CINCINNATI (TDB) -- War is a hideous tragedy. The suffering cannot be measured. Winston Churchill said that of World War I. Today Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, made a hideous decision against the backdrop of the tragedy that has unfolded in Iraq under President George W. Bush.
Brown voted against a U.S. Senate amendment that condemned the personal attacks on Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and also honored the integrity of all members of the "United States Armed Forces."
Virginia Sen. Jim Webb -- another Democrat who actually served in combat in Vietnam and came to the Senate as an anti-Iraq War candidate -- voted in favor of the resolution. Webb's son has served in the war. Webb may hate the war, and he has been a leading critic of the President as an incompetent and foolish wartime leader, but he won't denigrate the soldiers who have been sent to fight it. Ohio's Republican Sen. George Voinovich voted with Webb.
Petraeus is the four-star who commands coalition forces in Iraq. MoveOn.org ran an ad last week that played off the alliteration of Petraeus and Betray Us, an ad that implied the general would sell out his country if he did not speak loudly and clearly against his mission in Iraq. The members of the "United States Armed Forces" are men and women -- thousands from Sherrod Brown's state -- who put on uniforms and make huge sacrifices for their country, sacrifices that can include life and limb.
The were 46 words in the sentence that Sherrod Brown voted against:
"To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces."
Brown was wrong to say "Nay" when the vote was called.
If he cannot stand Petraeus, if he feels the general betrayed his troops and his nation, he should draft a resolution or amendment saying just that: Gen. Petraeus betrayed his country, he is a traitor.
Others strongly disagree. Jeff Coryell at Ohio Daily Blog believes Sen. Brown upheld the principle of Free Speech, and saw the Senate's adoption of the GOP-introduced measure as a tragic event in its own right. Jeff's view of the Brown vote and the free speech implications are well worth reading at his well-respected Ohio Daily Blog. He writes:
"It is a sad day when our government condemns political speech. Whether tasteful or outrageous, expression of political opinion is fundamental to democracy and is at the core of our most cherished freedoms. The brouhaha over MoveOn.org is not just a despicable diversionary tactic to deflect attention from popular opposition to the war, it is an affront to our basic civil liberties."
The Senate, however, was well within its rights to condemn what MoveOn.org , or anyone else for that matter, said about an American soldier's honor and integrity. Senators made no attempt to erect a legal barrier interferring with MoveOn.org's activities, nor did they stop its message from being spread across the nation, and MoveOn remains totally free to say whatever it wants about Gen. Petraeus and the war. Popular opposition to the war is unfettered and unrestrained, and basic civil liberties were unaffected by the Senate vote.
But civility, perhaps, got a boost.