Out in Wartime
Washington Post, Friday, March 21, 2003
"To announce that
there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the
president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally
treasonable to the American public."
-- Theodore Roosevelt,
THE COUNTRY has embarked on a war that many of its
citizens and elected officials oppose. We believe it to be necessary, as we have
said, but we recognize that thoughtful people of goodwill certainly will arrive
at different conclusions about its wisdom or timing. Even supporters may
question aspects of Bush administration policy, such as its inability to garner
more international support. All of this is legitimately open for discussion,
even with hostilities underway. All Americans, no matter their views on the war,
hope for a swift and successful conclusion and for the safety of the troops. All
are also entitled -- and should be encouraged -- to debate the war's
advisability, its conduct and its aftermath.
Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) put
this proposition to an early test this week. We disagree strongly with Mr.
Daschle's remarks, which unreasonably blamed the conflict on the Bush
administration. "I'm saddened that the president failed so miserably at
diplomacy that we are now forced to war," Mr. Daschle said Monday, shortly
before Mr. Bush issued his ultimatum. "Saddened that we have to give up one
life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that
was so critical for our country." Yes, the administration's diplomacy was
heavy-handed, but Mr. Daschle has his but-for causation wrong. We are
"forced to war" and "have to give up one life" not because
of the administration's diplomatic failures but because of Saddam Hussein's
repeated defiance of U.N. demands. That we are doing so without new approval
from the United Nations -- a situation that Mr. Daschle foresaw when he voted to
give Mr. Bush the authority to act unilaterally -- is the fault primarily of
France and Russia, which voted for a resolution that gave Saddam Hussein a
"last chance" to disarm and then refused to enforce it.
But being wrong isn't the same as being unpatriotic, as
a number of Republicans offensively suggested in response. Their coordinated
torrent of criticism does a disservice to the Republican Party and to American
values. Mr. Daschle's Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Bill Frist of
Tennessee, termed the remarks "irresponsible and counterproductive to the
pursuit of freedom." House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois went
further, saying the remarks "may not give comfort to our adversaries, but
they come mighty close." Criticizing Mr. Daschle's "second-guessing of
our commander in chief on the eve of war," Majority Whip Tom DeLay told Mr.
Daschle to shut his mouth, apparently thinking a French translation would make
the insult more cutting: "Fermez La Bouche, Monsieur Daschle,"
his press release was headlined. Responding to the onslaught, Mr. Daschle cited
the Roosevelt statement we have reprinted above.
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