Before the war in Iraq, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials spoke with great certainty about the reasons to go to war against Iraq. On Oct. 7, 2002, President Bush said that Saddam Hussein "still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more" and that Iraq "could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." As we now know with great certainty, according to the Duelfer report, none of this was true.
On May 1, 2003, standing before the "Mission Accomplished" banner, President Bush said, with great certainty, "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." Ninety percent of the U.S. military fatalities in Iraq have occurred since that date.
We have been told, over and over, with great certainty by the president on down, that we have enough troops on the ground to secure the peace in Iraq. Earlier this month, Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator of Iraq, said that "we paid a big price for not stopping [the looting] because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness. We never had enough troops on the ground."
And now we are being told with great certainty that there will be no military draft in a second Bush administration.
Last month, a study completed by a Pentagon-appointed panel concluded that the American military does not have sufficient forces to sustain current and anticipated stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other missions that might arise.
How many troops will we need for a preemptive war of choice against North Korea, which now has several nuclear weapons, a threat we have failed to contain? How many troops will we need for a preemptive war of choice against Iran, with greatly advanced nuclear ambitions of its own, and which has actively supported terrorism? How about a war of choice to attempt to bring democracy to the Middle East? Where would such a war begin, and where would it ever end?
On Jan. 10, 1991, Paul Wellstone gave his very first speech on the floor of the Senate. He spoke then in opposition to the first Gulf War. In deciding whether or not to vote to go to war, Paul set forth this test for himself: "If I believe Saddam Hussein was a Hitler and that we must go to war to stop him, if I believe we must do that for the defense of our country or the defense of this world ... then as much as I could hardly stand the thought, I could accept the loss of life of one of my children, ages 25, 21 and 18. I would rather it be me, but I could accept the loss of their life."
My own three children will all be of draft age during the next four years. The meaning and relevance of Wellstone's test could not possibly be more compelling today.
The people speaking with great certainty now that there will be no need to reinstitute a military draft in this country over the next four years, no matter what we need to do to end the chaos in Iraq, and no matter where else we end up fighting, are the same people whose previous statements spoken with great certainty have been proven wrong over and over again.
It is not their honesty I question; it is their fully and tragically demonstrated lack of competency and sound judgment that I will not and cannot accept. I am not willing to risk the lives of my children on their certainty. How about you? Are you willing to risk the lives of your own children on them being right, for once?
Rick Kahn, who was treasurer of Paul Wellstone's Senate campaigns, works with nonprofit organizations in the acquisition and financing of affordable rental housing projects. He lives in Minnetonka.
© 2004 Star Tribune