March 17, 2010

Democrats sign on to plan to end Iraq war

Standing Up

— Last month, a half-dozen Democratic congressional candidates from around the country gathered in Washington to present ''The Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq'' to the American people.

Meanwhile, ABC's Martha Raddatz was telling Vice President Dick Cheney that two-thirds of Americans thought the war is not worth fighting.

''So?'' he replied.

''So,'' she asked, ''you don't care what the American people think?''

''No.''

Sometimes it's difficult to tell which is in greater supply in the Bush administration -- arrogance or incompetence. Taken together, however, they are the most dangerous combination, as the 4,000th combat death in Iraq has reminded us.

The list of failures that led us into this war is long, and historians will be adding to it for years, but at the top is a failure to lead -- not just by the administration but by both parties in Congress. In the run-up to the war, a herd-like mentality developed, not just in the White House and Pentagon but also on Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders of both parties seemed to lack the political will and courage to stand up to an over-zealous and power-hungry executive branch.

The heavy-handed governing style of the Bush administration left no room for dissent, no room for input from others and no room to build coalitions either inside or outside the United States. It turns out that is no way to run a government and no way to wage a war.

This year we will elect a new president (we hope it will be a Democrat) who will need to take the lead in undoing the damage that has been done by this administration, at home and abroad.

But he or she will not be able to do it alone, and will need a Congress with political courage and a commitment to reform.

The candidates who have committed to supporting the Responsible Plan are not just committing to ending the war, but to making sure we never find ourselves in this situation again. Many of the proposals in the plan follow the lead of the Iraq Study Group -- a non-partisan panel whose roadmap of a new direction for American foreign policy was completely ignored by the Bush administration.

The Responsible Plan seeks to create an American foreign policy for the 21st century—one that makes military action the last option, not the first.

Creating the capacity for nation-building and economic reconstruction in the State Department, expanding the role of the international community and reaffirming our commitment to human rights are some of the steps we can take toward repairing America's standing in the world.

Here at home, the Responsible Plan includes proposals to:

n Restore the individual rights and the balance of power guaranteed in the Constitution;

n End detainee torture and extraordinary rendition;

n Rebuild our military; and

n Provide our returning veterans with the care and benefits they deserve.

Since we presented the Responsible Plan, more than 50 Democratic congressional candidates have signed on, showing their willingness to build a coalition and fight for change in Washington. And around the country, nearly 25,000 Americans have endorsed the plan.

Opinion polls often report the public's disappointment in the leadership shown their elected officials. It's no wonder.

If people assume election to public office automatically makes someone a ''leader,'' they're bound for disappointment. The abilities, skills and quality-of-character that create a leader aren't something conferred on him or her by public office, but something that must be brought to that office -- from the outside.

By standing up and presenting the Responsible Plan to End the War, these Democratic candidates are ready to bring those qualities to Washington.

The entire plan is available online at www.chelliepingree.com.

— Special to the Press Herald

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