THE BLOG

Mistakes and Responsibility

Four years ago today, the United States Senate voted to give President Bush the authority to use force in Iraq.

There's nothing - nothing - in my life in public service I regret more, nothing even close. We should all be willing to say: I was wrong, I should not have voted for the Iraq War Resolution. It's not enough to talk about the incompetence and immorality of this Administration in the conduct of this war. It is not enough to point out that we were grossly misled.

But it is also not enough just to look backwards. The question today is whether leaders will take responsibility for fixing a Katrina foreign policy that kills and maims our soldiers and weakens America in the fight against terror. We must change course in Iraq.

That's why I have proposed a deadline for Iraq and a comprehensive plan to end the civil war. That's why Russ Feingold and I forced a vote on it in the Senate. That's why I keep on making the case wherever I go -- today in Nevada. It's why President Bush decided to single out my plan for another pathetic attack today.

Well, bring it on -- let's have that debate.

My plan is the opposite of the administration's stand-still-and-lose strategy. It's pretty simple: every time President Bush tells the Iraqis we will "stay as long as it takes," he is giving squabbling politicians there an excuse to take as long as they want.

At each step along the way, the Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines. So why not a deadline to extricate our troops? Read about my plan at http://blog.johnkerry.com.

We also desperately need something else this administration disdains: diplomacy. Real diplomacy -- a Dayton-like summit of Iraq and the countries bordering it, the Arab League, NATO, and the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council. Guess what? That will only happen with a deadline to push and prod Iraqis and their neighbors to the bargaining table. Why would any other nation put itself on the line if the United States was willing to stay forever?

Today of all days, we should be having this debate, openly, honestly, and in a way that honors America's troops and our best traditions. One of the things I feel most personally is that a Congress that shares responsibility for getting us into Iraq needs to take responsibility for getting us out the right way.

The truth is that America is imprisoned in a failed policy. And as in Vietnam, we're being told that admitting mistakes, not the mistakes themselves, will provide our enemies with an intolerable propaganda victory. Well, that too is a lie.

Next time you're in Washington, take a moment to walk down to the Vietnam War Memorial, if you haven't done it.

As you walk down that path into the center of the V and you stand in the V, you can look up one end and you'll see 1960 -- earlier, 1959 -- all the way through parts of 1968, and then the other side of the wall brings us toward the end. And half the names on that wall, half the names -- stand in the center of it and look up at tens of thousands of young Americans -- half the names on that wall were lost after America's leaders knew and later acknowledged our strategy wasn't working. It was immoral then and it is immoral now to be quiet or equivocal in the face of that kind of delusion. Just think about what that Wall might look like for this war.