By morning of the day John Kerry accepted his nomination, it was clear the Kerry Party at the FleetCenter was perpetrating a fraud on the delegates and on the nation. And many in the Big Media were going along.
Consider. Among the more than 4,000 delegates, two passions were predominant: detestation of Bush and hostility to his Iraq war. Delegates were as united in their desire to get out of Iraq as they were to get out of Vietnam at the McGovern convention of 1972.
Yet, in primetime speeches, George W. Bush’s name had barely even been mentioned. And, on the Iraq war, Sen. John Edwards, the vice presidential nominee, declared, “We will win this war because of the strength and the courage of our people.”
“We will win this war,” Edwards said. Kerry has said he would be willing to send additional U.S. troops.
But what if Kerry and Edwards win in November and it becomes clear that for America to win in Iraq will require more than the 140,000 troops already there? Will Kerry, who would then be leading a nation that already believes this war was a mistake, and a party that believes it was an unnecessary and unwise — if not unjust and immoral — war, be able to unite their party and the country behind the commitment of thousands more of America’s young?
Would Howard Dean and Teddy Kennedy, both of whom opposed the war, back a Kerry war policy? Would the black leaders of the party like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Charlie Rangel, who want the troops home now, support sending more troops to fight to win this war? Would President Carter support more U.S. ground forces?
These are not academic questions. There is a 50-50 chance Kerry and Edwards will win, and America will face that situation in January. For it appears today that if we are not willing to commit additional U.S. forces, for a longer time than previously thought, we cannot win the war.
The day Edwards declared the United States will “win” this war, a suicide bomber in Baquba killed 68 Iraqi police recruits and wounded 58 in one of the deadliest attacks since the war began. Nor was that the sole incident on Edwards’ big day.
As The Associated Press reported, “Elsewhere U.S. and other forces were caught in fierce gun battles … including a fight with militants who are thought to have entered from neighboring Iran.” In that battle, 42 died on both sides, 10 Iraqi security police were wounded and 40 enemy were captured. A Polish major would not say whether the captured enemy combatants were Iranians.
The AP story continues: “Nearly 1,000 Iraqi civilians and security personnel have been killed or wounded in guerrilla attacks since the U.S.-led coalition handed power to an Iraqi government, a senior U.S. official told Reuters news agency.”
In The American Conservative for Aug. 30, foreign policy scholar Andrew Bacevich writes: “History suggests that one precondition for defeating guerrillas is overwhelming numerical superiority, with a ratio of 10:1 traditionally cited as the minimum requirement. Even counting the fledgling Iraqi army, allied contingents (some of dubious quality) and the modern-day mercenaries known as private contractors, counterinsurgent forces available in Iraq today fall well short of that 10:1 standard.”
A year ago, U.S. Gen. John Abizaid estimated there were 5,000 insurgents. Since then, U.S. forces have killed and captured thousands. Yet official estimates of enemy strength are now at 20,000, and the incidence of attacks on U.S. troops and our Iraqi allies is continuously rising.
“How many U.S. troops,” asks Bacevich, “do we actually need to pacify Iraq, a landmass the size of California, with long, open borders and an increasingly alienated population of 25 million? A quarter of a million soldiers — almost twice the number currently deployed — would not be too many.”
While he admonishes America’s generals not to replicate the moral failure of Vietnam — refusing to tell civilian superiors what was needed to win — Bacevich suggests it is also a time for truth for the White House: “Either the Bush administration needs to get serious about winning the war that it so recklessly sought in Iraq, or it needs to cut its losses.”
Kerry and Edwards, too, need to tell us how much blood and treasure they are willing to expend on a democratic Iraq, how many more troops will be needed and for how long, and what are the chances of victory. And we need to be told before November.
We need to be given a cold, hard, honest assessment of what we hope to gain there, and what it will cost this nation, so we can decide whether or not we wish to pay that price. We need an honest election. Last week’s fraud at the FleetCenter failed the test.
Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail], former presidential candidate and White House aide, is editor of The American Conservative and the author of eight books, including A Republic Not An Empire and the upcoming Where the Right Went Wrong.