Edwards on Iraq - Leave Behind Success, Not Failure
In today's Washington Post, Senator John Edwards is telling you that if he knew then what we all know now about the deeply flawed and politically manipulated intelligence, he never would have voted for the Iraq resolution in 2002.
It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price.
The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.
This could never have been easy for Senator Edwards to admit. Most political leaders in Washington still won't admit what we all can see - that they were mistaken. I admire Senator Edwards' honesty and humility. He's a man of outstanding moral character. It isn't the first time he's publically communicated his regret, and it may not be the last. It isn't so much the regret that we should focus upon - instead it is the ideas for bringing our troops home with full honor intact and with something we can all identify as "success" brought to Iraq that should be in focus.
I'd like all of my readers to put themselves in the position of being a responsible leader. All of you who've been calling for the troops to be sent home - what would you honestly do if you suddenly came to power? I've heard a lot of cocky answers on both sides of the political fence, but when I look reality straight in its face, the political leader who is speaking directly to my heart and mind is Senator Edwards.
The urgent question isn't how we got here but what we do now. We have to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. That means leaving behind a success, not a failure.
Senator Edwards gives us a plan for success in Iraq, focusing on three interlocking objectives:
1. Reducing the American presence. (We've reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals.)
2. Building Iraq's capacity. (A more effective training program for Iraqi forces, implementing a clear plan for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met.)
3. Getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help. (To create a unified international front.)
He honors the families who have lost their loved ones in this war by promising to implement clear plans for a definitive success, while removing the image of an imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq - even if that means asking American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave the country and hand the work over to Iraqi businesses.
More than 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in this war, and more than 150,000 are fighting there today. They and their families deserve honesty from our country's leaders. And they also deserve a clear plan for a way out.
I'm proud of Senator Edwards for sending this message to the people of America - to Washington D.C. - and to the world. Integrity, honesty, courage, humility, and truth are values that are largely missing in Washington D.C. today. Clear ideas born of ethics are even more of a rarity. Is it any wonder that our vision has been lost? The vision has been emptied of all the values that give meaning and moral force to it. I believe that Senator Edwards can bring the vision back and make it work.
Peter Daou has come up with a set of killer questions, and Stirling Newberry has come up with some compelling replies. We need to be having this conversation.
1. Now that we know more about his real views on Bush, Kerry, and war, is Pat Tillman considered a “moonbat” by the right, and is he now a liberal or a conservative hero? Or both?
Jude:Pat Tillman's image as an American athlete-turned military volunteer was used with gleeful partisan craftsmanship by the Right - until the story of the circumstances of Pat's death was widely spread and the Tillman family's reactions and opinions came to light. Then the "Sunshine patriots" of the extreme rightwing, who will hold a soldier to angelic heights only when he and his family agree to their unspoken and undemocratic vow of silence, turned on their destruction machinery. "Pat Tillman could not have been a patriot," the extremists would say. I'd love to spit in the faces of any partisan who would raise a young man to heroic heights and then sully his good name when his political opinions come to light. I see Pat Tillman as a human being - a caring and patriotic American who believed in a vision of America as an indivisible nation. He was lifted to "hero" status by Americans who place a high cultural value on athletes and soldiers. I don't think it's probable that Pat gave too much weight to the divisive political elements that exist today when he decided to join the Military. I think he was moved by all that he'd seen. I think he wanted to put an end to the power of fear that terrorism held over his country. I think he was a brave young man. In 2004, long before the truth came out about Pat's political beliefs, I had written this about him:
The cause in which his country was engaged mattered more to Pat than the dull emptiness of greed. It mattered more to Pat than life.
If Pat was a hero, then all soldiers are heroes. They all risk the same thing - their lives - for their coutry.
2. Do bloggers who oppose an immediate pullout from Iraq (on the grounds that more people will suffer there if we leave) think that preserving Iraqi lives is a priority for Americans? Assuming the blood, toil, and money being paid there are limited resources, might those resources be put to better use saving dying children or feeding the starving in places other than Iraq? And if this is about the Pottery Barn rule, is there a statute of limitations on that rule? What if we can't fix what's broken in Iraq? Is there a point at which we acknowledge we can't fix it and stop trying? Also, are there other things we've broken that we're obliged to fix? Is there a reason our limited resources should go to fixing Iraq and not saving poor, sick, and hungry children in America?
Jude: It sounds cold, but this is a question that necessitates cold answers. I believe that most Americans would not wish to see their sons and daughters risk their lives for a police-action in Iraq that could (and should) be accomplished effectively with an international effort. American opinion today tells us that our nation is headed in the wrong direction - 'the vision' is confusing - or gone. It's one of two choices: George W. Bush either doesn't want to follow an international code that would involve material multilateral cooperation - or else he has no clue how to make it happen. I think most of us see his leadership twisting in the wind because he is lost between the voices of Dick Cheney's office and the voices of the many experienced Military generals (ie: Gen Pace, Gen. Zinni) and ex-State officials who firmly speak against the kind of war his administration is executing. There is a clear "Disconnect" and the public knows it - and to see the President hurling careless anti-American accusations toward Democrats (as he did in his defensive speech yesterday) rather than admitting clear mistakes and moving toward national unity - - that's lazy, proud, defensive, shitty leadership. America deserves better! I don't know about an implied statute of limitations on the Pottery Barn rule, but I do know that we broke it, we bought it, and the American people were conned into it. In a business contract, that would be deemed as fraud - and fraud just might make that contract legally null and void. Yet, here we are - looking at real lives shattered by our nation's doing. Is our nation made weaker by admitting our mistakes and asking and convincing the international community to return with full cooperation - or are we made weaker by sending more troops into the biggest damned mistake-hole that an American President has ever dug for the American people? If the American people were to have a real debate and referendum on how their money would best be spent - - if we were encouraged to really talk about our common values - it is my opinion that the children in the homeless shelters today, along with their mothers, would be a higher priority than the Utopian goal of the PNAC (especially knowing that we, the people, were LIED to - our worst fears were exploited to take us to an elective war that was unjust and unnecessary). Is it an American value to heap failure upon failure?
