own kind. One cannot over-emphasize the fact that Americans and the rest of humanity stand to benefit from a restoration of the old paradigm.

The real challenge for the Democrats is not an Iraq exit strategy. The true test is whether or not they will, to quote Thomas Jefferson, “restore their government to its true principles.”

America’s reputation as a freedom-loving nation now lies in the hands of the Democratic party.

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