Published on Monday, July 12, 2004 by the Capital Times / Madison, Wisconsin
While Democrats are more anti-war than Republicans and independents, most polls show that most Americans now believe that the decision of the Bush administration to invade Iraq was wrongheaded. Most polls also show the majority of Americans wants U.S. forces to get out of the quagmire as quickly as a reasonable and honorable exit can be arranged.
Yet, the Democratic Party's platform writing committee, which meets today in Florida to finalize the manifesto on which the ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards will campaign this fall, appears likely to issue a document that fails to take a position on whether the war in Iraq was justified.
This is an unwise approach to what may turn out to be the central issue of the 2004 election campaign.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney intend to run for re-election on a platform that defends the invasion and occupation of Iraq as a necessary act.
If Democrats want to identify themselves as a genuine alternative, they ought to challenge that claim. They have plenty of evidence to make their case. Despite Bush and Cheney's claims, no connection between Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was ever established. Nor were any significant stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction ever discovered.
By the same token, the concerns expressed by foes of the administration's scheming with regards to Iraq have, consistently, proved to have been well founded. The occupation has proved to be every bit as deadly and difficult to manage as anti-war members of the House and Senate suggested it would be. And, as predicted, the cost of maintaining the occupation has robbed the U.S. treasury of funds that should have been used to address domestic needs.
The case against the Bush administration's decision to go to war is compelling, as is the case against the administration's continued management of the war. And the case against the administration's approach to the reconstruction of Iraq - handing out no-bid contracts to firms that are closely tied to members of the administration - is overwhelming.
Democrats should not go into the fall campaign without clearly stating that the war with Iraq was unjustified and that a long-term U.S. military occupation of that country is untenable.