Several commentators have noted the similarity between our modern day Democrats and the Copperheads of the Civil War. The Copperheads were the virulently anti-war wing that took control of the Democratic party in the 1860’s. Their rhetoric of the day reads like a modern press release from our Democratic Party leadership. Their central meme was that the Civil War was unwinnable and should be concluded. At their nominating convention of 1864, they adopted the plank:
this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored . . .
At the convention, the Democrats nominated retired General George B. McClellan for President. Lincoln had chosen McClellan to command the Union Army in 1861 and then assigned him to command the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln subsuqently relieved McClellan of command in 1862 for his less than stellar performance on the battlefield. McClellan became a bitter and vocal opponent of Lincoln, harshly critical of Lincoln's prosecution of the war. McClellan and the Copperheads maintained that meme even as the facts on the ground changed drastically with victories by General Sherman in Atlanta and General Sheridan in Shenandoah Valley.
Thus it is not hard to see in McClellan many parallels to retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the one time top commander in Iraq. Sanchez held the top military position in Iraq during the year after the fall of the Hussein regime, when the insurgency took root and the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light. His was not a successful command and his remarks since show a bitter man. According to an the Huffington Post, "In October, the three-star general told a group of reporters that the U.S. mission in Iraq was a "nightmare with no end in sight." He also called Bush's decision to deploy 30,000 extra forces to Iraq earlier this year a "desperate attempt" to make up for years of misguided policies in Iraq." While the Democrats have no intention of nominating him as President, Sanchez's bitter screed and refusal to acknowledge changing conditions on the ground make him the darling of our own Copperheads.
The same HufPo piece tells us that Sanchez supports Democratic legislation that calls for most troops to come home within a year. Sanchez's recorded remarks will be heard on the weekly Democratic radio address this Saturday, including:
. . . The improvements in security produced by the courage and blood of our troops have not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country.
There is no evidence that the Iraqis will choose to do so in the near future or that we have an ability to force that result . . .
. . . [the House legislation to force withdrawal from Iraq] makes the proper preparation of our deploying troops a priority and requires the type of shift in their mission that will allow their numbers to be reduced substantially."
While the Democrats of today may be enamored of General Sanchez and his message, history should provide them a cautionary note. Despite McClellan’s outspoken criticism of Lincoln for his poor prosecution of the war, the rhetoric failed once it became apparent that Union forces were succeeding and that victory was possible. In the end, the American electorate punished the Democrats for their anti-war stance in the 1864 election and for several decades afterward. And now we have a very bitter General Sanchez appearing on the scene to support our own Copperhead’s attempt to legislate surrender. It is a surrender being sought even as the facts on the ground in Iraq have changed completely from the black days when General Sanchez commanded our forces.
We will see if history, in fact, does repeat itself. It certainly seems to be doing so at the moment.
Update: The Washington Post sees the cooperation of General Sanchez with the far left Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi as a "strange alliance." It is obviously not if one only looks for the historical antecedents.
Update: James Taranto of WSJ and I share a similar opinion: "With Sanchez having embraced the role of Democratic spokesman, he comes to look increasingly like the George McClellan of the war on terror."
Update: The swing in public perception has begun. MSNBC is reporting: "Some 48 per cent of Americans now believe that the US military effort in Iraq is going well, compared with 30 per cent in February, according to the latest poll by the Pew Research Center."