When Attacking the Patriotism of Others is Your Only Exit Strategy
It is heartening to see that increasingly, the American public is demanding accountability and a re-evaluation of our strategy in Iraq. In towns across the country and in the chambers of Congress, there has been an advancement of dialogue and civil debate, where one’s initial position on the war no longer matters, replaced instead by genuine convictionand concern for the wellbeing of our troops and our national security.
It is unfortunate then, that at a time when the national divide has begun to heal, members and defenders of the Bush administration’s policies continue to resort to the politics of divisiveness, pulling out one of the oldest and nastiest tricks in the bag to wrench the divide back open again.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen President Bush and Vice President Cheney lash out at their critics, lambasting the “rewrite of history” and, so predictably, calling into question the patriotism of Americans, while offering only a “stay the course” prescription for success. Such abominable tactics are unfortunately just as present on the Cornell campus, where conservatives have taken to attacking the motives of those who dare to criticize the President.
These tactics are despicable. Some of these attacks have been directed at Turn Left, in what seems to be a Cornell conservative talking point that Turn Left— by virtue of its selection of cover images —is unpatriotic and endangering our troops.
The Cornell American—which continues to be as juvenile, self-absorbed, and illegitimate as we’ve come to expect — has led the charge. In a cleverly titled and typo-ridden article “Turn Left Turns on Our Troops” in their November issue, writer Joseph Clark threw a tirade, accusing us of providing “propaganda for the enemy we fight,” for having “no ideas,” for concluding that “the United States is the source of all the world’s ills,” and for being “simply antieverything associated with the United States.”
Clark also spewed numerous falsehoods regarding our paper’s positions, leading us to believe that he has never thoroughly read any of our issues. Never have we called for “an end to the so called [sic] occupation,” and it is a completely false claim that we “always [show] American soldiers in such unfavorable positions.”
This leads to the inspiration of Mr. Clark’s article: our supposedly seditious front cover images. As evidence, he points out three cover photos: the first, of two dead Iraqis with American soldiers nearby, the second, showing an American soldier hugging a fatally injured Iraqi girl to his chest, and lastly, the photo from our November issue, which was taken on the day of the Iraqi referendum and shows a blindfolded Iraqi man who had been suspected of transporting explosives in his car, along with the reflection of a smiling soldier in the car window.
Leaving aside the fact that none of these photos show our troops in a negative light, we ask whether conservatives deny that these incidents did indeed occur. All photos were culled from wire services and taken by embedded reporters. Last issue’s photo, which so raised the ire of conservatives on campus, was taken by a Reuters reporter and was featured prominently on MSNBC.com. If conservatives truly believe that it is these images—rather than incompetence—that is crippling our mission in Iraq, they should call for censorship in the mainstream media.
Mr. Clark’s spin on our photos is artful: the American soldier is “smiling callously in the background,” that the “so-called innocent Iraqi [was] fighting with nobility for his liberation against the sinister American Imperialists.” Yet for those who do not suffer from insidious-motive paranoia, it is clear that the images in question displayed, at a minimum, a neutral view. Indeed, the image of the compassionate American soldier clutching the Iraqi baby with his head bowed was a reflection of the tragic circumstances that have prevailed in Iraq— of death, and of sadness at the loss of life.
Above all, it is ironic that Mr. Clark blasts Turn Left and other liberals for having no ideas when the Cornell American has dedicated far more column space this past year to admiring the Confederacy and reprinting misleading graphs from racist organizations rather than engaging in substantive discussions. Meanwhile, our paper has produced many articles with perspectives on the situation in Iraq. None of them have called for an immediate withdrawal, contrary to the Cornell American’s claims.
In the end, having run out of tales of liberal sedition, Clark strangely enough offers no ideas of his own regarding the situation in Iraq. It is laughable that conservatives who so feverishly supported a war that has been so poorly executed have the audacity to turn around and blast liberals for not coming up with ideas to bail them out.
We hope that the Bush administration will do better by taking the initial step of finally drawing up with a fresh strategic plan, regardless of whether or not it calls for phased withdrawal or no withdrawal at all, as long as the President acknowledges past mistakes, listens to alternate ideas from both within and outside the military, re-establishes his credibility, and provides the American public with a comprehensive, accountable, step-by-step roadmap. With the majority of Americans now supporting a phased withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, and with President Bush’s sinking approval ratings, it is imperative that the President takes the first step of acknowledging current difficulties and past mistakes, for until the President comes clean to the American people and to members of Congress, it will be impossible to accurately gauge and trust the White House’s progress reports on Iraq, which further impedes our efforts to make actual progress.
He and other Republicans such as Congresswoman Jean Schmidt must stop their insinuations that critics are unpatriotic cowards, especially when attacking decorated former Marines such as Rep. Jack Murtha. For President Bush to imply that our elected leaders do not fully stand by our troops is an untruthful message to send to our troops. It is a gross betrayal of our trust for Mr. Bush to claim to speak for our support and our convictions.
We hope that Americans continue to come together to think carefully about our options in Iraq, and that such dialogue is fostered on the Cornell campus, while divisive patriotism-bashing from the Cornell American is shunned. During my tenure as editor-in-chief of Turn Left, I have always called for respectful, professional discourse on campus and the incorporation of these values into our organizational culture. In closing this last Editor’s Desk editorial before I step down, I implore for everyone in the campus community to hold themselves to the highest standards, and to recognize and reject those who engage in sensational and divisive antics that put forth no substantive merits.