Editorial Column: Republican Party Leader Says ‘all we need is some attacks on American soil’


Another Long Summer

Politics in the American style has never been particularly sane, to be sure. Every so often, however, the usual level of strangeness we’re accustomed to reaches a new gear, and the whole show just goes right over the moon. Over the last few years, we’ve pretty much been permanently locked into that higher gear, so it takes something exceptionally deranged to ring the cherries.

Leave it to a Republican Party official, of course, to spelunk our national dialogue into a whole new low. This latest installment for the You-Gotta-Be-Kidding-Me file came on Sunday, courtesy of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, in an interview with that state’s new Republican Party chairman. His name is Dennis Milligan, he runs a water treatment business, and he is very much hoping for more terrorist attacks on US soil so the policies of George W. Bush can be vindicated.

Yes, you read that correctly. Here’s the quote: “At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on (September 11, 2001), and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.”

Be warned: trying to wrap your mind around that thought-bomb is a perilous undertaking. In truth, an apology from me to you is in order, because everyone who reads that dreck will come away a little bit dumber for the effort. I’m sorry, but it had to be done.

Seriously, though, chew on that one for a while and try to ignore the taste. For the dwindling cadre of Bush supporters – defenders of the indefensible, one might say – it has come to this. Most Americans would probably agree that anyone actively and publicly cheerleading for another September 11 needs therapy, or maybe a good punch in the nose. For the Bush bitter-enders, however, such venal comments are now acceptable talking points.

Think about the mental, moral and philosophical contortions necessary to formulate a thought like that, especially in light of the events of the last few days. Fourteen more American troops were killed in Iraq; Bush’s people have advocated staying in Iraq for another 50 years; the so-called “surge” hasn’t come anywhere near accomplishing whatever nebulous goals were put forth at the outset; they are actually still looking for the much-ballyhooed WMD over there, and an overwhelming majority of Americans are now shoulder-to-shoulder with the anti-war Left in their disdain for this calamity, but none of that matters, because all we really need around here is a few more explosions and mass-casualty attacks. That’ll straighten us right out, don’tcha know.

To be sure, people like Mr. Milligan are fairly rare, and becoming rarer with every passing day; if the poll trends continue their current course, there won’t be enough Bush supporters left in the country to fill the roster on a Big East college football team. But this fellow isn’t some anonymous Limbaugh-addled flake. He’s in charge of the Republican Party in an entire state, one of fifty GOP state party chairman, and it is immeasurably telling that someone willing to say things like this on the record has been handed a position of such responsibility.

It’s hard to avoid feeling a little bit of genuine pity for people like this, because what we have here is unequivocally pitiful to behold. When the architecture of your integrity has crumbled to such a degree that you express a genuine desire for more carnage and horror, when your best political hand available requires successful acts of terrorism in America, you’ve become almost less than human, loathsome nearly beyond definition, and sad beyond measure.

There are a thousand explanations for our current situation – corporate media distortions, oil barons who hold high office, sixty years of foreign policy geared around the permanent wartime economic footing Truman established after Kennan’s long telegram from Moscow, the end of the Cold War, blowback from former-ally maniacs we armed and trained during that conflict – pick your poison – but people like Milligan serve to explain what ails us quite succinctly.

So much for pity.

The scariest part is the real possibility of Milligan getting his wish. The war he supports inspires and creates the terrorism he hopes will salvage his party’s standing, and if a solution isn’t found soon, the violence unleashed by this perfect circle of bloodshed may very well come calling.

A lot of people are waiting for the Democrats in Congress to thwart Milligan’s desires, but any legislative fix is still a ways off. A recent CBS-New York Times poll laid out the conundrum: a huge majority disapprove of the war and wants to withdraw, or at least wants timetables set for that withdrawal. That same poll, however, showed a meager 13 percent support cutting the war funding, which is pretty much the biggest club in the Democratic bag.

Those numbers bring to mind a poll, taken in Iraq a couple of years ago, that attempted to reveal what kind of government the Iraqi people wanted. According to the poll data, around 90 percent of all Iraqis desperately wanted democracy as their governing principle. That same poll, of those same people, also showed a 90 percent approval rating for the creation of an authoritarian dictatorial regime in Iraq.

The CBS poll provides the same kind of conflicted gibberish as that Iraq poll. Americans want out of Iraq, want timetables, they want this by big majorities … but they don’t want anyone to touch the money that sustains the war they hate. Congress has the purse strings, people want the war ended, but people don’t support Congress using their best weapon – those purse strings – to end the war. Any Congressional Democrat trying to thread that needle with legislation, absent a veto-proof majority, is pretty much doomed before getting out of bed in the morning.

Basically, it’s going to be another long summer. The Milligans among us still hold enough sway to keep this berserk train on the current tracks, the Democrats in Congress are still figuring out what it means to be in the majority, and Mr. Bush is about to embark on a six-nation jaunt through Europe that is almost certain to deliver another cascade of international humiliation upon these United States.

Gad zooks.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress.

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