Petraeus has spoken again. And somehow I feel like I did listening over the years to friends of mine whose dreams were just sure to come true someday, and whose ships were just bound to come in. They were, after all, promised this — over and over and over.
For some of them it was the assurance of that great job off in the distance, if they only played their cards right, and put up with a series of indignities and delays. For others it was a married lover who dawdled for years, insisting the divorce was just around the corner, followed by a long-awaited ‘happily ever after.’
Time passed. The coveted job was never attained. Some other excuse or twist of fate or competitor or company upheaval always got in the way. The journey down the aisle never happened either. There was always some reason, a good reason for sure, why it couldn’t. After awhile, with each of my disappointed friends, cynicism started to set in. The seemingly never-ending disappointment became utterly corrosive. Along with the broken hearts and dashed dreams came a grievously violated trust as the reality set in: the carrot will always be dangled just out of reach — and you’ll never quite reach it.
Every time General David Petraeus opened his mouth before two Senate committees, I thought of these friends of mine. Even in their dejection they were still among the lucky ones, comparatively speaking. They dealt with bitter disappointments in work and in love. But at least it wasn’t like they were left hanging — with a loved one almost literally held hostage by the Iraq War and those in charge who just somehow can’t find a way to end it.
The general’s assertions, and those of his partner, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, sounded like the fast-talkers who ground my friends down over the years. The hearts’ desires were always just over the next hill. Kind of like Iraq. Funny enough, one of my friends even faced the empty promise of ‘let’s give it another six months, and then we’ll see’ with no more satisfying results than what American taxpayers have been getting for several years now. None of my friends ever managed to pihn these weasels down with anything they could take to the proverbial bank, any more than Joe Biden or Carl Levin could manage with Petraeus and Crocker.
The problem for the rest of us goes far beyond keeping the light on in the window for the great job promotion or fairy-tale wedding. It’s precious American lives and limbs, and equally precious Iraqi lives and limbs that are being dangled just beyond our reach. It’s families literally torn apart. Moms and dads, lovers, spouses and fiancees and children waiting by the phone day after day, hoping and praying that they don’t get ‘that’ call or knock on the front door. It’s struggling family members trying to comfort and distract themselves with prayer, lit candles, and yellow ribbons. For others among us, it’s the one-thousandth petition or appeal to a Congressmember that yet again falls on deaf ears. We’re left clinging to nothing but platitudes, delays, empty promises and, if we get out of line, scare tactics to shut us up and frighten us yet again into compliance.
I found it hard to pay close attention to either Senate hearing that starred Petraeus and Crocker, because I knew the game that was going to be played — a game that this administration is determined to keep us from winning. It’s a game of charades by now, and we all know how it’s going to end for our team. I started wondering why this exercise in futility had even been scheduled. Nobody — not the Democrats nor a surprising number of Republicans (especially those like Voinovich and Coleman who’ll be facing the voters in November) — was going to get any straight answers, or clear view of any light at the end of any tunnel. It’s no tunnel anyway. It’s a bottomless pit.
And as with my disheartened friends, cynicism has set in. It was easy to predict what Senators like McCain and Lieberman were going to say. Yes, this occupation of Iraq is hell, like all wars are, but necessary, and the course surely must be stayed until it’s won (even though nobody’s quite certain what winning means anymore). And maybe we even need to start a second war in Iran now, too. If you like how things are now, you’re going to LOVE how they’ll go if McCain gets the reins. And at this point, I’m not even sure I can count on Clinton or Obama to bring us deliverance as quickly as we all need it. The system seems too rigged at this point, especially when the leading general insists we’re still making miniscule progress, but hardly enough even to sneeze at. I’m beginning to think it never will be enough, no matter how many years, triillions of dollars, and troops’ lives we throw at it. This isn’t warfare. This is extortion.
I’m beyond cynical at this point. I’m simply fed up. We’re past the time of giving it some more time. Time is UP. At some point you simply have to say ‘No More!’ We’ve given it our all in a war that’s lasted longer than ‘The War to End All Wars.’ And, frankly, we should never have gotten involved in this one in the first place. We need a new ‘Just Say NO’ program — not about drugs but about this war. And we need to make that stick. Any mother knows if you carry the little one around all the time, he or she will have no motivation to learn to walk. There comes a point where we have to hand it over to the Iraqis and step away completely. As long as we stay over there, we’re targets, and magnets for hatred and violence, and our presence merely prolongs the agony for everybody. We’ve tried everything else — with little success other than a virtual guarantee of an endless bummer.
Perhaps it’s time to do something completely different — like maybe getting OFF this never-ending treadmill.
Let’s simply say we won.
And then LEAVE.