opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

Remembering ...


As this is written, on the heels of the news that President George H.W. Bush, hospitalized in Houston since Nov. 23 for bronchitis, has been moved into an intensive care unit, comes word of the death of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who in 1991 became the U.S.'s most popular post-World War II military leader after commanding the U.S.-led coalition forces that smashed Iraq.

How popular was "Stormin' Norman" back home? He laughed while telling the late U.S. Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa. — himself, like Schwarzkopf, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam — about attending the Kentucky Derby a few months after the Iraqi victory. The huge Churchill Downs crowd gave the general a standing ovation when he took his seat. After Schwarzkopf later got up to go to the men's room, the Derby crowd gave him another ovation, and still more cheers greeted his return to his seat.

He obviously enjoyed the fame and the fortune he received. But to his credit, Schwarzkopf refused being called a hero, with a statement that I urge those in positions of power and influence in Washington — currently beating the war drums on Iran — to heed: "It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle."

Let us remember as well President George H.W. Bush, who — along with his resourceful secretary of state, James A Baker — successfully assembled a coalition of some 32 nations, including France, Sweden, Pakistan and Morocco, to drive out of Kuwait the occupying Iraqi forces.

Bush won support, after serious and respectful debates in the Congress, for his policy from a House and Senate then controlled by Democrats. Earlier, a resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council had authorized member nations to use "all necessary means" against Iraqi forces if they failed to withdraw from Kuwait by Jan. 15, 1991 (three days after the Senate voted to back Bush).

With the Gulf States and Germany and Japan picking up approximately three-quarters of the cost of the war, Commander in Chief George H.W. Bush won the first clear-cut American military victory since VJ-Day, Aug. 14, 1945.

More than three decades later, President Bush 41's leadership and judgment are recognized even by those who opposed him at the time.

In an exit interview after 32 years in the U.S. House with PBS's "NewsHour," the outspoken Massachusetts liberal Barney Frank was asked by interviewer Paul Solman about his "failures, regrets?" Frank's answer: "I should have voted for the first Iraq War. George Bush did that one very well."

One mistake President Bush did make in pressing his case for the U.S. going to war was his repeated comparing of Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler. The U.N. resolution and the multination coalition had agreed only to drive Saddam out of Kuwait, not out of Baghdad. So when Saddam did eventually regroup and resume his oppression of the Kurds, in particular, Bush was criticized for not having removed from power the man he had equated with the Nazi monster.

After the Gulf War triumph, President Bush's positive job-approval rating soared to 89 percent, which remains the highest ever registered in Gallup Poll history. Bush's sky-high numbers helped to persuade most leading Democratic presidential prospects — such as Sens. Albert Gore of Tennessee, Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, as well as Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo — that they individually "want to spend more time with my family," rather than to run in 1992 for the office most of them had semi-openly lusted after.

Those men's decisions not to run provided an unintended opening for a young, long-shot Southern governor who, barely 20 months after the incumbent chief executive had surpassed even Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan in voter approval polls, would defeat President Bush. He, Bill Clinton, would then, in 1996, become the first Democrat since FDR to win a second White House term.

Unless we remember, a wise man wrote, we cannot understand.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




