Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Slowly, the wheel is turning in Iraq


Gary Hart

Dear Friend,

"The public trust must be earned, and speaking clearly, candidly and forcefully now about the mess in Iraq is the place to begin."

I wrote those words in August in The Washington Post to call on Democratic Party leaders to step forward on Iraq. My years in the Senate and as co-chair of the Bipartisan Commission on National Security had convinced me that, unless Democrats provided real leadership, Americans would never receive the honest and open debate about Iraq that our country deserves.

When I first read John Kerry's October speech on Iraq, I knew it was a turning point. He spoke with the same unwavering voice - truth speaking to power - as he did when I first heard him speak out about the war in Vietnam in 1971. John Kerry got it right last month when he said, "Asking tough questions isn't pessimism; it's patriotism" and then answered those questions by offering a detailed plan to get the troops home.

In recent weeks, Democratic leaders across America - Jack Murtha, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Pat Leahy, John Edwards and Barack Obama - have questioned the Bush Administration's unfocused "stay as long as it takes" approach. Democrats have joined together to offer substantive alternatives to get it right in Iraq and made it clear that our conscience and conviction lie with taking care of our troops.

The grassroots community at johnkerry.com has played a critical role making sure these ideas are heard and that brave Democrats are protected against the inevitable Republican attacks.

When John Kerry called for the withdrawal of 20,000 troops over the holidays, and the majority of remaining combat troops by the end of 2006, linking bringing troops home to clear benchmarks, you added energy and passion to that initiative.

When John Kerry called for accelerated training of Iraqi troops, greater international involvement, and improved reconstruction efforts, you amplified his voice.

Now, because of your efforts and those of all these Democratic leaders, make no mistake: the wheel has turned in the national debate over the war in Iraq. The American people have responded to the tough questions we've been asking because they had the same ones. The result is that the Bush Administration is being forced to engage in something they've gone to great lengths to avoid: an open debate about the war in Iraq.

We should all be proud of what has been accomplished, but never complacent. Asking questions and debating the issues alone will not rectify this disastrous situation exacerbated by the endless stream of Administration failures. You have to demand answers. You have to demand results for our troops.

That means making sure the intensity of your grassroots effort doesn't fade over the holidays. Our troops don't have the luxury of taking it easy over the holidays, and neither do we.

We have to continue to speak out - on talk radio, in letters to the editor, and to our neighbors - to demand an Administration strategy to get our troops home.

This fight isn't just about the future of the Democratic Party - whether we're going to have a strong Democratic Party that speaks its mind or settles for being a second Republican Party. This fight, at its core, is about restoring the strength and honor of America.

America needs your continued leadership, courage and passion on the grassroots level. I can't thank you enough for everything you have already done, and I am confident about what the johnkerry.com community is sure to accomplish in the future.

Sincerely,

Gary Hart

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