The Lady Speaks

Walter Cronkite: Our Troops Must Leave Iraq

Nearly forty years ago, my mother was a senior in high school, our country was mired in an unwinnable war, and Walter Cronkite had returned returned from a trip to Vietnam. At the end of his February 27, 1968 broadcast, he made editorial statement calling for the return of American troops.

Part of what he had to say then:

“… For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer’s almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation;

[snip]

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” [Emphasis mine]

The war dragged on for another 7 years after Mr. Cronkite spoke out against it, finally ending with helicopters landing on roofs. Pride, stubbornness, a refusal to listen to reason or to the voices of the American people – many of the same facets we see today in our President and his supporters’ refusal to admit the truth: Iraq is a quagmire, we have lost (or never held) the hearts and minds of the people, the Iraq government is a corrupt sham, and we cannot win.

Today, my son is a senior in high school, we are against mired in an unwinnable, illegal war, and Walter Cronkite has issued a joint statement with David Kreiger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation — which can be read in full here — calling for US troops to leave Iraq, and calling on Congress and the people of the United States to stand up and make it happen.

An excerpt:

The war in Iraq reminds us of the tragedy of the Vietnam War. Both wars began with false assertions by the president to the American people and the Congress. Like Vietnam, the Iraq War has introduced a new vocabulary: “shock and awe,” “mission accomplished,” “the surge.” Like Vietnam, we have destroyed cities in order to save them. It is not a strategy for success.

The Bush administration has attempted to forestall ending the war by putting in more troops, but more troops will not solve the problem. We have lost the hearts and minds of most of the Iraqi people, and victory no longer seems to be even a remote possibility. It is time to end our occupation of Iraq, and bring our troops home.

[snip]

We must ask ourselves whether continuing to pursue this war is benefiting the American people or weakening us. We must ask whether continuing the war is benefiting the Iraqi people or inflicting greater suffering upon them. We believe the answer to these inquiries is that both the American and Iraqi people would benefit by ending the US military presence in Iraq.

Moving forward is not complicated, but it will require courage. Step one is to proceed with the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and hand over the responsibility for the security of Iraq to Iraqi forces. Step two is to remove our military bases from Iraq and to turn Iraqi oil over to Iraqis. Step three is to provide resources to the Iraqis to rebuild the infrastructure that has been destroyed in the war.

Congress must act. Although Congress never declared war, as required by the Constitution, they did give the president the authority to invade Iraq. Congress must now withdraw that authority and cease its funding of the war.

It is not likely, however, that Congress will act unless the American people make their voices heard with unmistakable clarity. That is the way the Vietnam War was brought to an end. It is the way that the Iraq War will also be brought to an end. The only question is whether it will be now, or whether the war will drag on, with all the suffering that implies, to an even more tragic, costly and degrading defeat. We will be a better, stronger and more decent country to bring the troops home now. [emphasis mine]

Quite a compelling statement from a man who was truly “the most trusted name in news” not like that pathetic network of hacks and shills.

It is to our misfortune that we do not have more heroes like this: men and women who tell the truth to power, regardless of who it hurts or who it helps. Who value their personal integrity. Who believe in giving viewers and readers both sides of the story and allowing them to come to their own conclusions based on the facts.

So, the question is: what will the wingers do to discredit Walter Cronkite? Even the hard-core Fox News watcher — average age of 65, I believe — remembers and respects Walter Cronkite.

They remember that somber face, the struggle for words before he announced the death of President Kennedy.

They remember that Lyndon Johnson, upon hearing (of) Cronkite’s editorial, reputedly said: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the American people.”

They remember the excitement on his face when Apollo 11 reached the moon, the reports on Watergate, the man who, upon retiring, said, “Old anchormen, you see, don’t fade away; they just keep coming back for more.”

It’s hard to attack someone as beloved and universally-respected as Walter Cronkite. But you can bet they’ll find a way.

The even harder question keeps me awake at night: Will this war also continue for another 7 years — and will it end in exactly the same way?

December 5, 2007 - Posted by | America, Bush, Cheney, Civil War, Government, Iraq, Middle East, Military, Pentagon, Politics, Protest, Television, US Military, Vietnam, War, White House

2 Comments »

  1. Having grown up thru Viet Nam, and watching young men and women die in a war, we later learned was based on lies. Knowing the pain of sending a family member to this God-Forsaken land, and seeing him hurt mentally and physically, from it, for the rest of his life. Then dying too soon..from a life of pain…
    And now seeing this repeated in Iraq..I fear it all will end the same.

    We do not seem to have the heroes of those days…the Robert Kennedy’s, The Martin Luther Kings, Ralph Abernathies, Jane Fonda’s, and, indeed, Walter Cronkite to stand up, and say NO MORE.

    It needs to end, but I have little faith, and
    “That’s the way it is…” December 7, 2007.

    Comment by mom | December 7, 2007 | Reply

  2. And, of course, the 18 months when Uncle Skip was MIA that you and the family spent not knowing where he was, or whether he was even alive. I cannot begin to imagine that kind of terror.

    This is one of the things that really bothers me – we don’t have those voices. We have some – but standing up also means being attacked by the right-wing forces. Look what they did to Cindy Sheehan…and what they do to anyone else who gets in the way of their “Greatest War and Greatest President EVAH!!” narrative

    I think of so many of the events of the late 60’s and early 70’s – those moments where the people stopped and asked “What is happening, and what is our country becoming?” The Summer of Love, the 1968 Democratic convention, RFK’s assassination, MLK’s assasination, Kent State…

    Of course, the difference between now and then was that the news media talked about the protests, talked about the wrongs the government did — and said they were wrongs. People of all ages were watching when thugs at the convention knocked down Dan Rather, they were watching the aftermath of Kent State. There was no attempt to spin the truth to make it palatable for the powers that be — or to ignore it completely.

    As Chris Chandler* says [paraphrasing] “There were more protesters on the streets at the start of Oil War II than at the height of the Vietnam war. But you didn’t see it on TV. […] Now they build a fence around you and call it a ‘Protest Zone'”

    *”Something’s In the Air/But It’s Not on the Airwaves” — from American Storyteller Volumes 1 & 2, 2005. Go visit Chris here.

    Comment by PA_Lady | December 7, 2007 | Reply


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