10 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... It is easy to die, and very difficult to live a good and moral life...Now; I have been scared... Usually I just got on with business, and some times I said a prayer, and got on with business; and I have even found ways to run rabbit...We have all grown up in the shadow of religion... Raised Catholic, I was more or less tea bagged into it... My mother believed, and she prayed for miracles, and some times she got miracles... If was to drop dead this word, it would be a toss up whether I flew to heaven or landed in hell... I may have some incidental arbortions on my chart, and I guess the other nine stand against me... Even if you fart all over the idea of God, it must weigh on people as they die, and even if not, who can say they left a balanced moral scale, good to balance bad, giving for taking and the like...
To die engaged in the bloody business of murder even if justified would just about kill me... I had a friend who saw some serious combat in Vietnam and was always seriously mentally ill, and really decent..He was a marine, and telling me once about a battle he was in defending a foward base...He and his buddy were forced to service a machine gun under attack, and he said his friend's hand was shaking so bad that he could not get the spring in the slot... With the spring bouncing this way and that, he reached over and slapped it into place... His words were: If I had to do that now, the fight all over again, it would give me a heart attack... Fear does concentrate the mind...
If I could pray: Dear Lord in Heaven, and etc... Forgive me my sins, and save my miserable life and I will forever be good, then I would know in my heart that my words fell on deaf ears because I am such a terrible hypocrite waiting on opportunity for sin...To go into battle having every necessity of action and little opportunity for consideration is also little opportunity to be conscious of the wrong we may do...Regret is the same sort of slow poison that nostalgia is, and it draws attention off of life that demans all...
My main mechanic is still in the army, a veteran of Iraq, and once hit, said he went though all his ammo in no time, ears ringing, rocked by an explosion, asked for guidence, shouting orders, and where is the leisure of a petit dejunair of casual consideration... People train and train again so they will not have to think when there is no possibility of rational thought...And then look at the generals who premeditate their actions for years...
No one gets to be a good general by accident...Natural talent can take a man a long way, but it is not all the way without thought on top...To win against long odds, to fight men well, to win or at least draw is not chance, but science...But such men, if they are human must in quiet moments fear for their immortal souls, and that demands courage...
My father who may have killed one pilot was good enough to let it lay on his mind... What was it all about??? What was it all for??? When it is them against you, it is easy to see the reason... Standing on fatal ground you fight or die; but in the world of politics, with war a tool of foreign policy, what is really going on... We have people willing to go to war to seem tough... Thousands of deaths later they feel no more weight on them but a wind hastening them on to the next issue of death...People say: Too bad, unfortunate, and it is a tragedy...We have all known death until death become more common almost than life...Funerals can become the social meeting that picnics or family reunions once were...At one point in our lives are we supposed to grow some conscience, some sense of the enormity of taking a human life???...
That sob with a gun over there today was yesterday a bouncing baby on the lap of love... It is grown men, people for the most part with something to gain and little to lose who draw mere children into the condition of war.. Only those people are in a position to say to their counterparts to let us stop this madness and reconsider... It does not happen, and if there is a God then it is politician and generals who must fear God and fear death... We sanitize war... We have our wars like the video game of drones, played from some cube farm in Maryland, and then home to grub and bath and bed... To kill without the threat of death is murder, and more and more war is murder of defenseless men, women, and children ...
Who sets these machines of murder in motion like the death camps of old??? It is obscene, and now that war has become vulgar rather than simply wicked, we should tire or it... Only a coward deals death without the threat of it... That does not mean that a general does not some times save more lives than he takes, but only look at some man like N.B. Forest with pistol and sword in hands, spurs dug deep, and reins in teeth in the face of death with eyes glaring... People used to lead from the field... The whole world is now our field,and our age is of never ending war eating up all the butter and feeding our babes to the guns; but it is also our bed; and it is not a safe place for any eternal soul...
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Dec 28, 2012 3:31 PM
"... Commander in Chief George H.W. Bush won the first clear-cut American military victory since VJ-Day, Aug. 14, 1945."

