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Let's put the political debate on the right footing

LET'S PUT the blame where it belongs: Our failure to win the peace in Iraq lies squarely on the shoulders of George W. Bush. The chaos that followed our destruction of Saddam Hussein's regime was not foreseen by the Bush administration, and there was no plan to handle it. This is an unforgivable combination of arrogance and incompetence in a president. We must get him out of office.

 

Unfortunately, the public debates among the Democratic presidential contenders in the 2004 election have been reduced to finger-pointing about the war on Iraq, most of it coming from Howard Dean. He calls those who voted for George W. Bush's war resolution as writing the president a blank check, and therefore being untrustworthy critics of the war.

This is not well-reasoned criticism since Bush could have unilaterally waged war against Iraq without a resolution from the Senate, as President Clinton did in Kosovo and Haiti. What's more, those voting for the resolution were not signing Bush a blank check. He had promised that he was going to the United Nations to force Saddam Hussein to abide by UN inspections.

The senators who voted yes were convinced that the only way Bush could show the United Nations that the United States was serious about destroying Saddam's weapons of mass destruction was to give him the unilateral use of force.

Bush betrayed their trust by dealing arrogantly with the UN, by giving ultimatums, rushing to war and, of course, as was revealed later, by misusing his own intelligence sources on the weapons of mass destruction.

But most seriously for the Democrats, this finger-pointing drives a wedge among those who want Bush out of office, and distracts us from our most important job as voters to find the best qualified candidate for president.

How each of the contenders voted, or would have voted, on the Iraq war resolution is not the right test for finding the best candidate.

The right test is the candidate's record on the issues, their life experience, personal character, and their expertise in national and international affairs. We need a world statesman to clean up Bush's mess.

Howard Dean keeps hammering away at the Iraq issue because what fuels his candidacy and determines his style on the campaign trail is angry antiwar rhetoric. In fact, he has at times sounded remarkably similar to his rival, Senator John Kerry. On Feb. 20, 2003 Dean said: "If the UN in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the US should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn't, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice."

Come on Democrats, put the debate back on the right footing. We need a broader debate and vision before we can find the candidate with the political experience and character to bring our country together again and restore us as members of a world community.

TELA ZASLOFF

Williamstown

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