Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Republican hypocrisy, on display again

Sure, in all fairness, Republicans have far from a monopoly on hypocrisy. However, in this recent AlterNet posting by Joshua Holland (), the stark slipperiness of certain Republican legislators comes into sharp focus. Today's contestant is Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex), who passionately argued that the whole debate about the wisdom (or lack thereof) in the current President's war plans was damaging to the morale of our soldiers. He went on to discuss his experiences as a POW in Vietnam, and how he felt criticism of that war and a threat of a cut in funding for the troops was so devastating. Here's the highlights of his speech from the House floor:

"Now it's time to stand up for my friends who did not make it home - and those who fought and died in Iraq - so I can keep my promise that when we got home we would quit griping about the war and do something positive about it…and we must not allow this Congress to leave these troops like the Congress left us.

"Today, let my body serve as a brutal reminder that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past… instead learn from them.

"We must not cut funding for our troops. We must stick by them. We must support them all the way…To our troops we must remain…always faithful."

Powerful stuff. Of course, when he was debating the American deployment in Bosnia in 1995 -- when American soldiers were fighting and dying, although not in the same numbers aw Iraq -- his passion for supporting the troops no matter what you thought of the Commander in Chief was a little different. Here's the juicy stuff:

"Mr. Speaker, this is not about peace and war; it is about war. That is what is going on over there, and they are not going to stop fighting just because we go in there.

"I wholeheartedly support withholding funds from President Clinton's Bosnia mission. Although it is a drastic step and ties the President's hands, I do not feel like we have any other choice. The President has tied our hands, gone against the wishes of the American people, and this is the last best way I know how to show my respect for our American servicemen and women. They are helpless, following orders. But we, we are in a position to stop this terrible mistake before it happens. […]

"Thirty years ago when I was sent to Vietnam in a similar situation, Vietnam started out as a peace type mission, no defined goal, no exit strategy, no idea whose side we were on, and a created incident to gain support of the Congress. A peacekeeping mission? Come on. Does this not sound just like a carbon copy? I think it is."

I'm really amazed that we haven't heard more about the Republican criticism of President Clinton in Bosnia. I would be shocked if there weren't more quotes like Rep. Johnson's sitting in the Congressional Record, just waiting to evicerate the "morale protectors" currently inhabiting Congress.

(Of course, the best morale booster would be to be pulling our troops out of policing a civil war and use them to encourage the political settlement that ultimately got them out of Bosnia, but that's another post for another day, isn't it?)

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Digby did some digging and came up with this rather startling philosophical turnaround by Texas Congressman Sam Johnson.

Here's Johnson last week, during the debate -- I use the word loosely -- over the House's resolution opposing Bush's escalation plan:

"You know, the time will come when they can put the money behind these non-binding resolutions….. and you better believe that we'll be watching them …and calling them on those funding cuts loud and clear.

"America needs to know: cutting funds for our troops in harm's way is not a remedy - it's a ruse. […]

"We POWs were still in Vietnam when Washington cut the funding for Vietnam. I know what it does to morale and mission success. Words can not fully describe the horrendous damage of the anti-American efforts against the war back home to the guys on the ground.

"Our captors would blare nasty recordings over the loud speaker of Americans protesting back home…tales of Americans spitting on Vietnam veterans when they came home… and worse.

"We must never, ever let that happen again.

"The pain inflicted by your country's indifference is tenfold that inflicted by your ruthless captors. […]

"The grim reality is that this House measure is the first step to cutting funding of the troops…Just ask John Murtha about his 'slow-bleed' plan that hamstrings our troops in harm's way.

"Now it's time to stand up for my friends who did not make it home - and those who fought and died in Iraq - so I can keep my promise that when we got home we would quit griping about the war and do something positive about it…and we must not allow this Congress to leave these troops like the Congress left us.

"Today, let my body serve as a brutal reminder that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past… instead learn from them.

"We must not cut funding for our troops. We must stick by them. We must support them all the way…To our troops we must remain…always faithful."

Wow. A real barn-burner, hunh? This guy has some serious principles, principles that were hard-won as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Or maybe not.

Here's Johnson when U.S. troops were in the field in the Balkans, and the president had a 'D' next to his name …

UNITED STATES TROOP DEPLOYMENTS IN BOSNIA (House of Representatives - December 13, 1995)

Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas:

"Mr. Speaker, this is not about peace and war; it is about war. That is what is going on over there, and they are not going to stop fighting just because we go in there.

"I wholeheartedly support withholding funds from President Clinton's Bosnia mission. Although it is a drastic step and ties the President's hands, I do not feel like we have any other choice. The President has tied our hands, gone against the wishes of the American people, and this is the last best way I know how to show my respect for our American servicemen and women. They are helpless, following orders. But we, we are in a position to stop this terrible mistake before it happens. […]

"Thirty years ago when I was sent to Vietnam in a similar situation, Vietnam started out as a peace type mission, no defined goal, no exit strategy, no idea whose side we were on, and a created incident to gain support of the Congress. A peacekeeping mission? Come on. Does this not sound just like a carbon copy? I think it is."

Now those are some purely flexible, wholly partisan “principles” in action.

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