How soon we forget our glorious victories in Grenada and Panama.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Bruce Strickland
Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:20 AM
Re: James A, Sweeney Re: "...I was more or less tea bagged into it... " The sexual abuse you claim to have been subjected to must be dealt with. Please seek therapy.
Comment: #3
Posted by: David Henricks
Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:18 PM
Re: Bruce Strickland. Oh yeah, they were biggies.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Masako
Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:34 PM
It's funny how these guys like Saddam and Noriega, and even Osama all of a sudden become little Hitlers once they decide to dis the U.S. Well, maybe not so funny. Maybe tragic. It might be funny if whole nations of citizens didn't have to suffer the consequences of these personal vendettas among leaders.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Masako
Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:39 PM
Oops--stupid me--forgot to put quotes around the word "leaders."
Comment: #6
Posted by: Masako
Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:33 PM
Re: David Henricks;...Religious abuse may not be worse than any other... People can get used to almost anything, and they have proved it...Still it is not a wonder that people believe given all the examples we have of people successful in life because they only give their faith lip service and believe not a part of it... It is the most remarkable thing to see people believe; really believe, pray and model their lives on the teachings of their church, and the sermons of their priests... My family faced some serious issues... My older brother was seriously paralysed by polio... My father was often at great distance, always doing a dangerous job... When fears or frustrations overwhelmed my mother, out would come blessed candles, the rosery, and we would hit the floor...She always left things in the hands of God... Not my will but thine be done!!!
I always tell people: You ever see that penguin in the Blues Brothers movie??? That was my Penguin...And like my buddy down the street says of himself: They gave me a good education, and BAD attitude!!! I have some respect for philosophy that I do not have for theology... The two parted ways, yet under Catholicism remained friends, but the search for knowledge does not bear much of precondition...
The problem with a denomination, with a form and formality of sectarianism is the politics of it... Do you think there is not politics in the army??? Naturally, there is politics in government and bureaucracy... And there is politics and hierarchy in churches, and it is the politics and competition in hierarchy that makes so much crime possible... There is absolutely no individual innitiative, or responsibility...Wars happen for exactly the same reason as death camps... People individually only do as they are told...
Responsibility is so shared as to be meaningless as a concept... What does it mean??? They hung a few nazis, but there are still many nazis...Clearly, all the many who made their actions possible who slipped quietly into the wood work didn't really believe; but who does??? What can almost be taken as certain is that those who spout scripture the loudest do not believe or they would trust in God and do God's will...
The Lutherans so much like the Catholics are as bad as any body... They can compartmentalize their beliefs from their social irresponsibility so well not even they know what they are doing or believing... But what is it any of us believes, and what do we do which is so much the proof of our belief... We war, we kill, we fear, we hate... What part of the words of Jesus do we follow???
I was, and many are like Oedipus the King: Doing what we do not knowing what we do...The need to consciously and with premeditation take the life and spill the blood of my fellow human being has been spared me...I am not without sin; but I don't know how any one does it... If you can understand it for the young who are themselves the product of an unchecked murderous culture, how do you justify this nonsense of war to those of mature mind, and then when they die you bury them in hallowed ground...I can't advertise my faith in God... My bad breath is stronger... But even I quake a little at the thought that God exists, and means to count my deeds against me...How do the Generals die??? Thinking they did their duty??? What in the hell is the duty of killing for the progress of an eternal soul???
Comment: #7
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:34 PM
Re: Masako... Isn't that about the most criminal and obscene element is all of this... You have a problem with some petty tyrrant who abuses the crap out of his own people, and our way of dealing with him is to attack his victims until they have nothing, and the tyrant has no place left to hide... Assassinations are illegal, and war is legal... I can't see where one is different from the other except in the body count...Why is anyone surprised when kids or even adults look at violence as a solution to their problems... A Republic may not do the will of the people, but it can hardly keep from reflecting their characters which it does nothing to improve...America makes a better penal colony than a nation of just men...They can sell their wars to the fools that will fight them and pay for them both; but we have not gained a bit of strength from the wars we fought since the Spanish American War...We spend our strength to show our strength with nothing gained... We export our principals, and expose our moral vacuum... Dollar diplomacy lost it edge, and we can still corrupt people, but we cannot buy their affection...What the idiots who want more war really cheer is the decline of our failing society...
Comment: #8
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:58 PM
Thank you so much for your article, "Students Get a Very Special Education". In this age where teachers are brutalized by the media and by many politicians, your column was very refreshing. As a teacher with more than 20 years of experience in public schools, I have been greatly saddened by the negative press that our profession has received of late. Many who criticize have never taught or spent a day in my shoes. Thanks from all of us who really care about America's kids, those of us who are convinced that an educated workforce is the foundation of a successful America.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Deb Olson
Sun Dec 30, 2012 6:03 PM
Re: Deb Olson...Ma'am,... Teachers have an impossible job, and the fact that it is often done poorly should not detract from the fact that it is done at all... The amount of knowledge a child must achieve is great and ever growing... The distractions and pressures on youth are great and ever growing... The actual periods when children are taught, when they are going through the tortures and torments of puberty, or emerging from the credibility of ignorance as fitfully as any savage entered civilization are not conducive to rationality...Reasoning is what we do with knowledge, and less knowledge equals more faulty reasoning... Impeding knowledge are every religion and group that fears the loss of its power and wealth if people give up myth and dogma and take up reasonable lives...To teach the poor of the success of capitalism when they only see its failure is unlikely...To teach economy in an economy That depends upon slight of hand, irrationality, and where the numbers do not add up correctly is impossible as well... If we can say free enterprise is a success only because it trashes the environment, short changes the workers, dispossesses people of their birthright as the price of giving them their daily bread, leans on government for support rather than supporting government, and ultimately lays of the cost of profits today on future generations through control of government, then it, free enterprise, does not work at all...
Even to call our form of government democracy, or to call privilages rights is one big lie, like all our written history, self serving, and ego enhancing, but wrong, and wrong because church groups demand it be so...We cannot face the truth, and we can no longer afford the lie...And to teach, to give a formal education is to give people the form, to teach the form, to put words in their mouths and thought in their heads that will ultimately confuse them and keep them from thinking...Now; I am a misfit... I never saw things as I was supposed to, so I was every teacher's worst nightmare... The fact that my condition has led to my self education is evident to me, but has also given me what little success I have known by way of self support which would have been impossible without insight and creativity hinting always that a solution existed for every problem...God love you for trying, but education so often teaches that there is no solution but hard work and the form itself, when solutions begin in the mind and in the rejection of forms that did not work before...It is impossible to think hard enough to eliminate work, but essential to think to survive work and make work bearable... I used to tell apprentices: If you haven't got the right tool, use your head... If the tool you need is a pinch bar you are in trouble, but the fact is that no tool box will ever have every essential tool, and we must have that intuition and certainty that the job will be done and can be done and must be done if we will have our job when the day is done...But what is ironwork compared to teaching???
I tried to help out in my kid's classes from time to time... That is my idea of a self inflicted night mare... Kids all over the place needing and asking for attention that is often no more than the recognition of a relationship- Mr. Sweeney, Mr. Sweeney, Mr. Sweeney until I wanted to yell: Get outa my head, you little monsters, cause I can't think straight...I am missing a few social skills, and a love of anarchy is one of them... Again... You do the impossible, and you have my respect...
The fact that so much is demanded from teachers and so little given to them leads to the worst sort of abuses of bullying and haze-ing... People clique. We all clique. The cliquers will always know success, and those who can build cliques if captured by the teachers can bring the whole clique with them, but this leads to a lot of marginalization, bullying and haze-ing of the oddballs... And I was an oddball, but willing to stand out as an individual which is a rare thing in reality... Most of us buy off the rack, even with our ideas...
Comment: #10
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:20 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Mark Shields
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Veronique de RugyUpdated 11 Feb 2016
Matt Towery
Matt ToweryUpdated 11 Feb 2016
Froma Harrop
Froma HarropUpdated 11 Feb 2016

6 Oct 2007 The "Inevitable" Hillary Clinton

7 Oct 2011 Republicans Just Want to Fall in Love

23 Jan 2016 The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'