(U-WIRE) DEKALB, Ill. – Quick, someone unfreeze Austin Powers.
It's not that I have a strange affinity for crushed velvet, hipster euphemisms or poor oral hygiene. It's just that every time I pick up a newspaper, I see more stories that parallel those of Austin's day. And who better to help us cope with these problems than the World's best-known secret agent?
Start with the obvious. Now, like then, we're engaged in a guerilla war that doesn't seem to be making progress and has no end in sight. Those on the political right cringe at the Iraq-Vietnam analogy, and they're right — to a point. Iraq and Vietnam are, so far, wars on a different scale. But it's hard to ignore some of the similarities. And it shouldn't take another black wall in Washington before we start to learn from our past.
Perhaps the most notable — and damnable — of these similarities was the commitment of the brave men and women of our military without a strategy for getting them out.
I'll never forget a classroom discussion I was involved in during the weeks preceding the invasion of Iraq. Many in the class were already against the war, but some supported it. A heated, but civil, discussion took place. The professor, himself a Marine combat veteran in Vietnam, listened silently to both sides until they were finished, which was most of the period. When he finally spoke, he softly asked one simple question: "How will we get the troops out?" The class fell silent. If he asked the same question again today, more than two years later, he would still have no answer.
But a war to spread democracy is not the only echo of the Vietnam era resonating today. In a White House controversy that makes you long for the good old days of cigars and stained dresses, the Bush administration is caught up in a scandal that would make Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein drool.
The simple version goes like this: Before the war, a U.S. diplomat goes to Africa to investigate evidence that Iraq is trying to acquire materials needed to make nuclear weapons. He learns that Iraq is not, that the evidence is forged, and reports back. Yet somehow, the administration — including President Bush himself — continues to use this "evidence" to build a case with the American people and the world for invading Iraq to rid it of nuclear weapons.
The diplomat, feeling that his efforts have been misrepresented to Americans, publishes an opinion piece in the New York Times stating his case. The Bush administration retaliates by leaking to the media that the diplomat's wife is a CIA operative. Exposing the identity of an America spy is, shall we say, not smiled upon in many circles. Even less so when it's done solely for reasons of politics and revenge. Some might even call it treason.
Before I start getting letters from incensed history majors, I should say I know Watergate was a little after Austin Powers' time. But who better to deal with a spy controversy than the International Man of Mystery himself? So someone hit the "thaw" button on the cryofreezer.
That would be groovy, baby.