Back-Stabbing In Baghdad

Jingoistic sound bites before an election are nothing new in American politics. We’re now seeing our share, although some Democrats still seemingly yearn for a Vietnam reprise, including a Hanoi Jane moment.

But even nostalgia for bygone Saigon days of protest doesn’t explain — let alone excuse — the unconscionable behavior recently displayed by two Democratic congressmen, former whip David E. Bonior of Michigan and Jim McDermott of Washington. They traveled to Baghdad and allowed themselves to be used as propaganda props by Saddam Hussein.

Seemingly playing Charlie McCarthy to Saddam’s Edgar Bergen, McDermott declaimed that “the president would mislead the American people” in order to get his war. However, “you have to take the Iraqis on their value, at their face value.”

Not even John Walker Lindh would have so spoken. Nor Jane Fonda.

McDermott and Bonior have the right — obligation even — to speak out against what is the Administration’s unilateral, high-handed Iraqi policy. There’s no lack of rationales or domestic forums for such stands.

But you don’t take that stand in Baghdad. Even if you think you can co-opt a wag-the-dog scenario. Even if you’re promised a sleepover at the Presidential Palace of your choice. You don’t do your dissenting in the downtown of a dictator. This isn’t lobbying for peace; it’s aiding and abetting.

And isn’t that Jesse Jackson’s job?

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