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Election '08

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Hindsight or Foresight?

This last weekend, the Democratic candidates for President met in Southern California to discuss why each of them feels that you should vote for them for President. Notably, there were two distinct sides to the debate about Iraq. On one side you had Hillary Clinton and most of the candidates who voted for the war initially talking about exit strategies and looking back at a horrible management of the war. John Edwards even admitted that his vote for the war was a mistake. On the other side of the debate were Barak Obama and Dennis Kucinich. Dennis Kucinich voted against the Iraq war from the beginning and Barak Obama spoke out against it from day one.

While it’s admirable to those who oppose the war that Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards and Joe Biden speak out against the war now, they also need to ask where was their foresight in 2002 when it was time to act to stop the war before it started? Obviously not everyone thought it was a good idea to commit our troops to a war before we had finished making sure Osama bin Laden was out of business. Some even warned of the dire circumstances of ill-conceived wars against questionable enemies.

In October of 2002 Barak Obama gave an impassioned speech about the Iraq plan and how it was not in the interests of America. In 2002 before one soldier had died he said: “I don't oppose all wars. My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil. I don't oppose all wars.” He went on to discuss the legitimate fight to stop the perpetrators of 9/11 and then continued: “I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne. What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.” It is clear that he saw the idea of war with Iraq differently than some in Washington saw it at the time. He also discussed Saddam Hussein and the threat he posed to America: “Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.” Seemingly prophetic words in hindsight.

In October of 2002 before the vote to authorize the Iraq war was taken Dennis Kucinich stood on the floor of Congress and stated: “The American people deserve to know that the key issue here is that there is no proof that Iraq represents an imminent or immediate threat to the United States of America. I will repeat: there is no proof that Iraq represents an imminent or immediate threat to the United States. A continuing threat does not constitute a sufficient cause for war. The administration has refused to provide the Congress with credible evidence that proves that Iraq is a serious threat to the United States and that it is continuing to possess and develop chemical and biological and nuclear weapons. Furthermore, there is no credible evidence connecting Iraq to al Qaeda and 9-11, and yet there are people who want to bomb Iraq in reprisal for 9-11. Imagine, if you will, as Cleveland columnist Dick Feagler wrote last week, if after this country was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor in 1941, if instead of retaliating by bombing Japan, we would have retaliated by bombing Peru. Iraq is not connected by any credible evidence to 9-11, nor is it connected by any credible evidence to the activities of al Qaeda on 9-11.” The evidence that has come to light since the beginning of the war has proven Kucinich to be correct on every point made in 2002 in his argument against granting war powers to the president to pursue military action against Iraq.

In October 2002 Hillary Clinton closed her speech on the Iraq war vote with these words: “So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him - use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein - this is your last chance - disarm or be disarmed.” It was strong language for action in a time of great national pride and indignation over the events of 9/11/2001 but not entirely accurate to the situation at hand given the lack of strong evidence that WMD's existed in Iraq at the time.

In October 2002 John Edwards stated: "Saddam Hussein's regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally, Israel. For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has sought weapons of mass destruction through every available means. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons. He has already used them against his neighbors and his own people, and is trying to build more. We know that he is doing everything he can to build nuclear weapons, and we know that each day he gets closer to achieving that goal." It's pretty much what the Bush administration was telling the American people but not really terribly accurate in hindsight. Perhaps then Senator Edwards had not reviewed all the evidence for himself considering the strength of his convictions now.

While Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden were more cautious before the war and warned of consequences if it went badly, they voted to support the authorization. Either they voted against their better judgement or they were somehow more faithful in the good intentions of President Bush than Kucinich or Obama. Either way, there has to be some questioning of their decisions in light of the outcome.

The real question facing Democrats now is, do they think that a president needs good hindsight or foresight? Both Kucinich and Obama saw the flaws in the plan for war and spoke out against it. They were right then and they are right now if you believe that the war was a mistake. The rest of the Democratic pool of prominent presidential hopefuls took a bit longer to see the truth. So do we want leaders who can see when they make mistakes only after public opinion turns and thousands of Americans die or do we want leaders who will go to great lengths to stop them from dying before they are put in harm’s way? It seems like a decision that should not be that tough but chances are personality will once again trump substance and it will be a pitched battle for the nomination between the titans of the podium.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article.

We the People

Like the Romans at the height of decadence, America too has created a bureaucrat class. A class that sees itself as above the laws that it created. There are numerous instances of abuses of power, from bribes to insider trading to downright lying, but no development is more disturbing than the recent invocation of “executive privilege” by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

By refusing to testify before Congress, Ms. Rice is the latest in a long line of “Bushies” to show her disdain for the democratic process and the Constitution they are supposedly sworn to defend. With no need to run for re-election the administration members seemingly no longer need to keep up appearances, they no longer need to pretend to be following the process. With their current evasive tactics and now the outright refusal to testify, they have in fact declared themselves to be above the law and beholden to none.

The Attorney General, Secretary of State, Vice President’s Chief of Staff and to some extent even the Press Secretary, everyone but the top two executives, is being called upon to answer questions about the legality of their actions. But so far it has only been their actions that are in question, the buck stops there. Loyal soldiers all, they act as if these questionable actions were perfectly justified during the War on Terror and that the President or Vice President had no knowledge of their actions.

American is involved in yet another war that will drag on for years that was never sanctioned by the majority of her people. In the days after 9/11 Congress authorized the Bush administration to go after those responsible for the attack, and they did, or seemed to. To be fair troops were inserted first into Afghanistan, the supposed source of the attackers, but that became just a gateway into Iraq. Terrorism was used as a justification for our aggression and now the country that supposedly harbored and trained our attackers is almost an after thought. An on-going conflict that we occasionally have to be reminded of by the media, a conflict that still claims American lives weekly.

American involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan has escalated to the point that there are no simple answers, Generals are retiring at a record pace to escape the quagmire. Recognizing that this is a complex process with no easy answers is an important step, but so is accountability. America has an obligation to the citizens of the various countries we have invaded. We should and must do the right thing if we are to ever regain the dignity of our once internationally revered society.

Equally important to cleaning up the mess, is to find those responsible for it and hold them accountable. If those who committed us to this course are not taken to task the pattern will just repeat itself. Remember accountability? It was why the conflict started in the first place, to hold the Terrorists who attacked us accountable for their actions. Isn’t it time for us to hold our leaders accountable as well? If the President, Vice President and their various advisors did in fact fabricate evidence and intelligence to justify a war that they had been advocating since long before this administration took office shouldn’t they be held accountable? They have been dodging the questions long enough. There are too many dead heroes and not nearly enough explanations. It’s time for answers and solutions. Isn’t it time we brought Democracy to America?
Kyle Pesonen - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article.

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