Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Buzz” Patterson is author of the upcoming book War Crimes: The Left’s Campaign to Destroy Our Military and Lose the War on Terror (Crown Forum, June). As the president prepares to veto Congress’s timetabled war-funding bill, Lt. Col. Patterson took some questions from NRO editor Kathryn Lopez about the Democratic congressional majority, war reporting, and more.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Your upcoming book begins with a quote from Cicero about how a nation “cannot survive treason from within.” Surely you’re not calling Democrats traitors. Or are you?
“Buzz” Patterson: I am. They certainly are if their behavior during our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is held up to the light of the U.S. Constitution. Article III, Section 3 defines treason against the United States as “adhering to (our) enemies, giving them aid and comfort. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, and John Murtha, amongst others, are guilty of exactly that. When a government official stands on the floor of Congress and declares the war lost; or travels to Syria, a state-sponsor of terror, and meets with the leadership that is funneling insurgents into Iraq to kill Americans; or, publicly compares our military men and women to Nazis, Soviets in gulags, and Pol Pot; or refers to our Marines as “cold blooded killers” before an ongoing investigation is completed and charges filed, they have crossed the line and have taken their politics to the battlefield. These are behaviors that give aid and comfort to our enemy.
It’s not just the Democrats though but many on the Left — its faculties and administrations on college campuses, big media, Hollywood, and left-wing organizations such as the Ford Foundation, Moveon.org, United for Peace and Justice, etc. What is particularly disturbing to me is that these Americans are doing it while their fellow citizens are fighting and dying in combat. The best ally that al Qaeda has these days is the Democrat Party leadership. It’s reprehensible.
Lopez: Is it fair even to say “The Left has declared war on the U.S. military and the global War on Terror”? And your title! The Left doesn’t want to destroy the military, for Pete’s sake.
Lt. Col. Patterson: Not only do I absolutely believe that Democrats have declared war on an American victory in the War on Terror but that’s generally been the case since 1968. They’re opposed to all uses of military force unless one of their guys is in the White House. In 1968, it was Vietnam and President Lyndon Johnson was too hawkish for them. The New Left adroitly turned a military victory overseas into a humiliating national defeat which the Democrats successfully parlayed into political capital, winning Congress and the White House. Now, it’s Iraq and the War on Terror. Different war, same game plan. Democrats win if America loses.
By facilitating defeat against Islamo-fascism, Democrats have placed the U.S. military squarely in the cross-hairs as well. But, again, this is nothing new. For decades liberals have attempted to emasculate the armed forces. In my years serving as military aide to President Bill Clinton, I gained an intimate understanding of how he and the Left regarded the military. Take a look at the Department of Defense budget over the last 40 years — when a Democrat is in the White House the military and our intelligence agencies take huge hits in terms of funding and support. When a Republican president is in office, the military and intelligence organizations receive the necessary funding for procurement, pay, and logistics. Fortunately, we’ve only had two Democrat commanders-in-chief over that span, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In my opinion, arguably the two worst military leaders in our country’s history, certainly within the last 100 years. Not only doesn’t the Left understand military culture, but in fact they regard it with utter disdain.
Lopez: But don’t we all support the troops?
Lt. Col. Patterson: The Left’s “support” of our military consists of constant undermining or ignoring of the successes in Iraq and Afghanistan (and there have been many), legislation calling for outright defeat, grossly exaggerating or embellishing the misdeeds of a few miscreants at Abu Ghraib, championing baseless claims of torture at Guantanamo Bay, and staging antiwar rallies across the country. Our troops certainly don’t need or deserve those sorts of support.
How can somebody claim to support the troops while they demean them publicly (as John Kerry has done routinely since 1971) and not support the combat that we, as a nation, ordered them into? The reality is the Left doesn’t understand the military, in many cases finds military service distasteful and beneath them, and apparently doesn’t nearly understand the threat we face.
Lopez: Democratic defeatism wasn’t born yesterday. Is there anything the White House or someone else could have done to avoid the showdown we’re seeing today over funding? Well, other than winning.
