Peter Beinart Continues His Effort to Wake Up Liberals

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Peter Beinart Continues His Effort to Wake Up Liberals

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:12 pm

latimes.com
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/com ... t-opinions

Harry Truman would have given terrorists hell
Democrats know how to fight real wars, not just political ones, says Peter Beinart.
By Peter Beinart
PETER BEINART is editor-at-large of the New Republic and author of "The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only Liberals -- Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again," published this month.

June 4, 2006

IN 1948, AMERICAN liberals went to war — with each other. The chief combatants were Henry A. Wallace, Franklin D. Roosevelt's former vice president and the most popular politician on the American left, and Harry S. Truman, Roosevelt's successor and a man widely derided as a party hack.

The issue was anti-communism and whether liberals should see it as a betrayal of their principles or as their natural culmination. For Wallace, liberals had one enemy: the reactionary right. For Truman, they had two: conservatives, to be sure, but also totalitarianism, in its communist as well as fascist guises. Liberalism, as Truman supporter Arthur Schlesinger famously put it, represented the "vital center" — defending social progress and individual freedom against tyrannies of both the right and left.

In one form or another, liberals have been replaying the Truman-Wallace argument ever since. Truman's anti-totalitarian liberalism carried the day in 1948 and reigned until Vietnam, when many liberals grew disgusted with the Cold War and nominated George McGovern, an old Wallace supporter, for president.

Even after the Soviet Union crumbled, Vietnam's legacy prevented most liberals from endorsing military action against the brutal Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, in 1991. But as the 1990s rolled on, Bill Clinton slowly learned some of Truman's lessons — culminating in the 1999 bombing campaign against Kosovo, a multilateral war to prevent the neo-fascist Slobodan Milosevic from cleansing ethnic Albanians from their homes.

Informed by Clinton's legacy, and by patriotic fury at Al Qaeda's terrorist attacks on the United States, Truman liberalism seemed ascendant in the wake of 9/11. Polling in the months after the attack showed Democrats just as likely as Republicans to see the war on terror as a just and urgent cause. Had Al Gore been president, he would almost certainly have overthrown the Taliban. And facing a jihadist movement that, like Nazism and communism, seeks to stamp out all independent civil society in pursuit of a purified, utopian state, anti-totalitarianism would have likely come to define American liberalism again.

Tragically, things have not worked out that way. Instead, George W. Bush was elected, and he has wielded the war on terror as a political cudgel, spurning bipartisan compromises on issues such as the Department of Homeland Security and domestic surveillance even when they were easily achievable. His disastrous war in Iraq (which some liberal hawks, like myself, mistakenly backed) has left liberals enraged.

As a result, the war on terror has become just what Karl Rove hoped it would be: a wedge issue. In early 2005, when the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation asked self-described liberals and conservatives to cite their top two foreign policy goals, conservatives rated destroying Al Qaeda as No. 1. Among liberals, by contrast, it tied for No. 10. Last November, an MIT survey found that only 59% of Democrats, as opposed to 94% of Republicans, still endorsed the Afghan war. And only 57% of Democrats said they would use military force "to destroy a terrorist camp." Courtesy of President Bush, Wallace liberalism is back.

Politically, the problems this creates are obvious because Democrats have long been branded as weak on national security, and Republicans will keep making that an issue in elections to come. But the danger is far deeper. Defeating jihadism will require relearning liberal anti-totalitarianism's lessons. What Truman understood — and Bush does not — is that for the United States to change the world, it must also change itself. For Cold War liberals, the struggle against communism and the struggle for civil rights were intertwined — because only by overcoming injustice at home could the U.S. inspire others to do so abroad. Moral progress, then as now, requires moral reciprocity. For the U.S. to promote freedom in the Islamic world, Americans and Middle Easterners must come together to define a common vision of democracy and human rights, one that challenges American actions at Guantanamo Bay as much as it challenges the autocratic regimes of the Arab world.

The vehicles for such reciprocity are international institutions and international law, something liberals — unlike neoconservatives — have long supported. From NATO and the United Nations to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the heyday of Cold War liberalism — the late 1940s — was an extraordinary period of institution building. Those institutions forged the democratic alliance that outlasted Soviet communism.

Today, they have atrophied. And they must be rebuilt to accomplish the myriad tasks — from monitoring loose nuclear materials, to promoting democracy, to intervening in failed states — that winning the war on terror will require.

