When a tough ex-marine says our military strategy in Iraq is flawed, it is worth standing at attention. Today Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania joined other Democrats and a clear majority of the American people in courageously calling for the President and his neoconclave to stop waving the red flag of bull in front of Iraqis and Americans alike. “There’s a difference between supporting the troops and continuing to support a failed policy,” observed this conservative veteran legislator. “It’s up to the president to clearly define the goals and objectives of what constitutes success in Iraq. The American people deserve this. Even more important, the troops deserve to hear what the policy is.”

In the past week President Bush has pulled the patriotic sucker punch, using the always presumed moral authority of the presidency to cast a few low blows at the nuts and bolts of his opponents’ growing criticisms. “Cut and run” is the media-made mantra thrown out to anyone who dares challenge the daily reports of casualties, continuing insurgent attacks, prisoner abuse, oil company false profits, incompetent carpetbagger contractors and the list goes on. Wrong metaphor. “Lie and cover-up” would fit the facts better.

Not surprisingly, Bush’s Republican Guard has launched a counter attack. “But now, Rep. Murtha and other Democrats want us to retreat,” responded Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert later in the day. “They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world. It is unfortunate that this is all politics all the time. We need to have a strong consistent policy that will protect our men and women who are fighting to protect us overseas. We must not cower like European nations who are now fighting terrorists on their soil.” Stonewall Hastert would like to draw a line in the sand, echoing the either-you-are-with-us-or-against-us mentality that overcomes presidents, representatives, senators, dictators and tyrants alike.

Wrong flag, Mr. Speaker. Whose blood is on that flag? I suggest it is the White-House lies that encourage terrorists in Iraq like red flags in front of a charging Pamplonan toro. Ever since Secretary of State Powell was railroaded into presenting false intelligence on WMD at the UN, the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice troika has been playing Iraqi roulette with young men and women fresh out of High School rather than supplying our troops with appropriately armored vehicles. Not having enough troops to secure a devastated country reduced to anarchy. That’s worth flagging; in an earlier day it would be reason enough for flogging. Leaving a porous border for wannabe terrorists to swarm in. I see red there. Forcing the best trained army in the world to engage in walking-duck patrols or drive through bomb-lined killing fields. I still see red. Giving the American people nothing but bull that things are getting better. That was the way the Soviet Union tried to cover up its Vietnam-size debacle in Afghanistan. Our men and women overseas, many of whom have been kept after their terms of service were up, are not fighting to protect us. They should not be fighting to protect politicians for whom the buck never stops. They’re fighting to survive in a country that does not want to be occupied by anyone.

With Rove-ing eyes distracted in self-preservation, President Bush is reduced to making lame excuses and ducking the consequences of a policy that has failed miserably. There is ample bipartisan support for the obvious. Our troops have not failed, our policy was a failure from the start. Patriots should not sling mud in the eyes of men like Rep. Murtha, who have proudly served this country. We have a President who chose not to serve when his country needed him. We have a President whose name and privilege allowed him to “cut and run” after his initial training as a pilot. Don’t sully Old Glory for your own glory, Mr. Speaker. Listen to that old marine: “Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.”

Daniel Martin Varisco