Monday, January 29, 2007

GWB, Churchill he's not!

Go read Glenn Greenwald! I just did and he made me say: Yes! right out load.

He debunks this crap response that for anyone to criticize (in any way) the president... oh, excuse me, the Commander-in-Chief, demoralizes the troops and emboldens the enemy. BushCo acolytes are constantly comparing Dear Leader to Churchill, so Glenn very effectively does just that -- comparing Boy George to what the real Churchill did during a real war and the comparison leaves the emperor sadly naked.
But Churchill would have recoiled -- he did recoil -- at their argument that criticism of the Leader and the war are improper and hurts the war effort. Churchill repeatedly made the opposite argument -- that one of the strengths of democracies is that leaders are held to account for their decisions and that those decisions are subject to intense and vigorous debate, especially in war. In January, 1942, Britian had suffered a series of defeats and failures (which Churchill candidly acknowledged and for which he took responsibility), and he therefore addressed the House of Commons and insisted that a public debate be held in order to determine whether he still had the confidence of the House of Commons in his conduct of the war (h/t MD):

The House would fail in its duty if it did not insist upon two things, first, freedom of debate, and, secondly, a clear, honest, blunt Vote thereafter

Churchill then proceeded to give an account of the war and a defense of his strategic decisions (along with numerous admissions of grave error) far more detailed, substantive, lengthy and candid than any given by George Bush on any topic, at any time, during the last six years. He knew that he could and should continue in the war only if he had the support of the Parliament and his country for his decisions, and that support had to be earned through persuasion and disclosure. It was not an entitlement that he could simply demand.

Unlike our little Churchillian warriors today, the actual Churchill did not seek to stifle criticism or bully anyone into cheering for him by insisting that they would be helping the Enemy if they criticized him. To the contrary, he ended his 1942 address this way:
Therefore, I feel entitled to come to the House of Commons, whose servant I am . . . I have never ventured to predict the future. I stand by my original programme, blood, toil, tears and sweat, which is all I have ever offered, to which I added, five months later, "many shortcomings, mistakes and disappointments." But it is because I see the light gleaming behind the clouds and broadening on our path, that I make so bold now as to demand a declaration of confidence of the House of Commons as an additional weapon in the armoury of the united nations.
And several months earlier, in 1941, Churchill made the point -- in an address to the House of Commons -- that it would be absurd to turn Parliament into a mindless, rubber-stamping body given that parliamentary democracy was what England was fighting for in the war (h/t Sysprog):
The worst that could happen might be that they might have to offer some rather laborious explanations to their constituents. Let it not be said that parliamentary institutions are being maintained in this country in a farcical or unreal manner. We are fighting for parliamentary institutions. We are endeavouring to keep their full practice and freedom, even in the stress of war.

Churchill accomplished exactly that which Bush cannot manage -- namely, he convinced his country that the war he was leading was legitimate and necessary and that confidence in his war leadership was warranted. It's precisely because Bush is incapable of achieving that that he and his followers are now insisting that democratic debate itself over the Leader and the war is illegitimate and unpatriotic. One can call that many things. "Churchillian" isn't one of them. Nor, for that matter, is "American."


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