In the nation's new anti-totalitarianism fight, the liberal tradition, properly understood, furnishes the intellectual and moral resources necessary for victory. If a new generation of liberals can look beyond their hatred of Bush, it is theirs to claim.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
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Post by Werner » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:21 pm

Corlyss: Kisses for posting a great piece. This guy knows where it's at - here's hoping the electorate at large will see the message.

It's so nice to be able to agree with you! Keep it up!
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:47 pm

Werner wrote:Corlyss: Kisses for posting a great piece. This guy knows where it's at - here's hoping the electorate at large will see the message.

It's so nice to be able to agree with you! Keep it up!
:oops: Kisses backattcha, Werner. I remain hopeful that liberals will recover themselves and their history someday. They aren't there yet, and may not in get there in my lifetime. But I'm hopeful. You might be interested in his book. When I can get it for a buck used, I'll pick it up.
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:52 pm

All politics is cyclical.

The Democrats will be back and then one day so will the Republicans.
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Re: Peter Beinert Continues His Effort to Wake Up Liberals

Post by pizza » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:17 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:latimes.com
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/com ... t-opinions

Harry Truman would have given terrorists hell
Arrant nonsense.

Instead of fighting the Communist Chinese, Harry Truman fought his own military and blew the Korean war. Now, 53 years later, we're looking at a rogue-state North Korea with nuclear armaments for sale. Give-'em hell Harry sure knew how to give-'em hell; problem was he didn't know where to aim.

Kennedy was the architect of the Bay of Pigs fiasco and persisted despite sound military advice against the invasion. Helluva job.

Carter-the-wimp allowed the mullahs to hold our embassy hostage for well over a year while kissing their derrieres and blew a feeble attempt at rescue. Reagan had them home in no time flat.

Clinton ignored years of Islamic terror. Turned tail and ran from Mogadishu. Finally threw a few missiles at an empty training camp in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan.

The liberals are exactly where they belong and if we're smart, they'll stay there.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:21 pm

I know there's a powerful case for the Dems being missing in action for the last 70 years with the exception of WW2. That's why I remain only hopeful, not confident. But as far as the threat from Islamofascists, we have to admit, Pizza, that the Republicans haven't done any better until Bush.
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Post by pizza » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:23 pm

Corlyss_D wrote: But as far as the threat from Islamofascists, we have to admit, Pizza, that the Republicans haven't done any better until Bush.
I could have sworn it was a Republican who kicked Saddam's ass out of Kuwait in '91.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:31 pm

pizza wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote: But as far as the threat from Islamofascists, we have to admit, Pizza, that the Republicans haven't done any better until Bush.
I could have sworn it was a Republican who kicked Saddam's ass out of Kuwait in '91.
The benies from that were completely wasted when he let Powell convince him that continued military operations "looked bad on TV" and that of course the US/Coalition really didn't need to go to Baghdad, crush Saddam, and remove him from power because our Intel said the generals would never tolerate a humiliating defeat without a coup. Spineless nice guy amiable dunce. Nope. He don't get any credit. Hell, until Maggie showed him, he didn't know where his balls were. He should have listened to her when she pleaded with him to finish the job. You and I both knew in March 91 that sooner or later, the job would in fact have to be done. Reagan was no better in the Islamic threat department.
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Post by Werner » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:42 pm

So now the Boy George got us where we are today. Is anyone but Pizza cheering?
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:46 pm

Werner wrote:So now the Boy George got us where we are today. Is anyone but Pizza cheering?
He's better than anything Dems now living could or would do. Yes, I regret only that he doesn't do as much as he should to carry the PR end of the war from the bully pulpit.
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Post by pizza » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:47 pm

We're not where you think we are, Werner. And as the great philosopher once said, "It ain't over 'till it's over!" You shouldn't believe everything you read in the MSM.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:49 pm

pizza wrote:We're not where you think we are, Werner. And as the great philosopher once said, "It ain't over 'till it's over!" You shouldn't believe everything you read in the MSM.
I'd feel better about Werner's reading habits if he at least read The New Republic, which Beinart used to edit. At least you get some conservative voices in there from time to time. It's must reading for me since its the only liberal rag I can stand. I could never hope to get him to read it's conservative equivalent, The Weekly Standard.
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Post by pizza » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:52 pm

Don't be too hard on Werner. He sometimes reads articles from Commentary if they're not too long, and occasionally, if begrudgingly, gives Norman Podhoretz and Gabriel Schoenfeld credit for penetrating thought and analysis. It's a sign that he's still thinking. :wink:

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Post by Werner » Sun Jun 04, 2006 3:58 pm

But not seduced!

