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John Kerry's Moral Advantage on Iraq

September 17, 2004
By Doug Snider

When John Kerry testified on the war in Vietnam before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April of 1971, he made the case for an honorable end to the dishonorable war that many knew was already lost.

The attempt to turn the war effort over to the South Vietnamese was proving as futile as the long struggle to pacify the south and stem the flow of men and arms from the north. Four years and thousands of American lives later, U.S. forces were ultimately forced to abandon South Vietnam in a embarrassing retreat.

Now, in the bitterly contested 2004 presidential election, John Kerry once again finds himself facing a Republican administration waging and defending a war of choice gone terribly wrong.

Although Kerry supported giving the Bush administration the leverage it needed to force Saddam Hussein to submit to the resumption of international arms inspections, he adamantly opposed the unprovoked pre-emptive invasion that topped the Bush agenda entering the White House.

Now that the United States is once again an occupying power supporting a foreign government of its own design, John Kerry has the wisdom and the courage to propose a reasonable exit from what can only be called a quagmire.

The Bush administration is not interested in a clean and complete exit from Iraq because that would mean the end of the neo-conservative dream of American power dominating the troubled heart of the world's oil reserves. The United States would be giving up a foothold in the region and a stepping-off point to its future conquests.

John Kerry has taken the position that his administration will bring the rest of the world to the table to help us end the strife and give Iraq the means to enjoy true sovereignty and peace. The obvious question is, will he be able to succeed in internationalizing an American problem that Bush has created and aggravated by his stubborn unilateralism?

Publicly the world leaders who have opted out of Bush's dwindling "Coalition of the Willing" have only privately hinted that they might be more receptive to working with President Kerry. Their constituents have been far less diplomatic in their outspoken embrace of John Kerry.

What is easier to say with certainty is that these same leaders have no desire to join a struggle that bears the odious mark of George W. Bush. As the most reviled leader on the planet, Bush has no chance of getting other nations to step forward to share the burden of a worsening political and military situation.

In fact, Bush really has shown little desire to relinquish or share control of a captive nation that he regards as vainly as the pilfered trophies of a vanquished Saddam Hussein he keeps in the Oval Office.

Bush's many masters have left him with few options to extricate us from this mess. Ceding his new protectorate to an Islamic theocracy, however benign, would betray his pro-Israel base as well as his fundamentalist Christian supporters. Abandoning the neo-conservative crusade would end his usefulness to the people who put him in power. Relinquishing control of Iraq's vast oil reserves would not be well received by much of corporate America, his real political and philosophical base.

President John Kerry will not have to defend the mistakes that got us embroiled in an Iraqi civil war or the deceptions used to lead us there. He can be completely honest with the American people and with the rest of the world.

Admitting the grave mistakes of his predecessor would not diminish our nation's standing or moral authority in the least. It would be a truly American thing to do. Being a superpower does not mean we can never admit a mistake, George Bush's inability to do so notwithstanding.

John Kerry's heroic service in Vietnam and courageous opposition upon his return from war empower him to say with authority that sacrificing more young Americans will not honor those already fallen in Bush's costly misadventure.

On November 2, 2004 our choice is simple. We either heed the proven wisdom of John Kerry or allow George Bush to lead us deeper into a self-inflicted disaster that is so much like the one John Kerry warned us of thirty-three years ago.

Doug Snider is a Vietnam veteran who was serving in Vietnam when John Kerry made his opposition to the war public.

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