Chickenhawk Politics. (Editorials)

Article excerpt

The war debate is not over. Bush's chickenhawk brigade huffed and bluffed its way to an important victory in Congress, and the boardroom commandos--Field Marshal Cheney and Generals Rove, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle--may imagine they can topple Saddam, capture Iraq and rearrange control of Middle East oil merely by firing off more bellicose, deceitful threats. But they have not won the American people, or a substantial number of their elected representatives, or their allies abroad, to the cause of war. Many citizens are ambivalent, as public opinion polls show. Many are skeptical, including Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who said two days after Bush's speech arguing for US action that the Administration had its priorities all wrong: "My personal view is I think [Iraq] isn't number one; it's maybe sixth or seventh." Another skeptic, Jimmy Carter, garnered a Nobel Peace Prize that carried a rebuke to Bush's unilateralism. As Congress debated the war resolution, more than 200 demonstrations took place around the nation; fifty-three humanitarian and religious groups issued a statement urging Congress to reject the resolution; AFL-CIO head John Sweeney opposed unilateral action, as did NOW and other women's groups, and Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities took out a tough ad with garish photos of Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney headed, They're Selling War. We're Not Buying. Thousands of nonbuying Americans are mobilizing for peace demonstrations in late October.

Congress, it is true, did sign another blank check for open-ended war, acquiescing in the same chickenhawk politics that produced the Gulf of Tonkin resolution of 1964, which led to the quagmire in Vietnam. This time, however, it was not, as advertised, a great bipartisan victory. Three-fifths of House Democrats, including whip Nancy Pelosi (along with six brave Republicans), voted no, defying their leader, Richard Gephardt.

In the Senate, two famous old bulls, Robert Byrd and Teddy Kennedy, stood up for the Constitution, as did Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee. Both senators from Rhode Island, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, Vermont and Hawaii voted against the war. But majority leader Tom Daschle sulked, whined and then, as usual, caved. So, too, did John Kerry, who made a somber speech echoing his Vietnam experience, then crumpled (despite the nearly 20,000 antiwar e-mails his office received), joined by other White House wannabes John Edwards, Joseph Lieberman, Joseph Biden and Hillary Rodham Clinton. …