But come to think of it, Pizza, I do admire your youthful optimism!
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Post by pizza » Sun Jun 04, 2006 4:28 pm

Well, I hope you're right, Werner. I try to view things in the best possible light. But I'm always mindful of the old saying: "A conservative at 20 has no heart; a liberal at 40, no brain!" :wink:

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Post by Werner » Sun Jun 04, 2006 6:04 pm

But you do keep learning past 40, don't you?
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Post by Brendan » Sun Jun 04, 2006 6:52 pm

As a old-fashioned conservative, I also feel the politics of the Right has been radicalized by neo-cons, corporatists (corporatism and captialism are not necessarily the same thing) and social reformers. Some on both sides, perhaps never in the extreme, feel that no one represents them in parliament on either side, let alone fringe parties - nor wants to.

I've been musing about the relationship of church and state recently, particularly in a place like Australia that basically has no church anymore, and expects the government to provide heaven on earth and right all wrongs - and some seem to desire an omni-present government and demand infinite care as a replacement for an omniscient deity - instead of infrastructure, defence and law & order. Perhaps a balance of church and state may require both.

My boss is an embittered former Buddhist, who declares the Middle Path for wimps and is the Great Lie of the world. I'm not so cynical of the Golden Mean myself, but seems long forgotten in the Culture Wars.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:14 pm

Brendan wrote:embittered former Buddhist, who declares the Middle Path for wimps and is the Great Lie of the world.
In spite of what Karen Armstrong wants us all to believe, it's not for the policeman of the world, either.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:57 am

Well what would you expect? That the Dems would pay attention to Beinart? When they can listen to Kos instead?

Peter Beinart and the Beltway Crusaders
Katrina vanden Heuvel

As Robert Borosage, co-Director of the Campaign for America's Future, argues in The Nation's current issue, "the current rage in center-right Democratic circles is to resuscitate Harry Truman, substitute bin Laden for Stalin and jihadism for Communism, and summon America to a new global struggle."

Peter Beinart, for example, who was a supporter of the Iraq disaster (and has joined New Dems like Al From in urging Democrats to prove their resolve by purging the left from the Democratic party) is a leading proponent of the misleading and wrong analogy between Soviet totalitarianism and Islamic fundamentalism. For this stance, Beinart has been celebrated by leading members of the commentariat axis --Tom Friedman, Joe Klein and David Brooks among others. More are sure to follow.

But Beinart and his inside-the-beltway crusaders are out of touch with an America that seeks a principled foreign policy that will make them secure--not a messianic crusade that will deplete the nation's blood and treasure. His fighting faith pledge to "rally the American people" to sustain an "extended and robust" occupation in Iraq, his calls for America to intervene aggressively in the Middle East with a "sweeping program of economic, political and social reform" are more likely to create chaos and, perhaps, breed more terrorism than advance the cause of democracy. It is important to remember that this kind of "fighting faith" has more in common with the least successful periods of US foreign policy--the crusade that led us into Vietnam, our support for the Afghan Muhajedin and Bush's disastrous war in Iraq. It would be difficult to find a security consensus that is more wrongheaded for the challenges the United States now faces, or more at odds with the best traditions of the Democratic Party.

Of course, liberals need an effective national security strategy. But can we please stop with all the hurrahs about Harry Truman and his liberal national security achievements? What we need to do is reclaim another liberal, internationalist and eminently (as well as ethically) "realist" foreign policy tradition. It is the "Good Neighbor" policy crafted and championed by Franklin Roosevelt.


A "Good Neighbor" policy stresses the need for a community of nations to keep the peace and to promote economic dignity and prosperity for people in the developing as well as developed worlds. This liberal internationalist tradition rejects unilateral dominance and favors developing a "community of power" to keep the peace; It gives priority to a system of international law and governance over "preemptive" wars and unilateralism; It understands that to be effective, our foreign policy must work in tandem with reforms at home--to improve security, quality of life and basic rights; It considers military power to be a complement to, not a substitute for, economic power and diplomacy; and it gives a more central role to spreading economic prosperity to ensure peace and stability and environmental sustainability.

