President Bush's war critics are trying to capitalize on the fact that the number of U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq have surpassed the 1,000 mark.
While it's an awful milestone, the death of even one American soldier is awful. That's what happens in war - soldiers die.
But the point is, is the Iraqi war worth fighting? If it is, then one death or 1,000 deaths are worth the sacrifice. If not, then one death is one too many. If the war is a mistake, as the anti-war crowd claims, then the U.S. policy should be to get out. But neither candidate is advocating that.
To be sure, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has been critical of the war - but his criticisms are wildly inconsistent, just as his votes on the Senate floor were.
One day, he says he'd have done everything different from the way President Bush did. He hints he'd have secured the cooperation of France and Germany before invading Iraq, but both those nations have indicated it wouldn't have mattered who the U.S. president was, they would not have participated in the war effort.
Recently, Kerry said he would have voted in the Senate for the war even if he knew then what he knows now about the lack of weapons of mass destruction.
A few days ago, he said it was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" - raising the question again: Why, then, did he vote for the war?
He also says he'd conduct the war differently. He's on solid ground when he says he'd send more troops into Iraq - but beyond that, he's vague about what he'd do. He also says he has an exit strategy, but won't say what it is - thus reminding old-timers of Richard Nixon's "secret plan" to end the Vietnam war in his 1968 campaign. It went on for more than four years thereafter.
Concerning the 1,000-deaths milestone, Kerry and Bush seem to be in agreement. They both say those tragic deaths must not be in vain. If the United States cut and run - as left-wingers Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich, and right-winger Pat Buchanan, would have us do - then the deaths would be in vain. That would be a real tragedy.
The best thing Americans can do to honor the fallen troops in Iraq - Americans and others, including the Iraqis who are with us - is not to abandon the war, but to remain resolute and see it through.
Those who are cynical about bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan should read the gloomy reports in The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, as Allied troops worked to bring representative government to Germany and Japan. They said it could not be done, but it was - though it didn't happen quickly or easily.
Our prayers and hearts go out to families of every loved one who has been cut down in the field of battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they have died like the hundreds of thousands before them in other wars - fighting for freedom and democracy, not only to bring to other lands, but to protect our own. It couldn't be for a better cause. Their deaths are not in vain.
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