Candidates: Come Clean About Iraq

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The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Candidates: Come Clean About Iraq

WASHINGTON -- Thinking of his legacy, President Bush says he views himself as a "peacemaker" but he at the same time he acknowledges that some may see him as a "warmonger."

The president -- who launched an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003 -- had previously said he wanted to be known as a "war president."

That is more likely since the wars he initiated against Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on longer than World War II -- and there is no end in sight.

The president made the "peacemaker" remarks in an interview with ABC-TV's "Night Line" as he was winding up his recent journey to the Middle East.

Bush acknowledged there was widespread skepticism about him in the volatile region, saying that his detractors had portrayed him as wanting "to fight Muslims."

"I'm sure people view me as a warmonger -- and I view myself as a peacemaker," Bush said. "They view me as so pro-Israeli (that) I can't be open-minded about Palestinian peace...You just have to fight through the stereotypes by actions."

Meantime, war is too dangerous to be left to the generals and admirals who have become more outspoken about their view that a prolonged occupation of Iraq is in the future, but probably with less than the current 160,000 U.S. troops there now.

The U.S. commanders are talking about staying the course for another decade, despite public opinion polls showing that the American people want out of Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second ranking Army commander in Iraq, said Iraq could require a U.S. military presence for many years to support combat operations

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman if the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the joint chiefs will come up with an assessment about security requirements -- and the strain of multiple tours and the need for troops to be deployed elsewhere.

Despite the daily violence, Bush still speaks of "winning" the war.

How long are Americans willing to sacrifice the lives of young American men and women in a country that sees us as a foreign "enemy."

The war was based on falsehoods. That alone should have aroused the American people to recall the history of its participation in the equally unpopular and devastating Vietnam War.

But without a military draft -- and I'm glad there is none -- the war only touches the families who have members who volunteer to fight and especially the families who have lost loved ones.

Congress should keep Bush from making commitments concerning Iraq that could tie the hands of his successor and trap the next president in his pointless war.

In response to my question, deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto said Bush had not signed any documents to keep the war going, but he added that work is underway on an agreement "to cement" the U.S. relationship with Iraq.

So that there will be no misunderstanding, it's time for all the presidential candidates to take a stand on pulling out of Iraq.

It's not a problem with the Republican candidates who are foursquare behind Bush's policies, especially Sen. John McCain of Arizona who foresees a long war, stretching over decades. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is also pro-war with a staff of hawkish advisers.

The two Democratic frontrunners -- Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- should fish or cut bait.

Surely, we have a right to know where they stand on the war that has caused so much human suffering and is draining the national treasury.

They can't stand on the sidelines. They should not be sucked into that Karl Rove brand of baloney that those who call for a pull out to cut our losses are not supporting the troops.

The lawmakers can fund the troops for an orderly withdrawal and bring them home, or perhaps turn over peacekeeping to an international force.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina -- also a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination -- would have the U.S. leave Iraq in 10 months if he becomes president.

Voters should know what a new president is ready to do about Iraq.

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas was an American author and former news service reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and columnist. She worked for the United Press International (UPI) for 57 years, first as a correspondent, and later as White House bureau chief. She was an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, writing on national affairs and the White House. Among other books she was the author of Front Row at The White House: My Life and Times. Helen passed away on July 20, 2013.

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