Bring U.S. troops home by end of '06
By Sen. John Kerry
Half of those whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial were lost after America's leaders knew our strategy would not succeed. It was immoral then, and it is immoral now, to be quiet or equivocal in the face of such delusion.
Our soldiers, no matter how brave, can't bring democracy to Iraq simply with a gun barrel; the Iraqis themselves must build their democracy. And it will never be done if Iraq's leaders are unwilling to make the compromises that democracy requires.
The confirmation of Iraq's vital cabinet ministers to run the police force and army, coupled with the killing of the brutal terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are an opportunity to change the course in Iraq - if we seize it.
We know the verdict of our generals: the war cannot be won militarily; the only way forward is a political settlement. We need to listen to Gen. George Casey, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, who argued that our large military presence "feeds the notion of occupation" and "extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant." To make Iraqis self-reliant, we need hard and fast deadlines, not an open-ended commitment of U.S. forces.
Iraqi politicians have proved that they respond only to deadlines - a deadline to transfer authority, and deadlines to hold three elections. It was only the most intense eleventh-hour pressure that pushed aside Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and brought forward a consensus prime minister. It was only the most intense eleventh-hour pressure that forced the Iraqis to complete their government. That is why we need a deadline now for Iraqis to stand up and fight for their own country.
It is time to announce that our combat troops are coming home in 2006. It is time to set a schedule with the new Iraqi government for the phased withdrawal of U.S. combat forces by the end of the year. Doing so will empower the Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country, and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country. Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain. This will put Iraqis in charge - and it will undermine support for the insurgency.
Key to this transition is a long overdue engagement in serious and sustained diplomacy. To give Iraq its best hope for a peaceful future, the administration should convene a summit that includes the leaders of that country, its neighbors, and representatives from the Arab League, NATO, the United Nations and the European Union to forge the comprehensive political solution that is necessary to bring stability to Iraq. Making it clear that America will not stay in Iraq forever pressures the regional players to step up and assume their fair share of the burden.
We will not leave Iraq vulnerable. Under my plan, the United States will maintain an over-the-horizon military presence in the Middle East to fight the war on terror and protect regional security interests. We will finish training Iraqi security forces - and hold the president firm to his word that when Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. So far, the Iraqis have trained 265,600 security forces - just 7,000 shy of the Bush administration's stated goal of 272,566. Where's the standing down?
The time has come for a Congress that shares responsibility for getting us into Iraq to take responsibility for helping to get us out. Sure, we were misled. But we know it now - and we know the truth. We must demand a change in policy, a change in course. Our soldiers have done their job. It is time for Iraqis to do their job: to stand up for Iraq. It's time for Iraqis to want democracy for themselves as much as we want it for them.
This is a moment when American patriotism demands more dissent and less complacency in the face of stubborn pride from those in power. It is not enough to argue with details or logistics, with the manner of the conflict's execution, or the failures of competence, as great as they are.
It is essential to acknowledge that the war itself was a mistake - to say the simple words that contain more truth than pride: I was misled. I was wrong to vote for the Iraq resolution. I will fight to set a deadline to redeploy American forces. We cannot change the future unless we are honest about the past. We cannot have it both ways on the Iraq war. It is time at last to make the policy right - for our troops, and for Iraq.
Rightwing blog Riehl World claims John Kerry wants to have it both ways and throws in a mention of Swifty smear in his post about John Kerry's OP/ED. What Riehl World misses is that Bush has been having it both ways for sometime now. And in doing this, he's failed this country miserably and failed his glorious mission in Iraq based on lies. Bush, cut and ran when it was time to get Osama bin Lost in Tora Bora, just like he cut and ran from his National Guard duty during Vietnam. To quote Riehl World, Bush's failures "need not be America's, as well."
-- Hotline’s Blogometer and Right Wing Blogs Get it Wrong on Iraq Vote
-- John Kerry Re: Troop Withdrawal–It’s time for Iraqis to stand up for Iraq
-- John Kerry Slams Republican’s for Pentagon Talking Points in Forced Iraq Debate