When topic is war, comment carefully

I don't agree with all the antiwar protesters who gathered in Brooksville on Wednesday, and certainly not with the tactics of the one who walked into U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite's office with a bucket and offered to waterboard her staffers.

But mostly, I think, the protesters are right. They are right that invading Iraq — which in five years has cost nearly 4,000 American lives and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, more than $1-trillion — was one of the worst mistakes in American history.

They are right to target Brown-Waite, who, despite moderating her stance recently, has a history of divisive and irresponsible comments on Iraq and terrorism.

We shouldn't forget this five years after the Iraq invasion, and shouldn't forget that Brown-Waite promoted an unjust war and vilified its critics.

March 2003

Her justification for the invasion — that Saddam Hussein "is just as dangerous as Hitler was'' — was common enough, but indefensible, I think, even in light of the false intelligence spread by the Bush administration.

That same month, Brown-Waite didn't just jump on the French-bashing bandwagon; she took the reins, introducing a bill to allow families of American soldiers buried there to return their remains to the United States.

"It is not right that American citizens are compelled out of respect for the fallen to support the economy of a country who has turned its back on us and on their memory,'' Brown-Waite said at the time."

February 2006

Brown-Waite wrote a guest column in the St. Petersburg Times challenging the patriotism of peace advocates by saying that to oppose the war was to oppose the military.

"Some Democrats want to criticize the war, undermine the president and undermine the vision of democratic freedom, but they do not want to suffer any political consequences for doing so,'' she wrote.

She was doing, in other words, what she said in the same column that she had never done: "I defy the editor of this paper or any paper to show where I questioned anyone's patriotism.''

November 2006

Republican stalwart Mary Ann Hogan had recently written a letter — calling Islam "a hateful, frightening religion'' — that the state's two most powerful Republicans, Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov.-elect Charlie Crist, quickly condemned.

Not Brown-Waite, who waited until after her re-election to make this statement: "It is an accurate truism that by far and wide not every Muslim is a terrorist, but it's historically accurate that every terrorist has been a Muslim with the one exception of the bombing of the Murrah building by Timothy McVeigh.''

When you remember this comment, Brown-Waite's recent remark that residents of Guam and Puerto Rico are "foreign citizens'' seems less surprising.

It also doesn't seem surprising that, just as she has refused to disavow these words, neither she nor her staff members wanted to take back her earlier statements on the war this week.

She now favors the gradual withdrawal of troops, which I think is a responsible position. But I'd like to see a sign that she regrets her irresponsible ones.

Yes, President Bush said worse — "Bring 'em on,'' for example — but at least he has acknowledged that that kind of talk was wrong.

>>Fast facts

Other protests

Besides Brooksville, other demonstrations against the Iraq war were held Wednesday:

Tampa: Protest held outside U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's office at the Sam M. Gibbons Federal Courthouse

Tampa: Candlelight vigil at the Sam M. Gibbons Federal Courthouse

St. Petersburg: Candlelight vigil outside U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young's office

Indian Rocks Beach: Candlelight vigil at 401 Second St.

When topic is war, comment carefully 03/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2008 5:57pm]

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