Debra J. Saunders

 Supporters argue that Kerry's Vietnam experience is a selling point because it means he wouldn't send other people's children to fight in a war without extraordinary reason. Kerry said as much during the New Hampshire primary: "I can pledge this to the American people. I will never conduct a war ... because we want to. The United States of America should only go to war because we have to. And if you live by that guidance, you will never have veterans" throwing their medals in protest.

 Of course, Kerry was referring to the other veterans' medals a young Kerry threw away in protest of the Vietnam War. In 1971, Kerry also chided members of Congress for asking young men "to die for a mistake."

 Yet, in April of this year on "Meet the Press," Kerry said of this war, "The way the president went to war is a mistake." If that's the case, then Kerry voted for young men to die for "a mistake."

 Kerry's explanation to the San Francisco Chronicle was that he and other war-wary Democrats voted to authorize force in Iraq in October 2002 because "What we thought we were doing was getting (Bush) to a place where it would be harder to go to war."

 Kerry's defense is: He made an honest mistake. Actually, it was a dishonest mistake, as he had to know that Democratic support made it easier for Bush to go to war.

 Let me say that Kerry has a duty to criticize Bush when, say, he disagrees with the president on troop size or on whether the coalition should be under the jurisdiction of Department of Defense rather than the State Department. That's not the issue here.

 The issue is this: If Kerry votes for a war, he owes it to the troops to root for victory. He shouldn't be glum when good things happen. He can credit Bush when things are done right. He should rally Washington to provide Iraqi forces with everything they need to win. If he votes to authorize a war, he should vote to fund it -- which he failed to do.

 I don't buy Kerry's story as to why he supported the war resolution. But I do know that once John Kerry voted to authorize that war, he assumed an obligation to do everything in his power to win it. Instead, he has spent months undermining the coalition in order to bolster his own career. That's worse than a mistake.

Debra J. Saunders

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