Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dodd & Dodd

Senator Chris Dodd (D) CT

Senator Tom Dodd (D) CT

What a wonderful Christmas story: 42 years ago I met Senator Tom Dodd of Connecticut in his office in Washington, D.C. when I was 14. My grandparents knew the senator and contributed to his campaigns for office--my grandfather used to tell me about Dodd prosecuting the Nazi War criminals at the Nuremberg trials in 1946. Senator Dodd was happy to greet my parents and me--supportive constituents. I remember him as a kindly person, with graying hair and a firm but gentle manner.

I was very sorry just a few years later, when the Vietnam War was wreaking havoc on the body politic, with huge numbers of young Americans sent to a far off place in Asia to fight for some governmental folly, similar to today in Iraq, that the nice old democratic senator somehow thought this was a good idea, even though it became a Nixon and republican debacle. And I was sorrier still, that my family's friend was someone whom I now loathed and was embarrassed to have as my senator representative.

Worse yet, Dodd was caught using campaign funds for personal expenses, which was against the law, although compared to what goes on these days with our elected representatives, not a very big deal. I remember my grandmother saying, "we gave money to Tom Dodd. I don't care how he used it." At the time, I thought she made a good point. Still, I also was hoping Senator Dodd would get out of the senate as soon a possible in order to avoid one more vote in favor of staying in Vietnam.

Old Tom Dodd was censured by the Senate, the hypocritical peer group who all do the same stuff and stand aghast for the media when one of their own is stupid enough to get caught doing the same stuff. Dodd later lost the 1970 democratic primary to Joe Duffy, a one-issue anti-Vietnam war candidate. Dodd ran as an independent, similar to Lieberman except Dodd had a worthy opponent from the republicans back then--Lowell Weicker. Weicker went on to notoriety as a renegade anti-establishment Republican who helped the Senate Watergate hearings move Nixon to the brink of his ouster as President.

The good news is, Tom Dodd's son, Christopher Dodd, present Senator from Connecticut, is cut more in the Kennedy cloth and follows the liberal line with a clear-cut menu, and seems to be consistent in his values. These values include an insistent voice against the criminal misdeeds of the Bush administration invading and occupying Iraq. The big news today, Christmas eve 2006, is that Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, having been to Iraq and given thoughtful insight into what is happening, states openly that the US needs to get out now. This may not seem like a big deal for a democrat about to enter a reconvened congress of the newly elected democratic majority. But then--I don't hear much else about getting out of Iraq these days with Bush hogging the megaphone and the Joint Chiefs hinting they want one more big troops-injected push. Dodd wrote today in the Des Moines Register:

The time has come for the United States to begin the process of getting our troops out of Iraq.

In Baghdad last week, I joined in a conversation with a West Point graduate who is serving in Iraq. He said, "Senator, it is nuts over here. Soldiers are being asked to do work we're not trained to do. I'm doing work that State Department people are far more prepared to do in fostering democracy, but they're not allowed to come off the bases because it's too dangerous here. It doesn't make any sense."

After spending six days in the Middle East last week - which included visits with the top leaders in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel - it's hard not to come to the same conclusion: Our strategy in Iraq makes no sense. It never really did. It is as bad in person as it appears on television. There are literally dozens of sects, militias, gangs, warlords, foreign terrorists and others killing one another for dozens of reasons in Iraq today, and American troops are caught in the crossfire.

Our brave men and women have done everything asked of them with great courage and honor, but searching for military solutions in Iraq today is a fool's errand. True peace and security in Iraq will not come at the end of an American gun. It will only happen to the degree that Iraq's leaders are willing to take responsibility for governing their own country and securing their own future. America's position should be clear: Iraqis must show they want a country now, or American troops should begin to withdraw.

Thanks for coming to bat Chris, I feel like it's a nice Christmas present--your dad would have been proud.

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