Lt. Col. Patterson: Absolutely. The endgame, of course, is victory, not only in Iraq but more importantly in the global struggle we face. One thing I hold the Bush administration accountable for is having done a very poor job of communicating the global nature of the threat that is Islamo-fascism and the many reasons for America being in Iraq in the first place. Aided by a poor communications strategy on the part of both the White House and the Pentagon, the Left seized control of the national discourse and morphed the facts into all sorts of falsehoods and bumper sticker slogans.
Let’s remember that when Congress voted for military action in Iraq in 2002, both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly supported it. The vote was 77-23 in the Senate and 296-133 in the House for military intervention in Iraq. And four years earlier, under President Bill Clinton, 90 percent of the House and a unanimous Senate approved the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which established that the policy of the United States was regime change in Iraq. But nobody remembers that vote any more or the fact that the authorization for force was not based on “stockpiles of WMDs.” The Left has done tremendous damage to the war effort by obfuscating the realities on the ground in Iraq in a war that they voted for.
Lopez: What’s so wrong about timetables? Guide-dates are good, aren’t they?
Lt. Col. Patterson: There’s never been a war won when timetables for withdrawal were set prior to an outcome being determined. That’s the kiss of death in combat. If the president and Congress want to establish timelines and plans for withdrawal and keep them classified, that’s one thing. When politicians do it for purely partisan purposes and announce it to the world, that’s damaging and deceitful. Every time someone like Reid or Pelosi makes a damning statement in public, it immediately airs on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. That fuels the terrorists’ ambitions, depresses our military’s morale and leads to more death and destruction. If I’m bin Laden or Zawahiri, I’ve got my Dayplanner out and I’m circling the dates. The message that announced timetables sends to our enemy is “don’t worry, you’ve won, we’re weak, just wait us out, we’re leaving and here’s the date.”
Lopez: I take much of what you say about the Left and the war, but in terms of relatively short-term politics: If Iraq does not improve, can John McCain win the presidency in 2008 — can ANY Republican now in the race win if Iraq doesn’t make a real turnaround?
Lt. Col. Patterson: In my opinion, it’s highly doubtful that a Republican candidate can win in 2008 if Iraq is the central issue. That being said, the American people don’t like losing and if Democrats force a premature conclusion in Iraq it will come back to haunt them at some point. Many experts have said, and I agree completely, that if we pull out of Iraq prior to ensuring the political and security infrastructure is in place, we will witness a bloodbath similar to what transpired in Vietnam and Cambodia after we withdrew from that conflict. Not only will tensions escalate in the region but we would de facto be handing over Iraq to Iran and al Qaeda. Is that what we want to deal with down the road? If the Democrats think Iraq is a mess, how are they going to deal with that scenario?
The Left was very successful wiping their hands clean of their involvement in what happened after Vietnam. I don’t see them getting away with it again.
Lopez: Is Chuck Hagel in a good position, comparatively?
Lt. Col. Patterson: Maybe for a position in a Democratic administration of 2008.
Lopez: Remind me why elections matter. Things seem pretty bad right now, don’t they? How would it be worse under John Kerry?
Lt. Col. Patterson: I shudder to think where we’d be today if we’d elected John Kerry. And, contrary to popular public sentiment, it could be a lot worse than it is right now. One of the major problems with how the war in Iraq has been portrayed in the U.S. is that media, politicians, and most citizens consider Iraq an entity in and of itself. It’s not. It’s a theater in a much greater global war where we are taking the fight to our enemy and killing terrorists. Whatever one thinks of President George W. Bush, he’s been an excellent commander in chief and the overwhelming majority of the troops love him. He has the strategic vision to see the importance of victory in Iraq within the framework of the overall struggle against the evils of Islamo-fascism. The very successful elections in Iraq in 2005 are an indication of where we need to get to in the region. The president understands that we are faced with either killing all the terrorists in the world (which would be impossible) or giving the people in these regions another option, freedom. I spoke with many Iraqis on my trip there and they want it — they want what we have.
Kerry, and the Democrats in general, either can’t make that connection or choose to put their political careers ahead of the greater good. These are the same people who were clamoring for us to get involved in Bosnia and Kosovo for humanitarian reasons but now want us to abandon Iraq and give rise to what will be a huge human tragedy if we do.
