Issues 2004 – Iraq

Since our campaign is almost devoid of discussion of the issues, Jeff Jarvis has taken it upon himself to start some discussion.

It’s too bad that he is part of the problem spending his time running around to the TV news shows who are obsessed about Rathergate and also avoiding the issues.

That said, I applaud Jeff’s desire to get the issues out front and center. His first piece was on Iraq, as it should be since Iraq is George Bush’s biggest failure as President and one of the main reasons that many Republicans I know are leaning toward Kerry while “holding their noses”.

John Kerry gave a speech yesterday morning about 4 blocks from my home, at NYU, and he said the following:

That means we must have a great honest national debate on Iraq. The president claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.

This has always been my central issue with the war in Iraq. I was on the fence in 2002 and early 2003 as many of us were. The accusations about nuclear weapons and the Al Qaeda links were compelling. And I was reading Tom Friedman’s assertions about the need to create a democratic government in the mideast as well. But I also could not get past the fact that Bush’s father and his foriegn policy team, perhaps the most impressive foriegn policy team in my adulthood, were opposed to the war. Baker, Scowcroft, Powell, Bush I himself, these were people who’d gotten it right and had determined that unseating Hussein was destablizing. They believed that invading Iraq was a terrible idea. And it was.

More from Kerry’s speech:

The intelligence estimate totally contradicts what the President is saying to the American people.

So do the facts on the ground.

Security is deteriorating, for us and for the Iraqis.

42 Americans died in Iraq in June — the month before the handover. But 54 died in July…66 in August… and already 54 halfway through September.

And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August – more than in any other month since the invasion.

We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war-zone. In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times. In August, they attacked 2,700 times – a 400% increase.

Falluja…Ramadi… Samarra … even parts of Baghdad – are now “no go zones”… breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our soldiers. The radical Shi’a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, who’s accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in the suburbs of Baghdad.

Violence against Iraqis… from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation … is on the rise.

Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.
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Most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives. So they’re sitting on the fence… instead of siding with us against the insurgents.

That is the truth. The truth that the Commander in Chief owes to our troops and the American people.

We’ve got a mess on our hands. A big mess. And its a mess that we created by going into Iraq. Americans weren’t getting beheaded there when Hussein was in power. They are now. Terrorists weren’t flocking there to plan their attacks on the US. They are now. We created a rats nest for terrorism when we should have been eliminating one.

And so what is Bush going to do about it? Novack says he’s going to cut and run.

So what would Kerry do about it?

Here’s what his plan is (also from his speech yesterday – go read the whole thing, I am not going to put it all here on this page):

We need to turn the page and make a fresh start in Iraq.

First, the President has to get the promised international support so our men and women in uniform don’t have to go it alone. It is late; the President must respond by moving this week to gain and regain international support.
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Second, the President must get serious about training Iraqi security forces.
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Third, the President must carry out a reconstruction plan that finally brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.
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Fourth, the President must take immediate, urgent, essential steps to guarantee the promised elections can be held next year.

If the President would move in this direction … if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and forces … train the Iraqis to provide their own security …develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people … and take the steps necessary to hold credible elections next year … we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years.

This is what has to be done. This is what I would do as President today. But we cannot afford to wait until January. President Bush owes it to the American people to tell the truth and put Iraq on the right track. Even more, he owes it to our troops and their families, whose sacrifice is a testament to the best of America.

Colin Powell told George W Bush, “you break it, you own it” when Bush told him he was going to war. We broke Iraq, unwisely and mistakenly, and now we own it. Many times in my experience, you can’t expect the person who screwed something up to fix it. They just can’t admit their mistakes and move on. You need someone new to fix it.

When it comes to Iraq, that’s where I am. We’ve got to get someone new in charge if we have any hope of fixing the mess that is Iraq.