Semper Fi: Jim Webb Walks Tall in Son's Combat Boots
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A former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy to President Ronald Reagan switched parties from Republican to Democratic to challenge the one-term incumbent junior Senator from Virginia. James H. Webb, a highly decorated Marine officer who served in Vietnam, an Emmy award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author of seven books is running in the Virginia Democratic primary.
Jim Webb's move came after an intensive internet campaign to draft him. His move to the Democratic Party is particularly poignant because, as Steve Jarding, former campaign manager to Gov. Mark Warner noted, "This is Ronald Reagan's secretary of the Navy saying, 'The Democratic Party is closer to my ideals.' This is the genuine, real deal."
"When I look at where this administration has taken its own party, I cannot help but think about the pendulum of history," Webb said. "The pendulum has swung, I think, as far as it can swing given the principles this party had once espoused."
"I wake up every morning very concerned about the country. We need to put some focus back in our foreign policy, a different focus," says Webb who warned in 1990 against an Iraqi war: "The debate over our role in the Persian Gulf crisis has focused on national, rather than specific military goals. The fundamental questions, upon which all others inevitably rest, have not been addressed. Why did we send such a huge contingent of ground troops in the first place? And under what conditions are we going to use them or bring them home?
Answers are not forthcoming. Military officials intimate that the question would expose tactical options. Administration officials talk in vague terms: Defense Secretary Cheney is telling us to prepare for a commitment that may take years. Others have been quoted as saying we may be there for a decade. At the same time we are being reassured, amidst many loud calls to initiate a war with Iraq, that the U.S. military commitment is wholly defensive."
Although Jim Webb opposed involvement in Iraq, he clearly points out that there is no contradiction in honoring the service of our courageous military personnel while questioning the war.
- Jim wrote: "...statements defending Bush claim that the National Guard was not a haven for those who wished to avoid Vietnam; but it clearly was. According to the National Guard Association, only some 9,000 Army Guardsmen and 9,343 Air Guardsmen served in Vietnam. Considering that nearly 3 million from the active forces did so, one begins to understand why so many of America's elites headed for the Guard when their draft numbers were called.
Bush used his father's political influence to move past many on the Texas Guard's waiting list. He was not required to attend Officer Candidate School to earn his commission. He lost his flight status after failing to show up for a required annual physical. These facts alone raise the eyebrows of those who took a different path in a war that for the Marine Corps brought more casualties than even World War II.
The Bush campaign now claims that these issues are largely moot and that Bush has proved himself as a competent and daring "war president." And yet his actions in Iraq, and the vicious attacks against anyone who disagrees with his administration's logic, give many veterans serious pause.
Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.
There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves."
The Webbs are a family of Marines: Jim, his brother, and father all wore the birdie and ball. Jim's son, a Marine expecting deployment this summer to Iraq, recently asked why Jim's primary opponent wears cowboy boots, as "there are no cowboys in Virginia." In a show of support and solidarity with his son, James now wears his son's desert combat boots. He suggests others standing in solidarity with our courageous military but not supporting the Iraqi invasion do so, too.
Jim believes that solutions will be found using a progressive approach to policy that prioritizes fairness and justice, focused on four major themes:
- Refocusing America's foreign and defense policies in a way that truly protects our national interests and seeks harmony where they are not threatened.
- Repairing the country's basic infrastructure, which has eroded badly over the past decade, and developing more creative ways to assist disaster-stricken areas such as those in New Orleans and along the Gulf coast.
- Reinstituting notions of true fairness in American society, including issues of race, class, and economic advantage; and
- Restoring the Constitutional role of the Congress as an equal partner, reining in the unbridled power of the Presidency.
"We really need to get back to a time when the members of Congress will stand up to an administration that is abusing its constitutional privileges," Webb said.