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November 13, 2005

Edwards Calls For Withdrawal, Rejoicing Ensues

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Being an enormous John Edwards fan, I've long awaited the day when he would come out and say that his Iraq vote was a mistake. It was one of the things I wanted to ask him about when I met him, but I decided to ask about health care and global poverty instead. So you can imagine that I'm thrilled to see his op-ed expressing exactly that sentiment in the Washington Post.

I'm quite happy with the content of the op-ed itself. It begins with a straightforward "I was wrong" and blames bad WMD intelligence for his vote. I regard his quasi-explanation of why he didn’t speak out against the war before – “It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price” – as bullshit, but it’s the kind of sterilized bullshit that doesn’t pollute the rivers and makes decent fertilizer.

Two things in the article were particularly good to see. Edwards makes exactly the point I was hoping for in my old Ask A Werewolf column: The Iraq War has made us more vulnerable to terrorism. (The recent bombings in Jordan, carried out by Zarqawi and Iraqi terrorists, are a perfect example.) Pushing this point, as much as anything else we can do, will destroy the Republican Party's undeserved national security reputation. Edwards gets into the action:

Because of these failures, Iraq is a mess and has become a far greater threat than it ever was. It is now a haven for terrorists, and our presence there is draining the goodwill our country once enjoyed, diminishing our global standing. It has made fighting the global war against terrorist organizations more difficult, not less.

There’s also a bold call for phased withdrawal in there, justified in terms of building a better Iraq – “We've reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals. Therefore, early next year, after the Iraqi elections, when a new government has been created, we should begin redeployment of a significant number of troops out of Iraq.” Doing the withdrawal after elections is a good move -- we leave from a position of relative strength, and at that point the future of Iraq will be firmly in Iraqis' hands and out of ours. I’d love to see Edwards explain to America how a plan for withdrawal could be used to motivate various Iraqi factions to live together in a stable government. Clearly explaining nitty-gritty foreign policy matters to America would be a great way to make him look stronger on national security and dispel any misperceptions of him as a lightweight.

There's a nice symbiosis between deceived Dems like Edwards and Kerry on the one hand, and people looking into misleading intelligence on the other. When the investigators point to pre-war declassified versions of intelligence documents that made Iraq look much more dangerous than the classified versions which were not widely circulated, it gives deceived Dems a nice opportunity to officially recant their old positions and talk about how they were misled into voting for war. When Senators complain about how they were deceived, this in turn fuels the push for a thorough investigation. Edwards boosterism makes me almost wish that more Senators wouldn’t get caught up in this virtuous cycle – the more candidates fighting over the roughly three dozen pro-war Democrats who will remain in 2008, the more candidates who won’t be able to block his path to victory. But the sheer political dumbness of staying pro-war and the easy opportunities for recantation provided by the WMD investigation will probably crowd the anti-war field by 2008.

There's going to be plenty of parades for Edwards to march in front of over the next couple months, and I really hope he takes the opportunity. The antiwar movement is bottom-heavy, and lots of people are just looking for some Democrat to stand behind. The sooner Edwards becomes that Democrat, or at least one of those Democrats, the better positioned he'll be for 2008.

November 13, 2005 in Iraq | Permalink


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Yeah. Politically, I think that's the smartest op-ed Edwards could have written.

Posted by: Laura | Nov 13, 2005 5:44:10 PM

Many people didn't believe the faked intelligence. I think Edwards supported the war for political reasons, and now comes out against the war for political reasons.

Posted by: judy | Nov 13, 2005 7:22:02 PM

YOu know I agree with what you just wrote.

Have you seen the reaction by Jeffrey Feldman on the Frameshop?

Posted by: coturnix | Nov 13, 2005 7:26:04 PM

The sooner Edwards becomes that Democrat, or at least one of those Democrats, the better positioned he'll be for 2008.

I was underwhelmed but if Edwards starts openly associating with the anti-war movement and bringing it some star power, I'll be impressed. I'm betting he won't take that risk. After seeing what the RW Noise Machine did with Kerry's activities with the anti-war movement in the 60's, it would take enormous courage for Edwards to load the same gun for them. He'd have to be willing to kick down every pretense of civility and "fair play" that currently work against decent people caught in the sights of the RWNM. I've only seen one person willing to do that and when he did the Dems - Edwards included - tore him down without mercy.