It is time to reclaim this proud tradition, update it, and use the Good Neighbor frame to advance a new set of policy goals and principles for a rational security policy.That also means redefining strength to mean smart and strong--not strong and wrong.

What's encouraging is that recent polls show there is a mandate for such an approach. Polls taken by the Program in International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) find large majorities support "deep cuts in defense spending" and support for using the money to increase spending on education, job training, energy independence and veterans' benefits. Powerful support also exists for a strong United Nations, reducing nuclear weapon stockpiles, strengthening international treaties and negotiating trade agreements that protect labor and environmental rights.

(In a short piece in Sunday's Washington Post, Beinart nods to the value of interdependence and international institutions. But it seems slightly opportunistic at this stage-- as if part of an effort to distinguish himself from the neocons and to rehabilitate himself with genuine liberal internationalists.)

At the core of this alternative to Beinart and other beltway insiders' messianic crusade is a belief that we spread our values and model chiefly by force of successful example. That does not mean retreat or isolationism. It means challenging this administration --and too many Democratic leaders-- who have bought into an over-militarized approach to terrorism, including the establishment of military bases in the Middle East and Central Asia. This policy has been disastrously counter-productive-- transforming a limited terrorist threat into a breeding ground for a new wave of more radical Islamic jihadism.

A better approach --and one consistent with a "Good Neighbor" foreign policy--would address the legitimate political grievances of the Arab and Islamic world, lower America's military profile in the region and put an international face on US policy. Our goals should be to change the conversation from religious and cultural conflict to jobs and human development, and to stress the importance of strengthening the legitimacy and internal capacity of local governments to deal with Islamic militants.

Sadly, it will be difficult to undertake any of these new and hopeful directions as long as we remain mired in Iraq. With virtually no political leadership, Americans have turned against the war. Yet its human and economic costs are spiraling out of control, with no end in sight. We near the day when 2500 men and women will have died in this war and more than 16,000 wounded or maimed. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has estimated that the costs of war, occupation and related expenditures may reach two trillion dollars.

The best way to support the men and women who are serving in Iraq is to bring them home by the end of this year, as Rep. Jack Murtha, Senators Kerry, Kennedy and Feingold, among the few, have argued. (And as a recent Zogby poll showed, 72 percent of US troops serving in Iraq believe US forces should leave in the next year.)

It will not be easy, but our continued presence, as occupiers, inside the sectarian carnage of an unraveling civil war, and amidst revelations about Haditha, Ishaqi, Abu Ghraib, works against efforts to build stability or any modicum of sovereignty. As liberals we are clear that we do not intend to abandon Iraq or its beleaguered people. But our assistance should come not through military efforts but through international peacekeeping and humanitarian ones--to rebuild the war-torn economic and physical infrastructure.

These are perilous times--ones that raise large and fateful questions: what kind of country does the US want to be? Empire or republic? Global leader or global cop? Where is the America that, as Sherle Schwenninger observed in an important Nation article in July 2005, "is less one of warrior and preacher/proselytizer and more one of architect and builder., less one of imperial cop and more one of community leader. " American foreign policy should be be democratically accountable and guided by the nation's republican principles--and a belief that the US should not only oppose empires but eschew imperial policies.

I believe there are always alternatives in history and politics. But we must retrieve and fight for those traditions that counter the dangerous fantasies and follies of Beltway crusaders like Peter Beinart.
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Post by Barry » Tue Jun 13, 2006 9:57 am

Unbelievable. Sad.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid the only thing that will wake up the Democrats on national security is for the liberal wing of the party to succeed in pushing their agenda and getting the candidate of their choosing in 2008, then seeing them get slaughtered at the polls after campaigning on the same kind of b.s. that the writer pushes.

Plenty on the left didn't think Soviet Communism was as much a threat to us as it actually was (in terms of them trying to infiltrate the west), so why should they see Islamofascism any differently.
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Post by RebLem » Tue Jun 13, 2006 11:11 am

There are a couple of simple realities that have yet to be faced by the right about Gulf War I.

The first is that Saddam Hussein had a legitimate grievance against the Kuwaitis. The Kuwaities were drilling for oil near the border and were angling the pipes so that they drew oil from what everyone recognized as Iraqi territory.

The State Dept made a major error in instructing April Glaspie to tell Saddam that we would have no objection to their taking action without specifying what action would be acceptable. I think they just assumed that what Saddam would do would be to go in, take over the offending oil wells, and stop there. I don't think anyone had any idea he would overrun the whole country.

