Misguided Rain On Victory Parades

IT'S unbelievable! Who would have thought that a lot of people now are trying to rain on both the victory and the victory parades? In fact, some of the very ones who opposed the war against Iraq because they feared it would be too costly in American lives now are saying it was nothing much more than a "well executed military exercise" and that the challenge was little more than "another Grenada." One letter writer in the Washington Post put it this way: "Casualty-wise it ranks with the deaths by violenc e in the District [of Columbia] streets thus far in 1991. It does us no credit to continually flaunt our and our allies' superiority over a poorly equipped foe."

Another letter commented snidely: "It was a big victory for the defense contractors, who proved once and for all that American technology can devastate any country it wants as long as [that country] can't reach the United States with its own technology."

These parades, as I see them, are our way of saying thanks to the troops - and their leaders. That so few were hurt or were killed adds to our reasons for rejoicing. Why in the world should it in any way detract from their achievement?

Have the parades been going on too long, as their critics charge? No. We mourned Vietnam for years and years. It was a terrible blow to our national pride and, indeed, our standing in the international community. The victory over Iraq finally put an end to that feeling of national failure.

So there now are hurrahs. We can live with that. If we could wallow in tears over Vietnam for so long, can't we rejoice over the outcome in Iraq for a few months without hearing this carping about it being trivial, overdone, and, now, over-long? These parades speak of this long-delayed lift in national morale and, like the recent celebrations in Washington and New York, they are still very appropriate.

Some of the criticisms we are hearing of the war and the post-war celebrating are coming from those who have a more specific and political goal: to rain on President Bush's parade. They see Bush's Iraq-related high popularity rating continuing on and on. So even while they predict that the public will soon forget the war and the president's great performance in conducting it, they remain fearful that they may be wrong. Therefore, they strike at the war itself, seeking to downplay it and, in the process,

diminish the president's triumph and political clout.

But it is clear that the sun continues to shine on these parades and on the president. The public still pours out to welcome the troops back home, and they continue to hail Bush's war performance. The Bush who emerged in the war as a highly energetic, decisive, unflappable leader is so politically formidable that potential Democratic opponents are exceedingly slow to take him on.

It's difficult to categorize those who are bad-mouthing the parades. Certainly, not all of those who opposed Bush's use of the military now are parade bashers. For example, Congressman Lee Hamilton, who voted against that presidential request, told a breakfast group the other morning that he was perfectly in accord with the celebrations that have followed the victory.

Incidentally, Hamilton said that he saw no signs at all that his position on that resolution was being held against him by his constituents back in Indiana. He said he had heard the subject brought up "in hundreds of forums" and that the questioners always understood his position after he explained that he had felt that economic sanctions should have had more time to work.

Some columnists who are particularly upset over what they see as parade excesses are complaining about the large amount of money being expended for what one has called "displays of sentiment and exultation." They point out how much such money could buy in help for the poor and disadvantaged.

I think it is requiring too much to ask people to restrain spending when all they are doing is making sure their welcome home to the troops will be long remembered. Furthermore, how can you put a cost limit on the tremendous and needed rebound in public morale brought about by the stunning victory in the Gulf? To me, that's a priceless benefit.

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