Lopez: What makes a “Dhimmicrat” and how can one be unmade?
Lt. Col. Patterson: Democrats would rather attack the current administration and undermine the war effort than acknowledge that we are engaged in the fourth great ideological battle of the last 100 years. Just as we faced the evils of Nazism, fascism, and communism in the last century we are trying to prevent Islamo-fascism from destroying the freedoms of Western civilization.
The term “Dhimmi” refers to a non-Muslim living under Sharia law who is forced to acquiesce to a Muslim government, pay a tax for being a non-believer, and is relegated to second-class status. British writer Bat Ye’or defined “dhimmitude” as “a behavior dictated by fear, pacifism when aggressed, rather than resistance, servility because of cowardice and vulnerability.” Dhimmicrats are Democrats who would rather give in to or appease the nation’s enemies rather than fight to preserve the liberties and freedoms we have.
Unfortunately, I don’t see much opportunity to unmake them. They’ve had several opportunities to step up and do the right thing since 9/11 and they’ve chosen to retain their failed ways. The days of the strong pro-military Democrat leaders of the past, Roosevelt, Truman, JFK, and Scoop Jackson, are long gone. Joe Lieberman is the only one I see on their side that understands the threat and is willing to speak to it.
Lopez: Would you really bring back the House Committee on Un-American Activities?
Lt. Col. Patterson: No. That title in War Crimes was used tongue-in-cheek to illustrate how far left Hollywood and our popular culture have moved since World War II. It was in fact the backlash from the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the early 1950s which helped fuel Hollywood’s move to the left even though a large majority of those identified as being communists actually were.
In the book I point out that during World War II filmmakers and actors not only rallied to the nation’s cause by making several patriotic movies but many of the stars signed up for action in combat — Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Gene Autry, and Tyrone Power to name a few.
Immediately after 9/11, the Bush administration asked Hollywood for some help with the war effort and was denied. Not only were the filmmakers unwilling to put out products that accurately depicted the courageous efforts of our military and the evil of our enemy, but they kept churning out the tired post-Vietnam stereotypes of our veterans being drug-addled psycho-killers. Instead of standing up for the cause, today we have “stars” such as Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Michael Moore, and Woody Harrelson aggressively opposing the administration and our military’s efforts overseas at every turn. Besides, I can’t see any of those guys with anywhere near to courage to put on a uniform and fight for their country.
Lopez: Are there any good reporters on this war?
Lt. Col. Patterson: A few from big media but not many. I greatly respect those that actually leave the comfort of the Green Zone in Baghdad and get out and see for themselves which, these days, isn’t happening much. CNN’s Arwa Damon has done a very nice job maintaining a reasonable balance. Most of the honest reporting has come from new media types however, folks like Michael Yon and Bill Roggio, who embed themselves with a unit and stay for awhile. The military bloggers such as Blackfive, Mudville Gazette, Dadmanly, and LT Smash are where I go to for my information. They’ve been there and done that and they’re talented writers.
Unfortunately, most of Western big media types stay hunkered down at the bar at the Al Rashid or Palestine Hotels in Baghdad’s Green Zone. They send out Iraqi stringers and pay them based on the nature of the story. Bombs and blood win out over positive reports every time.
Lopez: If the war is not lost, how can we win?
Lt. Col. Patterson: By coming together as a country and supporting the efforts of our commander-in-chief and our troops. The war is not lost, we are winning. I’ve seen it for myself. We have, however, allowed a Fifth Column comprised of Democrat politicians, big media, academia, popular culture, and nongovernmental organizations to control the discourse and negatively affect public opinion. Nobody beats the U.S. military, but American wars since World War II are won and lost in Washington, D.C. If we allow the Left to continue to undermine the nation and our military, we will not only lose in Iraq but future confrontations that may occur with Islamo-fascism in places like Iran, Syria, and the Philippines will be made doubly difficult and more bloody. The stakes are very high. We have to resist the urge to take the easy way out and quit what is a valiant and necessary struggle which would lead to Iraq becoming another Vietnam-type national humiliation. That, sadly, is exactly what the Left is banking on.