Kerry's mistakes

Posted: Jul 05, 2004 12:00 AM

How is America supposed to win in Iraq, and how are the Iraqi people supposed to reclaim their country, when so many Washington leaders seem to be rooting for failure in Baghdad?
It's bad enough that the peaceniks dismiss interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi as a tool of the CIA -- without acknowledging how courageous his service is -- and refuse to recognize the progress visible in this handover of power (which they call an occupation, even though the Iraqis can throw out foreign troops).

 It is worse that Washington Democrats, who should know better, are undermining the Iraqi mission. It wasn't that long ago -- just four years -- that Democrats were bashing Republicans for "talking down" the economy for political reasons. Now, top Democrats are talking down a war that has cost 800-plus Americans their lives -- with little regard to how their sniping might affect the war effort.

 You would think that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., never heard of the word "morale," by the way he is bad-mouthing a war he himself voted to authorize.

 While Iraqis have resented America's military presence, even in Iraq, citizens were more upbeat than Kerry about the transfer of power. A Baghdad newspaper, New Morning, wrote a story headlined "America Keeps Its Promise" for its next edition, according to NBC news. Yet in America, Kerry, who voted for the war, looked as if he had lost a bet.

 He couldn't congratulate President Bush. (Maybe it's a campaign decision: no sentences about Bush without the word "worst.") He did salute U.S. troops for what they had accomplished, though he did so with a dig at Bush for the war's "very difficult circumstances."

 Here's another way Kerry talks down the war effort: He says that he would be able to persuade more countries to send their troops into Iraq. But, after Kerry has trashed just about everything concerning Operation Iraqi Freedom, what country (that hasn't already) would want to come to Iraq? Why would new countries join the U.S.-led coalition when Kerry and other Democrats fail to recognize the sacrifices already made by the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Spain and other countries that sent troops -- when the party dismisses Bush's coalition as "unilateral"?

 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.