Posted by: eRobin | Nov 13, 2005 10:41:51 PM

Edwards voted safe then and he's speaking safe now. That said, in a world where charisma and friendliness are much more important than resume or character, we could do much worse than a guy with Edwards's history of doing the right thing significantly more often than not.

Frankly, I would rather vote for a guy who saw which way the wind was blowing and decided not to throw away his career than a guy who was stupid enough to believe the President. The first is politics. The second is poor judgement.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Nov 14, 2005 12:52:10 AM

What troubles me about all these Dems confessing that they were misled is that they are, by and large, more informed and more aware than all the people who were not misled at the time. Even after the very impressive Powell show at the UN, most of what was presented was called into question by formidibile independent authority. Edwards is better than Hillary though.

Posted by: Gotham Image | Nov 14, 2005 4:13:32 AM

Being a responsible anti-war candidate isn't rocket science, eRobin. Just don't associate with communists and various other weirdos. Kerry did that. Edwards won't fall into that trap. It's the advantage of being anti-war when you're 50 rather than when you're 25. You're more careful about the company you keep.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Nov 14, 2005 6:23:52 AM

I think the Dems are more likely to follow someone who was against the war from the start. It will certainly be easier to go up against the Reps with such a leader. The fact that Edwards voted for the war AND was the co-signer of the Patriot Act will always hinder him.

I'd prefer to follow Gen. Wes Clark. He's been against the war from the start and argues a very convincing case in his regular spots on Fox News. He's someone you just know speaks truth to power rather than say, or take a position, for political expediency. After the deadlands of this administration, I think we will need to run someone like that. Not only are Bush's numbers in the dumper but so are Congress's. We'll need someone with a clean slate who connects with the people, and who doesn't scare away the Indies and moderate Reps. Although Clark appeals to this constituency, he is a liberal and isn't afraid to say the word. How refreshing!

My 2c

Posted by: trillian | Nov 14, 2005 9:26:47 AM

I really think politicians needs to use their knowledge about what the future is going to look like, in order to make falsifiable statements in the present that make them look good now.

To a lot of people, it looks like Edwards' statement is too late after all the important actions have been taken. This is not true, there is a lot more to come. And as Democrats, we have pretty good reason to believe it's going to get much darker before the dawn.

Joining the war-critic bandwagon now isn't following the wind, but rather reading the weather forecast and moving yourself to a place where the wind is going to blow tomorrow.

As for whether it's evil for politicians to simply do what the public wants today, the small-d democrat in me usually loves that. Most of our policies should represent the desire of the people, not stubborn principles. Gay marriage or tax cuts, whatever. But there are certainly matters where the people can't possibly be informed, and our politicians have a duty to help shape the public opinion first. What ticks me off about pro-war Dems isn't that they voted for the war, but that they did such a p--- poor job of convincing the public that it was a bad idea in the first place.

Posted by: Tony Vila | Nov 14, 2005 10:40:56 AM


Thing No. 1:
The intent to invade Iraq was planned well in advance of 9-11 and had nothing whatsoever to do with the legitimate reasons for invading Afghanistan. If we knew that, then certainly it follows that the congressionals who endorsed the IWR knew it as well.

This fawning over Edwards (and the other congressionals) who are currently and conveniently issuing their oh-so-newsworthy "mea culpa" op-eds and photo-ops since the indictment of Scooter Libby is nothing if not nauseating. "Revelations" at this late hour? How does this empty rhetoric make them less accountable for the part these political opportunists played in the downfall of America? This war was not a crap shoot and the on-going carnage which has ensued is NOT forgiveable.

"Questionable" intelligence? How about "Questionable integrity"?

There is a handful of Democratic potential candidates who have stood against this war from the beginning and who have the Foreign Policy expertise to serve at the top. Let's look to them for leadership shall we? (Wes Clark being the most obvious but I'm open to suggestions)...

Who do you trust?

