Published on Monday, October 11, 2004 by Working for Change
What to Tell Edner?
Will John Kerry Bring the Troops Home?
by Byron Williams
Having spent a portion of last week in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, I felt as though I got my first taste of presidential campaign politics. Unlike the mundane predictability of living in California, which is almost certain to go blue, Pennsylvania is different.
Outside of CNN running selected advertisements, I had yet to see a Swift Boat ad up close and personal. I saw three in my hotel. Everywhere I went in Philadelphia, people wanted to talk about the election. One person who particularly stands out was Edner.
Edner drove me around during my time in Philadelphia. When he discovered that I was going to meet with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, he became excited.
"John Kerry is a good man," he exclaimed. "He is going to bring my son home from Iraq."
As I got out of the cab going to the meeting, he gave me his son's name and asked if I would place him on my church's prayer list when I returned to Oakland.
Edner's belief in John Kerry to conduct a 180-degree diplomatic turnaround in Iraq caused me to have a self-reflective moment. Was Edner a futile prisoner to hope, or was I merely condemned to cynicism because the facts at my disposal had blinded me to any other possibility?
In the meeting, Sen. Kerry stated that he believed that a regime change in Washington would provide him the credibility with European allies that the current president has squandered. That sounds good; Edner would support it, but I remained skeptical.
As I have written previously, despite rhetoric to the contrary, I believe a draft is quite possible, regardless of the outcome in November.
If one believes the actions of Congress last week, it would be easy to conclude that there is nothing to my theory.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly defeated a bill last week that would have required all young men and women to provide two years of national service, essentially reinstating the military draft.
If, however, one buys the argument also presented last week by the former top American administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, my hypothesis may still have life. According to Bremer, the president had not sent enough troops to Iraq.
If Bremer is correct it, does it not beg the question: Where will the additional troops come from?
Assuming that I understand Kerry's response, the senator is suggesting that his personal credibility is strong enough to pacify the roughly 70 percent of Europeans who feel that America is a threat to world peace. Unless Kerry would make a drastic policy change in Iraq, we will have more of the same.
How will more of the same produce a different outcome with our European allies?
Either the senator believes that European politicians are immune from reading poll numbers or that rank and file Europeans will abdicate their tools of critical thinking simply based on his defeating Bush.
Kerry's response to a potential draft is even more problematic when one considers that not only Colin Powell but also international law demands, "If you break it, you own it."
Under the Geneva Conventions, an occupying force has responsibility over security and order. Iraq has proven to be a difficult place to fully secure, with occupying troops meeting fierce pockets of resistance and anger.
The closest that anyone came to providing an answer I could believe was Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, who suggested that our European allies might be enticed to participate if we allow them access to the oil revenues that Bush denied them because of their reluctance to be part of the coalition of the willing.
While that may cause greater participation from our European allies, thus reducing the need for a draft, it won't necessarily bring home the troops who are already there.
After the meeting I thought to myself, what am I going to tell Edner?
Byron Williams writes a weekly political/social commentary at Byronspeaks.com. Byron serves as pastor of the Resurrection Community Church in Oakland, California.