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Sorry, Mr. President, we won't shut up

The Orange Grove: Even with the left discredited, Bush can't expect to go unchallenged over war

Adviser to Freedom Communications

President Bush spoke to military personnel at Elmendorf Air Force in Alaska Nov. 14.

associated press

Does President Bush believe that by his announcing that critics of the Iraq war dampen our troops' morale he will prevent such criticism? Does he believe his words will silence critics and raise troop morale?

This is America, and if Americans share a common trait, it's rebellion at those who wield power. Well, they used to, anyway - most of them. Remember, this country was born in revolution.

There is irritating stuff in some criticisms of this war. Too many critics have lost their credibility about chiding government for extending its brute powers. The left likes big government and wants it to perform innumerable "precautionary" measures in every nook and carry of society.

The left, with its irrational enthusiasm for (even exuberance with) every government program aiming to right the wrongs of society, is hypocritical in trying now to rein in government when it comes to this particular exercise overseas.

Just like during the Vietnam War, the left complains that we're all being taxed for something that few support. Yet the same could be said about the New Deal, New Frontier and Great Society social programs. These statists would retort, however, that it's all good with government intervention, redistribution, expropriation, and regulation.

OK, then what's all the fuss about a little preemptory, precautionary war in Iraq?

Still, Bush should have stayed away from his censorial lament, aired previously by his first attorney general, John Ashcroft. It won't fly - this is not the Soviet Union (yet).

I have been laying off the war partly because the United States, being steeped in it, probably should get more solid, expert advice on how to extricate itself. The whole thing was ill-conceived, ill-commenced and should at least be well-concluded. Fretting now about why this is a botched operation isn't too useful.

But now that Bush raised the matter so unwisely, let's see why it is a good thing all around to keep up the critical scrutiny he wishes to discourage if not outright suppress. First, everyone needs to get a very clear idea that the U.S. military's job is defending the country from those who would - or are highly likely about to - attack us. The military (or at least the Marines) are not, as stated one grossly misconceived bumper sticker that I saw back in the early 1990s, "The 911 of the world." It should only be the 911 of Americans and so resist the temptation to go gallivanting about the globe involving itself with nation-building and Operation Iraqi, or whatever country's, freedom.

Second, once committed to the war, every bit of brain power and moral fiber is required not to succumb to complacency about it, lest this country turn into the very thing those troops have been sent to reform, a suppliant dictatorship. This is a bad war, and it is time that those with the know-how put their minds to answering the question of how to undo the damage and leave without provoking further tragedy.

Third, our future could benefit from this ill-begotten war if we remember that it was far from inevitable, that with wiser counsel it could have been avoided and other policies instituted to help those Iraqis - by no means even so many - who really want to live in a genuinely free country (as opposed to those wanting to take hold of power and force all to live by their creed).

No, Mr. President, it is not a wise thing to tell us all to shut up to suit your likely embarrassment over an impossible situation from which you will not likely emerge with a swell presidential legacy. The troops, by the way, will do just fine. They may even be proud knowing that citizens back home haven't gone to sleep on their citizenship job of taking government to task when it's justified.

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