Posted by: Sybil Disobedience | Nov 14, 2005 11:23:45 AM

I have to agree with the above post by Trillian. General Wesley Clark is the only credible candidate for the Democrats, most notably in foreign affairs and terrorism issues. General Clark capped a brilliant 35 year career in the army as a four star General and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, where he not only honed his negotiating skills, but became an expert in foreign affairs. He is a highly decorated veteran, who has the respect of world leaders, and has been rewarded and acclaimed for his accomplishments by many.
Diane Millen
During the past several years he has written and spoken frequently about current issues. In testimony before the Armed Services Committee on Sept. 22, 2002, he elaborated many of the possible consequences of invading Iraq that we see today. He is highly skilled in evaluating intelligence reports. A President Clark would not need on the job training. He is also highly experienced as a commandant in running a large Army Base.

If the Democrats want credibilty in foreign affairs and terrorism, an expert negotiator, and a person highly thought of in numerous foreign countries there is only one choice. Let's hope we wake up to this opportunity before it is too late.

Posted by: Diane Millen | Nov 14, 2005 12:10:46 PM

With all due respoect to those who admire J. Edwards, I never felt he had the "heft", or gravitas, if you will, to be a serious candidate. This latest statement re the war sounds somewhat opportunistic to me. Certainly the war was a huge mistake--and, BTW, the reason I switched political parties and became some sort of activist. After a little dancing around with Carol Mosely Braun, I settled, per Michael Moore, on Wes Clark as the best candidate--and I still feel he is. He certainly has the ability and experience to deal effectively in FP, as well as the centrist appeal we need.

Posted by: summercat | Nov 14, 2005 1:05:11 PM

Don't be fooled by the words of contrition now being spoken by John Edwards. He's an opportunist if I've ever seen one! Hindsight is 20/20 and we need to set our watches to someone who saw the error that invading Iraq would be and spoke to it from the very beginning. As far as I'm concerned, John Edwards had his chance. He blew it.

I tend to agree with the other posters who are mentioning the name of Ret. General Wesley Clark. This is a man who DID speak out against the invasion of Iraq from the very beginning and continues to speak out about it frequently, even now. He's not just attempting to grab a headline like Mr. Edwards, he truly wants what's best for the future direction of this country.

John Edwards doesn't have a clue about foreign policy and never wore the uniform from any of our Armed Service divisions. I'm not sure if that is necessarily a prerequisite to being the leader of the free world, but given the position we're currently in, I'll take knowledge and experience over quasi-charisma anyday!

Posted by: reggiesmom | Nov 14, 2005 1:10:03 PM

As someone who volunteered for General Clark during the 04 primaries, I would of course have to agree with the above posters about his superiority as a presidential candidate.

In fact, since that rushed entry into the race with a staff of Democratic second-stringers, he has improved his media performance and polish considerably.

To those who consider him a one-dimensional military man, I would suggest you do a little research about his background. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.


Posted by: Lewis Carroll | Nov 14, 2005 2:19:25 PM

I would also add that I never understood why most of the attention was focussed on Edwards rather than Clark after the first few primaries, when Clark finished second in New Hampshire and won Oklahoma.

I like Edwards and he'd make a thousand times the president Bush is, but all he did performance-wise in those first few primaries was win his home state.

Posted by: Lewis Carroll | Nov 14, 2005 2:22:26 PM

It's good to hear this kind of statment from Edwards. However, it will be meaningless unless the bad intel is hung around the neck of the GOP like a dead, rotting albatross.

Edwards, and other Democrats, must say that the Democrats acted on the poor information provided by the Bush administration. They must say that they never believed that President Bush would deceive the American people by ignoring our own intelligence services and relying on people like Chalabi. Democrats must say that a party that will deceive the American people on an issue as important as war should not be rewarded.

They must say things like that, if not those exact things. Or the point will be lost. If we don't hang the bad intel on the GOP, why would anyone choose us?

Posted by: zak822 | Nov 14, 2005 3:00:52 PM

I haven't demonstrated for years. That said, used to be the communists were the ones with the training and motivation to set up opportunities to publicly criticize state policy. Sometimes in politics you don't get to choose too closely whose company you keep. And no, they weren't so silly as to come out and declare their affiliations.

Posted by: opit | Nov 14, 2005 9:52:05 PM

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