Seattle Post Intelligencer
By HELEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON -- It's time for the Democratic Party to take a courageous stand and call for the withdrawal of troops from the senseless war in Iraq.
Its human cost and the billion-dollars-a-week tab in Iraq should give all Americans pause.
Would the Republicans have hesitated to challenge the Democrats if the shoe were on the other foot? Did the opposition party give President Clinton any slack while he was in office?
What is the logic of Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Joseph Biden, D-Del., and other so-called moderate Democrats still backing the unprovoked war in Iraq when they know they were sold a bill of goods?
Furthermore, they are urging that more troops be sent to Iraq. And they are doing so at a time when the generals in Iraq are giving mixed signals. Some are talking about a draw-down of troops in a year, others in four years.
Are the Democratic leaders afraid to admit they were wrong? Does the credibility of the administration -- and, therefore, the country-- mean anything to them?
Both Clinton and Biden are presumed presidential contenders in 2008. That leaves Democratic voters -- many of whom are anti-war -- with no choice if either wins the party nomination.
Can Biden and Clinton give young men and women any valid reason why they should lay down their lives in a war that we didn't have to fight in the first place?
The fallback position apparently runs like this: "We're there and we have to stay there now. We can't cut and run."
I heard the same refrain during the dying days of the Vietnam War. And so did the moderate Democrats.
Whether viewed as a "mistake" or a "noble cause," the fact is that Vietnam survived and thrived after we departed. It is a participant in the global economy and fairly friendly to us.
I always thought the debacle in Vietnam and its aftermath had taught us a lesson. But apparently not.
Not all Democrats are so clueless. In an opinion article on Wednesday in The Washington Post, former Sen. Gary Hart, D-Col., wrote that "history will deal with George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world ... diverting Guard and Reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold War ... and weakening America's national security."
But he is also tough on his own party and asks: "What will history say about an opposition party that stands silent while all this goes on?"
Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., is proposing a total pullout of U.S. troops by Dec. 31, 2006. Why wait a year?
Some Democrats think the party should simply take a back seat, bide its time and watch the administration defensively struggle for answers to Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who lost her son, Casey, in Iraq. Her vigil continues adjacent the president's Texas ranch.
Bush told the Veterans of Foreign War the United States will accept nothing less than "total victory over the terrorists and their hateful ideology."
His new argument is that anti-war protesters who want the troops brought home quickly "are advocating a policy that would weaken the United States."
Bush himself acknowledged there were no ties between the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 commission concluded that there was no evidence of "a collaborative operational relationship" between Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq has changed that equation. The Iraqi resistance is being helped by outsiders -- whether terrorists or sympathizers -- who were not in Iraq before we attacked.
Did Bush think that at least some Iraqis would not stand and defend their country? Is patriotism simply a U.S. phenomenon?
White House reporters have noted that in addressing military families, Bush is citing statistics on Americans killed in Iraq -- a figure now approaching the 2,000 mark. But the candid test will be when he notes the numbers of Iraqis who have been killed since the United States invaded their country.
Democrats have gone about their lives after giving the president a blank check to do anything he thought was necessary. They think they have absolved themselves of responsibility. It's somebody else's war.
But they might find that if they don't get some backbone and take a stand soon, the voters might not be that forgiving.
Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Copyright 2005 Hearst Newspapers.