And then, instead of taking responsibility for a perhaps honest error, they decided to hang April Glaspie out to dry for the offense of doing exactly what she had been told to do. How can anyone with a sense of decency respect people who do that to conscientious public servants?

Secondly, it was well publicized at the time that the reason we didn't go all the way to Baghdad was that that was the condition the Saudis set ahead of time for their allowing us to launch to offensive against the Iraqi occupation from Saudi territory. Everybody knows that. It is sheer revisionist bunk to pretend otherwise.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 13, 2006 1:01 pm

RebLem wrote: There are a couple of simple realities that have yet to be faced by the right about Gulf War I.
We know 'em and faced 'em. We dismissed them, too.
The first is that Saddam Hussein had a legitimate grievance against the Kuwaitis. The Kuwaities were drilling for oil near the border and were angling the pipes so that they drew oil from what everyone recognized as Iraqi territory.
I guess that accounts for all that rhetoric about "retaking ancient Iraqi land."
I don't think anyone had any idea he would overrun the whole country.
Certainly not in Bush 41's administration, as deaf, dumb, and blind to the Islamofascist threat as Clinton, Reagan, Carter, and Nixon.
How can anyone with a sense of decency respect people who do that to conscientious public servants?
Probably the same way they defend Jefferson remaining on his committee while Alcee Hastings replaces a genuine patriot on the Intel committee. You'll have to explain it to me.
Secondly, it was well publicized at the time that the reason we didn't go all the way to Baghdad was that that was the condition the Saudis set ahead of time for their allowing us to launch to offensive against the Iraqi occupation from Saudi territory. Everybody knows that. It is sheer revisionist bunk to pretend otherwise.
It's not pretense to claim that the really nice but clueless Bush 41 had no brain, spine, stomach, or balls to leave Saddam in power. Thatcher knew it. I knew it in 1991, not just in 2002. My mother knew it. I have several friends who knew it. In other words, it was geo-political strategic witlessness to fail to press our advantage there. What were "our good friends" the Saudis going to do? Ask us to leave Saudi Arabia? Leave their defense to UBL and his prayer strategy? I know! They would have done nothing and deployed fanatic terrorists against us! Oh, wait. No. That's what they did when we didn't invade Iraq!!!!!
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Post by Barry » Tue Jun 13, 2006 2:53 pm

Corlyss_D wrote: It's not pretense to claim that the really nice but clueless Bush 41 had no brain, spine, stomach, or balls to leave Saddam in power. Thatcher knew it. I knew it in 1991, not just in 2002. I have several friends who knew it. In otherwords, it was geo-political strategic witlessness to fail to press our advantage there. What were "our good friends" the Saudis going to do? Ask us to leave Saudi Arabia? Leave their defense to UBL and his prayer strategy? I know! They would have done nothing and deployed fanatic terrorists against us! Oh, wait. No. That's what they did when we didn't invade Iraq!!!!!
Not to mention the immorality of encouraging the Kurds and others in Iraq to rise up against Saddam, then telling our soldiers to stand by and do nothing to help when Saddam's thugs murdered any potential troublemakers by the thousands.
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Post by Werner » Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:24 pm

Devil's advicate turn: Perhaps (or not so perhaps) history may show that 43's experience proves that 41 had a point.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jun 14, 2006 12:18 am

Werner wrote:Devil's advicate turn: Perhaps (or not so perhaps) history may show that 43's experience proves that 41 had a point.
So far, it's looking like the otherway round. Wouldn't 500,000 troops in Iraq just about do the trick, restoring order? Al Qaeda didn't exist then. Saddam hadn't had his troops trained in guerilla warfare then. Iran was not in a position to interfere with us there, bein' so soon after the Iraq/Iran war. The Russians were on the ropes from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Who would have denied us then? Who? Bush 41 should be flogged thru the streets naked for leaving this mess to someone else to straighten out.
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Post by Barry » Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:49 am

Just caught the end of Bush's press conference. The last or one of the last questioners pointed out to him that Kerry recently said he regretted his vote in favor of authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq and that Hillary was boo'd when she said she opposed a timeline for withdrawing the troops.

Bush gave a pretty spirited response, finishing off by saying, quite accurately I think, that our enemies think that western capitalist countries are soft and that they can outlast us. He said he's going to proove them wrong about that and that he won't be influenced to leave Iraq prematurely by polls.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

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