3. Is there truth to the argument that because some of our troops don't have a problem fighting in Iraq, anti-war activists have no business trying to protect these troops from themselves? Soldiers fight, it's what they do, it's what they train to do, it's what they volunteer to do. Should anti-war activists/bloggers distinguish between opposition to the Iraq invasion on moral and legal grounds as opposed to "protecting the troops," or "bringing the troops home?"
Jude: When I say I support the troops, I mean it in the fullness of the consideration of my personal value system. Do I want to see my fellow Americans sent to risk their lives for what I believe is against my values as an American citizen? Is it wrong to talk about our values in the public square in the face of a war that we are told will have no foreseeable end? In past wars (until Vietnam), Americans were made to understand the cause; were united in that cause; sacrificed as a nation for the cause. Today, the cause in Iraq - and how it applies to the overall war against terrorism - is fuzzy(at best); the richest Americans are richly rewarded rather than called upon for sacrifice; most citizens believe Bush is dishonest; only a small fraction of Americans believe the Iraq war was the right thing to do (the same crowd who believe that Darwin and Liberace brought God's wrath upon America); all the world can see the strategic mistakes that have been made; no one can foresee an end because there is no end game; most citizens understand that terrorism must be defeated, but the Iraq war has made terror recruitment a booming success (literally and figuratively). Spinning our wheels might be morally acceptable on matters of certain governmental policies, but when we begin spinning our wheels on the issue of a war in which our nation is engaged - and when divisive politics are employed by the Commander-in-chief as more troops die every day - something's terribly wrong. To answer the last question, bloggers and anti-Iraq-war activists should not just be complaining - they should be offering alternatives to what we are doing in Iraq today. The protests of the 1960s are not effective today because their collective message is often as unclear as the President's message on the war on terror. Americans have lost their vision - in good part because of poor leadership. Without a discussion of our common moral values - and how those values apply to the rule of law, anti-war activists will go on as they are today - marginalized; demeaned by the cheap soundbites of the Sean Hannitys and the Rush Limbaughs. If the President cannot convince the public that he has a clear vision, yet he still plays and preys upon their worst prejudices and fears, we are still here with a responsibility. We need to remind Americans that we have not lost confidence and hope that we are still one America in pursuit of democratic policy that takes into consideration the rule of law and the citizens' common values. We bloggers need to create a vision in the absence of a vision from our leaders.
4. Is the obsession with terrorism symptomatic of a deeper-seated fear? In 2004 I lived and worked a few blocks from the White House and today I live a couple of hundred yards from Ground Zero. Not exactly safe zones. But I never hear my friends and neighbors discussing terrorism. So why is it a predominant topic in the media and on blogs? Is death by terrorist attack qualitatively worse than death by other causes? Why not have hourly, daily, and weekly freak-outs about heart disease or cancer or drunk driving?
Jude: The obsession with terrorism has everything to do with human nature. People can be overly-reliant upon their government to erase their vulnerability, when it just isn't possible for any government to accomplish that. At the time of the 9/11 attack, my brother-in-law worked for Moody's Investors Services in the shadow of the towers in Manhattan and saw the whole thing with his every sense - he heard and he saw the planes and his fellow citizens falling from the sky - he smelled the inferno - he tasted the acrid smoke - he felt his feet tire from running and then wandering the city searching for a way to get back home to Queens. When I visit my family and speak with them, terrorism isn't something that they are frenzied about. All risk is a fact of life - especially in a city like New York. You're more likely to be run down by a cab or trip in the subway. Cancer is quietly taking the lives of millions of us. The political leaders of the Right have found what they once thought was a perfect tool to win elections: Fear. It's easy for political leaders to invoke 9/11 - and all the fear that comes with the territory - on Fox News around election-time and have a vulnerable-feeling parent in a Red state start to believe that Osama's coming to Fumbuck to blow up the bus depot. When will Americans stop accepting fear-mongering as a campaign tool? It seems like they've already begun their protest, if you look at the latest polls. Bush is being seen as a dishonest President who has cried "Wolf!" "Orange Alert!" far too often. I saw Mayor Bloomberg take part in the fear-mongering just after the 2004 Democratic Convention, and I found it to be a sickening sight, as did many other New Yorkers. Was a sense of vulnerability shattered after 9/11? You bet. Can anyone give us back our fantasy-based national sense of invulnerability after 9/11? Not a chance. Has the Republican party taken the fear-mongering too far? Yes, to a deliberate extent - with full cooperation of cable news media as they go into their own unique 'obsession-mode.'
*My replies have been linked at the Daou Report. (to be cont'd soon - Questions 5-10)