On a national scale, the Democratic response to the disaster of the Iraq War has become a disaster all its own. After the dazzling performance by John Murtha last year, the Democrats in Congress seem to have collectively decided to pull their heads back into their shells. Sure, the congressional Democrats fire off a shot about the idiocy of starting the war in the first place, but let's not forget that many of those same Democrats on the Hill voted to help Bush start the war in the first place.
Even at a time when the American people are solidly against the war, and over 70 percent of soldiers in Iraq believe we need to be gone from there within the year, the Democrat's position of the Iraq War has become ineffective, largely because it's dominated by a timid, hair splitting approach that still fails to recognize the gravity of the problem. We see scores of Iraqis killed every day, by each other, and the former Iraqi Prime Minister that the United States maneuvered into power calls what's going on a civil war. Yet, we have Democrats in Congress, and Democratic congressional candidates, offering bland non-solution solutions like establishing "benchmarks" on our path to Iraqi Democracy, victory, and peace.
At a time when the situation in Iraq is becoming worse, not better, establishing benchmarks to "monitor our progress toward a stable democratic Iraq" is inadequate, and Democrats who offer plans that stop at such bureaucratic reshuffling demonstrate a lack of the kind of vision America needs to get us out of this mess. We need the Democrats to offer bold, imaginative strategies for ending the war in the least painful and humiliating way possible. It's time for us to get realistic, and acknowledge that the glowing, glittering victory Bush promised us three years ago is never going to happen.
The American people already know that. It's the Republican and most Democratic politicians who seem unable to accept reality. They're still afraid of being identified as "anti-war", not realizing that such political timidity is what enabled the United States to start the Iraq War in the first place.
Les Roberts is going to some trouble not to make too much out of his war record, though it is the kind of record that he ought to be proud of. It is the primary strength of his campaign - yet, he's decided not to use it, allowing himself to be identified in the public mind instead as some kind of mild-mannered epidemiologist. Do most people in the 24th District even know what that is?
It's a shame, because even Republicans are moving toward opposition to the war. Les Roberts has the experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, and elsewhere to bring him a kind of credibility that can cross party lines, so that he could win not just the Democratic nomination, but the general election as well. As it stands, Les Roberts has been made the underdog by the implicit DCCC endorsement of Michael Arcuri. Underdogs only ever come back to win when they act with boldness.
The material of such boldness already exists within the Les Roberts for Congress campaign - the campaign just needs to shake off its fear, and use it. I'm talking about the Iraq Position Paper recently released by the Roberts for Congress campaign.
The position paper goes to great length to summarize that dangerous position America finds itself in with the Iraq War, but the best part are the innovative proposals that Roberts makes at the end of the paper. Roberts proposes that, in order to end the war in the most painless way possible, the United States:
1. Win back the trust of the Iraqi people by ending suspicions that the United States is in Iraq in order to make American corporations rich through the exploitation of Iraq's oil resources. Les Roberts proposes a five-year ban on American for-profit corporations working in Iraq, as a way of showing that we have the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart.
2. Set a timetable for withdrawal. The refusal to set a timetable for withdrawal has not been effective in stopping the violence - in fact, the vagueness of such an approach has made the violence worse. Les Roberts proposes that we make it clear to the Iraqis that they are going to be the owners of their country, and they'd better get it in shape fast.
3. Congress should set an end date for the authority of President Bush to wage war in Iraq. Congress made a mistake in giving President Bush the power to start the war in Iraq, and Congress can take that power away from President Bush as well. Setting an end date gives the Bush Administration the message that it needs to change its failed Iraq War strategy in profound ways, and either win the conflict quickly, or start preparing to pull American soldiers out of harms way in a manner that is best for both the Iraqi people and for our military forces.
This is the kind of bold solution that the Democrats should have been proposing years ago. It's high time that our Democratic candidates and representatives in Congress step up to the plate and get serious about ending this war.
Don't run away from who you are, Mr. Roberts. Communicate your plans with the strength in which they were conceived, and you will earn the respect of the 24th District.