John Kerry — remember him? — has a few suggestions for what the president should say tonight in his “major speech” on Iraq tonight.
The first thing he should do is tell the truth to the American people. Happy talk about the insurgency being in “the last throes” leads to frustrated expectations at home. It also encourages reluctant, sidelined nations that know better to turn their backs on their common interest in keeping Iraq from becoming a failed state.
The president must also announce immediately that the United States will not have a permanent military presence in Iraq. Erasing suspicions that the occupation is indefinite is critical to eroding support for the insurgency.
He should also say that the United States will insist that the Iraqis establish a truly inclusive political process and meet the deadlines for finishing the Constitution and holding elections in December. We’re doing our part: our huge military presence stands between the Iraqi people and chaos, and our special forces protect Iraqi leaders. The Iraqis must now do theirs.
He also needs to put the training of Iraqi troops on a true six-month wartime footing and ensure that the Iraqi government has the budget needed to deploy them. The administration and the Iraqi government must stop using the requirement that troops be trained in-country as an excuse for refusing offers made by Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany to do more.
The administration must immediately draw up a detailed plan with clear milestones and deadlines for the transfer of military and police responsibilities to Iraqis after the December elections. The plan should be shared with Congress. The guideposts should take into account political and security needs and objectives and be linked to specific tasks and accomplishments. If Iraqis adopt a constitution and hold elections as planned, support for the insurgency should fall and Iraqi security forces should be able to take on more responsibility. It will also set the stage for American forces to begin to come home.
The next months are critical to Iraq’s future and our security. If Mr. Bush fails to take these steps, we will stumble along, our troops at greater risk, casualties rising, costs rising, the patience of the American people wearing thin, and the specter of quagmire staring us in the face. Our troops deserve better: they deserve leadership equal to their sacrifice.
I also think that the president should announce that all conservatives between the ages of 18 and 28 will be called up to immediate service in our armed forces. After all, according to Karl Rove, they’re the ones who are willing to fight for our country in Iraq. Let them put their asses on the line if they’re so much more gung-holier than thou.