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The Tentacle


February 16, 2007

If I knew then what I know now...

George Wenschhof

Sound familiar? This is a statement that is being used by many politicians today when Iraq comes up for discussion.

This statement is in response to the question: "How did you vote?" on the Iraq War resolution requested by President George W. Bush in 2002. The measure was entitled "Authorization for use of military force against Iraq resolution of 2002."

The House voted in favor on October 10, 2002, by a vote of 296-133. The Senate vote on October 11, 2002, was 77-23 in favor with 21 opposed Democrats being joined by one Independent and one Republican senator. Twenty-nine of the 50 Democrat senators voted in favor of the Iraq war resolution.

After attending a Sue Hecht for state Senate rally in 2002, I remember having dinner with Maryland Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski. During this dinner at a local restaurant, I had the opportunity to express why I did not support the upcoming war resolution requested by the president. They both listened to my position and were non-committal in their vote. I learned later they were two of the 21 Democrat senators to vote against.

Today, the Democratic candidates for president are being asked this question over and over again as Americans want to know how they voted on the Iraq war resolution.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., NY) was asked repeatedly in New Hampshire when she appeared at rallies promoting her candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination.

Former Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards was asked the same question in numerous ways, as only host Tim Russert can do, on "Meet the Press" on a recent Sunday morning.

The preceding Sunday Sen. Joseph Biden (D., DE) was busy answering the same question as he faced reporters and talk-show hosts after he formally announced his candidacy.

These three candidates for president have all at one point answered the question with "If I knew then what I know now." Senator Clinton has added a comment that she put her trust in President Bush and he failed us.

Another Democratic candidate for president, Sen. Chris Dodd (D., CT) has not received many questions on this, or any other issue for that matter.

Fortunately for Sen. Barrack Obama (D., IL), he has received a bye from the question for he has only been a senator for two years and consequently did not cast a vote in 2002. However, he has said our troops should be out of Iraq by March 2008.

Only Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) voted against the resolution in 2002. When he ran for president in 2004 he also unveiled his plan to withdraw from Iraq.

The events leading to the date President Bush launched the invasion were many and significant; but the debate of the merits of this war by our elected leaders was nonexistent.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D., WV) expressed this sentiment on the Senate floor on February 12, 2003, when he said: "Yet, this chamber is, for the most part, silent - ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing."

Interestingly, a year and a half earlier on September 18, 2001, just seven days following the horrific destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, the "Authorization for Use of Military Force" was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush.

This joint resolution granted the president the authority to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed, or aided" the September 11 attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.

On September 14, just three days after the attacks, the House vote were 420 Ayes, 1 Nay, and 10 not voting. The same day the Senate vote was 98 Ayes, 0 Nays, 2 Present/Not Voting (Republicans Larry Craig and Jesse Helms).

It would appear that this earlier resolution provided the authority for President Bush to order an invasion of Iraq if he believed Iraq was harboring or aiding terrorists. Instead, he pushed for and received additional authority in the October 2002 Iraq War Resolution.

The major reasons at the time for going to war expressed by the Bush administration centered on Iraq aiding and harboring terrorists and their alleged weapons of mass destruction program. On March 19, 2003, President Bush launched the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and three short weeks later the Hussein regime had collapsed.

The rapid demise of the Hussein regime and the tremendous destruction of the infrastructure of Iraq resulted in this quote by Secretary of State Colin Powell: "If you break it, you own it." He was referring to the responsibility the U.S. had to rebuild Iraq.

Since the early successful invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has redefined the reason for going to war many times. When no weapons of mass destruction were found, the justification for invading Iraq became the removal of a horrible despot and the liberation of the Iraqi people. Recently the reasoning became promoting and spreading democracy in the Middle East. Over the years the Bush administration has developed a new definition for WMD - Words of Mass Distortion.

In a column I wrote for The Tentacle on May 19, 2003, I said that "The major questions that have not been answered regarding the recent military campaigns and won't be until the ether wears off and time goes by is: 'Did we really accomplish what we intended?' and 'Where do we go from here?' "

The ether has worn off and almost four years have gone by since President Bush launched the invasion of Iraq and I asked those questions.

The American people deserve an open and honest debate in the House and Senate on the merits of "The Surge of Troops" strategy in Iraq proposed by President Bush. The anti-war resolution, currently blocked by Senate Republicans using a parliamentary procedure, should also go forward for debate.

Americans also deserve alternative plans for our action in Iraq. With a Democrat majority in the House and Senate, Democratic representatives and presidential hopefuls should lead and offer solutions to the current morass in Iraq.

The statement "If I knew then what I know now..." is just not good enough.



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