Jim Webb vs. George Will

Sherwood Ross

Columnist George Will has found senator-elect Jim Webb (D-Va.) guilty of “careless and absurd assertions,” for writing the wealth gap between rich and poor is “the least debated issue” in American politics.

But if you think, (and I don’t) what Webb said is absurd, how about the assertion “the sky will rain artichokes” before the Russians give up communism? And who do you think shot off that goofball not long before the Soviets’ junked communism?

Actually, if only out of charity, one shouldn’t fault Mr. Will for not being able to predict the future. That’s too much to expect. The fault is Will doesn’t appear to have a firm grasp on the reality of the present. In his column of Sunday, December 3, he scorns Webb for not wanting to shake President Bush’s hand. Will calls Webb a “boor” and a “pompous poseur” (two phrases that might have popped into Will’s mind while shaving in the mirror that morning) and says Webb has “patent disrespect for the presidency”.

This, of course, is the opposite of what Webb told the Washington Post: “Im not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall. No offense to the institution of the presidency…”

What Webb rightly objects to is President Bush, not the presidency. Here’s a president who has made a criminal war of aggression in Iraq that is destroying that country, that has driven a million Iraqis to fly for the their lives, that has killed perhaps 600,000 more Iraqis and wounded perhaps a million or more, that has killed over 3,300 American soldiers and soldier-of-fortune fighters, that is costing the American taxpayers about a trillion bucks; here’s a president that lied the nation into war in the first place and who has assaulted the civil liberties of the American people as no foreign foe has ever done and Will is mad at Webb for not shaking his hand? Ye gods! What an idiot that man Webb must be!

Would Will have faulted Webb if, hypothetically, he lived in Germany in 1938 and refused to shake Hitler’s hand? (Think the comparison is stretched? When Hitler had been in office six years he had only killed about 70,000 Poles, hardly equal to George Bush’s record for slaughter in Iraq. And if Bush gets around to nuking Iran, which some investigative reporters claim he is plotting, he might yet surpass Hitler’s notorious total killing record.)

Will goes on to claim “Webb’s more gross offense “was calculated rudeness toward another human being --- one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.”

How touching! Here Commander-in-Chief George Bush has got Webb’s son in Iraq in harm’s way for absolutely no good reason, and Webb is faulted for seeing through the President for his fake tender concern?

One recalls the charming photographs of young German girls in their peasant costumes shyly approaching a beaming Adolph Hitler with handfuls of flowers. Yes, Hitler, the caring father of the German state, so caring he plunged it into a war in which millions of Germany’s young men died for nothing in Europe and Africa, just as Americans are dying for nothing in Iraq. To be sure, Hitler was “civil and caring” when he spoke to the parents of those children. Probably, from the safety of his deep underground bunker in Berlin, Hitler also cared for the 800,000 German civilians who were massacred by the British and American air armadas.

Yes, how dare Jim Webb be rude to George Bush?! Even though the outgoing Secretary-General of the United Nations says Bush’s war in Iraq is “illegal” and the Iraqis were better off under tyrant Hussein than tyrant Bush, and international legal scholars have made an excellent case for trying Bush & Cheney for war crimes, how dare Jim Webb not want to shake hands with the man? And when Bush inquired of Webb how his “boy” was, Webb rightly replied, “that’s between me and my boy.”

(Note: the pro-war faction, headed by Mr. Bush, likes to urge the public to “support our boys” in Iraq, as if they are Boy Scouts attending some summer camp festival rather than what they really are, paid-for, trained, adult warriors all of whom volunteered for military service.)

Will has the gall to lecture Webb, “In a republic, people decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves.” That’s news! Makes you wonder how such grandiose Presidents as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon ever got to a position of power where they could blast the hell out of three million people in Viet Nam, not one of whom ever attacked the United States of America.

Among Webb’s other faults, according to Will, is that Webb is “going out of his way to make waves.” Well, what else would one expect of a former Secretary of the Navy?  For my part, I hope when he gets to the Senate he stirs up a typhoon.

Sherwood Ross writes on politics and military affairs. Contact him at msherwoodr1@yahoo.com.

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Harvard Square Commentary, December 11, 2006