Dulce bellum inexpertis. War is sweet only to those who have no experience of it.
Maybe that bit from Erasmus can help explain why George W. Bush and Dick Cheney not only won’t consider any way out of Iraq but seek to condemn our troops to fight there for years to come.
This week President Bush made one of his regular, super-secret photo op visits to the troops in Iraq and, considering that they're armed and dangerous, even let slip that he might or may consider reducing the number of Americans in that miserable country and miserable war. Might. Maybe. Someday. But only from a position of strength. Somewhere close to success or victory.
Given the amazing number of politicians swooping in to be force-fed the official line, the troops on their second or third or fourth tours of combat in Bush’s war surely can recognize weasel words, lies, damned lies and plain old bull.
That same president told the author of a newly published book on his presidency that his plan is to get the Republican nominee for his job signed on and locked into an indefinite continuation of the war. On and on and on as the costs soar past a trillion dollars and the death toll of American troops nears 4,000 and that of Iraqis climbs into the hundreds of thousands.
Why not? Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Cheney has any firsthand experience of war or combat, and neither has any personal stake in this war beyond their reputations and the judgment that historians will make in the years to come. Neither they nor their children has ever heard a shot fired in anger.
It is for the half a percent of Americans who do the fighting and dying and suffering — and their families — who must soldier on in a lost war, taking orders from a commander-in-chief who gets his advice from a vice president who sleeps in a different bed every night, fearing that the bad guys are coming to get him.
So September will come and go and nothing will really change. Gen. David Petraeus comes to town, but the White House political section is writing the report to Congress for him. It will say that things are coming up roses in Iraq. The surge is going swimmingly and progress is astounding. Just need some more time with those 160,000 or 170,000 Americans in the middle, targets really, of a civil war that no one on any side seems to care about ending, especially George W. Bush and his pal Darth Cheney.
Don’t rest your hopes on the Democrats who now allegedly control both houses of Congress.
The White House, as soon as it's watched Congress choke down the so-called Petraeus report and recommendations, will promptly demand that the same Congress vote another surge in the war budget — adding another $50 billion to what’s already been approved.
The Democrats will whine and moan and bloviate and then, like lapdogs, they'll roll over and approve the money, proving that they're even bigger cowards than Bush or Cheney are.
In the end, there’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats, or only subtle superficial differences in their hypocrisies. When it comes to getting their snouts in the trough of public and private and corporate money, they all spring from the same porcine roots.
Principles, courage moral and otherwise, a passion for both the Constitution and the citizenry, all seem to have skipped this bunch, both on the Hill and those who seek to replace Mr. Bush in the big white house.
Unless there is a miracle, and I see no sign that God is sufficiently amused by this spectacle to produce one, the current struggle for the presidential nominations of the two major parties is going to produce only the two tallest midgets.
In a nation of a couple hundred million citizens, perhaps half of them semi-attractive, maybe a quarter of them even intelligent, surely we can do better than this? Can we set some standards here, people?