WHAT SHOULD DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES DO ABOUT IRAQ? ASK JON TESTER IN MONTANA
You may have noticed my displeasure with what I heard of Wes Clark's disappointing recipe for Bush's Iraq conundrum a week or two ago and perhaps you even read the criticism from one of his devotees in the comments section. My problem with Clark-- as well as with Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and other right-of-center party "leaders"-- is that their analysis rests, at best, on basically discredited imperialistic premises that make arrogant superpowers think they can impose their will on foreign cultures through force.
It sickened me to see Clark-- who opposed Bush's illegal aggression into Iraq originally-- stand up in front of 150-200 Democrats in L.A. and basically mouth Bush Regime platitudes about staying there because we're already there and staying there 'til we win. And it sickens me to see aspirants for the Democratic presidential nomination either sitting by mutely while grass-roots progressives like Cindy Sheehan fight against this war WITHOUT ANY SUPPORT FROM OUR ELECTED LEADERS or actually calling for more troops to be sent to Iraq. These people are absolutely unfit to carry the Democratic banner. We need leaders and leaders with vision, not me-too-Bushists with a good grip on failed policies.
Today Montana's grassroots, plain-speaking (that means non-DLC) candidate for Senate, Jon Tester explained what every Democratic candidate needs to explain to his or her constituents: that we need to end the occupation of Iraq. It is a colossal failure and we keep making it worse and worse. Tester sent a letter to his supporters that is as clear as day how he differs from Bush (as well as from the me-too-Bushists like Clinton, Clark, Biden, et al.).
“I support the war in Afghanistan, I support the War on Terror, and I fully support our troops in Iraq and everywhere they serve" wrote Tester. "However, President Bush was too quick to declare victory in Iraq, and he was unprepared for the insurgency that followed.
“It is time for the President to articulate a clear exit strategy for American troops from Iraq. An open-ended occupation is not in the best interests of the United States, the Iraqi people, or the Middle East. The time has come to support our troops by laying out a plan to bring them home.”
Tester then offers a clear, concise explanation for anyone who needs convincing and wants to understand his thinking:
"On October 11, 2002, the U.S. Senate voted to authorize war with Iraq. That vote was based on evidence provided by the Bush Administration that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. We now know that the Administration’s evidence was not accurate."
Simple, obvious to most of us-- but certainly not articulated by Biden and Clinton, nor by many Democratic elected officials.
He continues with the straight-talk: "The war in Iraq has diverted the United States from necessary missions in Afghanistan and against terror networks around the globe, drawing resources from these crucial fronts. Our President and his advisers were too quick to declare victory and too slow to put together a successful strategy for containing the insurgency that followed. I believe it is improper and imprudent to enter a war without any idea of how to leave. But that is now the situation this Administration finds itself in Iraq. Our continued presence in Iraq is undermining National Security in four ways, creating a security gap here at home:
1- By relying heavily on Reserve and National Guard units, the President has depleted our supply of first responders here at home, heavily undermining our ability to respond quickly and appropriately to domestic catastrophes. This problem was only highlighted by the all-too-slow response to Hurricane Katrina.
2- By failing to provide a timeline for withdrawal in Iraq, the Administration has allowed insurgents in Iraq to portray the American presence there as an open-ended occupation. Providing an exit strategy will undermine the recruitment of terrorist networks in Iraq as well as place clear pressure on Iraqi leaders to take responsibility for governing their own nation.
3- The continued cost of the war in Iraq, at $60 billion a year, is drawing resources away from Homeland Security, the War on Terror, and is exploding our deficit, undermining our economic security here at home.
4- In addition to taking military and economic resources away from larger threats to American security, Iraq has distracted America’s attention from important threats, including terrorist networks like al Qaeda and nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. The sooner we have a successful strategy in Iraq, the sooner we can turn our attention to these pressing dangers."
Tester closes with more easily understood, solution-oriented explanation; none of it is in nuanced, despised Beltway gobbleygook.
"Some of our best retired generals who understand the situation in Iraq have argued that an exit strategy for American troops from Iraq by the end of 2006 is feasible and in the best interests of America. The President and the U.S. Congress need to put a successful exit strategy in place to bring our troops home. Additionally, we need to consider redeploying some of these troops to Afghanistan and other critical fronts in the War on Terror. The time has simply come for us to have a plan in Iraq so that our nation can turn its attention, and its economic and military resources, toward pressing economic and homeland security needs."
I hope other Democrats running for office in 2006 understand this concept. We're not going to beat the Republicans into the ground unless they do.