THE VIEW FROM NEBRASKA AND INDIANA

This article was published in Sunday’s Denver Post. I’ve bolded parts for easy skimming:

Published: Sunday, September 19, 2004
Nebraska GOP red has shade of anger
By John Aloysius Farrell
Denver Post Washington Bureau Chief

Washington – When it comes to presidential politics, there is no more reliably Republican state than Nebraska. In the course of the past 50 years, it has edged out Indiana, Mississippi – even Utah – as the deepest swath of red of all.

The emerging streak of anti-war sentiment in the Nebraska delegation to Congress, therefore, is downright noteworthy.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., seethed last week as he cross-examined administration witnesses at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Hagel, a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said he is deeply skeptical about the claims of progress that President Bush and his advisers have made about Iraq. The Nebraskan compared “this mess” to the U.S. failures in Vietnam.

“We are in deep trouble,” he warned.

Hagel chided “all these smart guys who got us in there (to Iraq) … all the smart guys who said how easy this was going to be and who reassured us not to worry.”

The topic of the hearing was a package of $87 billion that Congress approved for Iraq last fall. Sen. John Kerry voted against it, and Bush often cites that vote when arguing that Kerry can’t be trusted to keep the U.S. safe.

But while the Pentagon and its contractors have run through their share of the $87 billion, the administration has failed to spend much of the $18.4 billion earmarked for rebuilding Iraq’s economy.

Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana – another dependably red state – chaired the hearing.

“Of the $18.4 billion the Congress appropriated for Iraq more than 10 months ago, only $1.1 billion has been disbursed,” Lugar said. “This is an extraordinary, ineffective administrative procedure. It is exasperating.”

As conditions in Iraq deteriorate, the administration now wants to shift $2 billion of the unspent money to pay for military and security costs.

Lugar chastised the “blithely optimistic people … the dancing-in-the-street crowd” in the Bush administration who assured Congress that casualties and costs would be low and that U.S. troops would be met as liberators.

“Now,” said Lugar, “the nonsense of all of that is apparent. The lack of planning is apparent.”

Lugar read aloud from a letter he received from a Marine second lieutenant serving in Iraq.

“My guys never fail to step up to any challenge,” the lieutenant wrote. But “this war is one that cannot be won by Marines and soldiers. The only thing we can do is to keep a lid on it and buy time. We chase the mujahedeen around and, in doing so, catch and kill a few.

“In a society with no jobs, a faltering economy and little or no infrastructure, there is plenty of incentive to fight,” the lieutenant wrote. “The incentive needs to be removed.”

Hagel joined Lugar and the panel’s Democrats in endorsing the lieutenant’s sentiments.

“The military is not going to ultimately win Iraq,” said Hagel, who then drew on a phrase from the Vietnam War. “You don’t win the hearts and minds of the people at the end of a barrel of a gun.

“This is how we get ourselves into trouble: when we delude ourselves,” said Hagel, referring to administration assurances that great progress has been made. “Of $4.2 billion designated for water and sanitation, $16 million has been spent; … of $786 million earmarked for health, $2 million has been spent. It’s beyond pitiful. It’s beyond embarrassing. It is now in the zone of dangerous.”

The Senate hearing came midway through a month in which, after a summer of political fancies, the reality of war has returned with a vengeance to the nation’s capital.

August was among the costliest months of the war, and the pace of casualties has accelerated in September. The White House admits that a gloomy CIA intelligence estimate warns that Iraq may collapse into civil war. The Pentagon acknowledges there are now swaths of Iraq under the control of terrorists and insurgents.

Before he retired Aug. 31, Republican Rep. Doug Bereuter, who represented eastern Nebraska for 13 terms in Congress, sent an extraordinary letter to his constituents.

The prewar reports of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction represent a “massive intelligence failure,” Bereuter wrote. And “the inability of the administration to clearly establish a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam (Hussein), despite the intimations of various administration leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney, is no surprise.”

The war is “a mistake,” Bereuter wrote. “The cost in casualties is already large and growing, and the immediate and long-term financial costs are incredible.”

There is little chance the president will lose Nebraska’s five Electoral College votes this fall.

But if Bush can’t convince Nebraska Republicans that he’s fighting the right war against terror, how will he fare in battleground states?

It may be a sign his Iraq policy, and his re-election hopes, are indeed in deep trouble.

John Aloysius Farrell’s column appears each Sunday. Contact him at jfarrell@denverpost.com.

☞ If you heard Senator Kerry’s speech yesterday morning, you know we can do better.

TINY URLs – 2

Ralph Sierra: ‘I first read about URL crunchers in one of your previous columns. They’re great. I recommend snipurl.com because of its ability to create “snips” you can actually remember (‘snipurl.com/honda’ instead of snipurl.com/436a) and (2) the ability to password protect them.’

GNATS

Thanks to Bill Spaced, Bob Fyfe, Stefan Kujawa and several others who showed me how to turn off ‘save embedded tags’ in Word, so Nevada, and other places and times and so on, no longer have little red dots beneath them.

NITS

In early editions of Friday’s column I included some governorships that had not switched from Republican to Democrat since 2000. Corrected, thanks to your e-mails. Also, at first I was using the $9,000 figure for the pay cut between the new jobs being created and the old jobs being lost. One of you persuaded me it’s not possible to know that number with much certainty, so I deleted it.

CATS

Mike Gavaghan: ‘Alec could have even more fun thinning his junk mail by using the name of a favorite pet. That trick led to our cat getting offered a ‘pre-approved’ credit card. Click here.’

Tomorrow: E.L. Doctorow

 

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