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Taking Responsibility

November 2nd, 2003

Today, a Chinook helicopter was transporting as many as three dozen troops from the lines of battle–or perhaps I should say, the lines of “post-mission-accomplished-peacekeeping”–for some much needed R&R. Many of these guys signed up for weekend duty, not for the long haul halfway around the world while their families go without, their bank accounts wither, and God knows if their jobs will be there when they get back. Over the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a missile struck the helicopter, and it went down. Thirteen of the men died. Another twenty were injured. Iraqi citizens rushed in on the flash point, shouting anti-American slogans, some grabbing souvenirs.

Maybe Bush will find some way of telling us how this is a good sign. Frankly, I kind of doubt it. Okay, it’s cool that people up north like us, that schools are opening and that people have electricity. Fine. That doesn’t erase the deaths, the injuries, the cost in blood and money.

To this day, 374 Americans and 51 British troops have died in Iraq. A total of 258 coalition forces have died since Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on the aircraft carrier with the flight suit photo-op. (This site does a good accounting of the casualties in Iraq.)

Republicans are trying to tell us that we shouldn’t complain, that if we criticize, then we are saying that we want to cut and run. Sorry, but that’s bull. Others say that by disparaging the president we are helping our enemies, so we should tone it down. That’s even more dangerous bull. This president has claimed that this is his responsibility. Well, responsibility doesn’t mean that you just say you’re responsible and then everybody admires you for it. What it means is that when you screw up, you take a hit for it. People remember it. People lose trust in you.

The fact is, this president has to be held to account for what he’s done. Just because we are where we are, that we have no choice but to stay, that we have to support our troops–does not mean that Bush should be allowed to draw a bye on this one. He screwed up. And we’re paying for it. In blood. In escalated terrorist activity. In regional instability. In worldwide scorn. In billions of dollars badly needed at home.

The answer is not to cut and run. The answer is to not have such a dangerously incompetent fool in office. Even if it were necessary to go into Baghdad and take out Hussein, there were better ways of doing it. Getting the facts straight. Garnering support from our allies. Building a real coalition, not the fiction of one despite however many scathing denials come from this failed administration. Having a plan of action and a sound exit strategy. Having sharp vision, not blinded by political gamesmanship. In other words, doing the job right.

Bush never did that. He initially said he would go without the permission of Congress, even laid out legal arguments. Then he said he didn’t need international support. Then he went to the U.N., but as he asked for help he also chided and insulted them. Then as he claimed U.N. authority as a reason to go in, he flushed out the weapons inspectors, who were just starting to make progress–to hell with the facts, he had a war and it was on a schedule and he didn’t want our troops sitting there waiting too long. And even up to the post-war PR celebrations, he still had no post-war plan, no exit strategy.

This war was not even planned as a war. It was planned as a domestic political campaign. And today, 13 Americans who should have been in Des Moines, Iowa, or wherever, barbecuing, watching their kids grow, making love, living their lives, instead died as their helicopter crashed before jubilant Iraqis. And this president says we have to consider this all as part of a good thing. That it was somehow necessary. That he had good reasons to do it to us.

Many of us were against it from the start, and many trusted the president to do what he knew was right. All of us were betrayed as the man used–no, abused the government for unjust means, for unjust reasons. Taking responsibility means you pay the price for your actions. He was responsible for this. And we are responsible for him and what he has done.

So we stay in Iraq and do the best that we can. We support the troops. And next November, we go and we vote, and if we take our responsibilities seriously, we do anything but to re-elect this unfaithful, irresponsible man to the office he never really earned.

Edit: Updated numbers. Make that 15 men dead in the crash. 376 Americans killed to date.

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