Take a deep breath and sigh

As of this writing, we’re 36 hours away from the election.

36 hours.

Hard to believe it’s been 4 years since the nightmare that was the 2000 elections. Over 3 years since 9-11. Almost 2 years since the beginning of the war in Iraq. We’ve come a long way, but have so much more of a way to go.

So here we are: the moment we’ve been waiting for is almost upon us. Early voting in most states is over. The polls in the “battleground states” are so close as to be within the margin of error. It’s anybody’s guess as to who will win. There have been several pundits who’ve come out in the last few weeks giving their (predictable) endorsements and along with that, the newspapers are throwing out their endorsements as well.

One thing I wanted to touch on in this post was the theme that we knew this election was going to come down to all along: national security, with the focus on Iraq. This election is going to boil down to who the American people trust the most with keeping them safe. Who the American people trust the most to finish what we’ve started in Iraq. Lawrence Kaplan, a senior editor at The New Republic, wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal today which talks about who the “liberal Iraqis” support for re-election: George W. Bush. Kaplan writes:

Liberal Iraqis repeat the same question: Will the U.S. leave? These, after all, are the Iraqis building institutions, occupying key positions in ministries, and cooperating openly with the U.S. And they’re the Iraqis with the most to lose in the event John Kerry makes good on his pledge to “bring the troops home where they belong.”

This prospect, once unimaginable, has become very real in Iraq. The fear of abandonment has transformed meetings between Iraqi and U.S. officials, until recently arenas for grievance, into forums for the expression of solidarity. Leading Iraqis stayed up late into the night to watch the presidential debates. “Sophisticated Iraqis are listening closely,” Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak Al-Rubaie says in a telephone interview. “Any discussion of withdrawal worries them.” Echoing this, Manhel al-Safi, who recently left his post as an aide in the prime minister’s office for a job in the Foreign Ministry, says, “There’s a level of fear–people in the government are afraid the Americans will leave Iraq.” He adds a personal plea to Sen. Kerry: “Mr. Senator, destruction is easy; building takes a long time.”

Such fears haven’t been spun out of whole cloth. As far as Iraqi elites are concerned, President Bush brought democracy to a land that knew only dictatorship. From Sen. Kerry, however, they hear no commitment to build a liberal state or, for that matter, any state. What they hear instead is a presidential aspirant who complains about “opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America,” even as his campaign aides dismiss Iraq’s prime minister as an American “puppet.”
Not surprisingly, surveys by the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies find that, whereas Mr. Bush garners the most support in the Kurdish north and from Iraq’s well-educated urban elites, Mr. Kerry draws his strongest support from what the Center’s Sadoun al-Dulame calls Iraq’s “hottest places”–hotbeds of resistance to the U.S. A poll taken earlier this month in Baghdad, for example, finds that while President Bush would win a higher tally in New Baghdad’s Christian precincts, Sen. Kerry carries Sadr City hands down.

Leaving aside that speechifying about a U.S. withdrawal culminates in what Mr. Rubaie describes as “a huge moral boost to the terrorists”: How does Sen. Kerry intend to work alongside the pro-U.S. Iraqis he denigrates at every turn? This is a practical as well as a moral question. By advancing the fiction that there’s no such thing as bringing the troops home too soon and nothing to justify an adequate level of expenditure in Iraq, he’s already signaled his willingness to forfeit America’s obligation to rebuild the country it turned inside out. And he offers this as heightened moral awareness.

Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak Al-Rubaie describes a Kerry victory as a “huge moral boost to the terrorists.” Why would the Iraqi national security adviser say that? Because Kerry’s position on the war in Iraq has been so nuanced as to be unintelligible. As the President has repeated consistently throughout these last few months, how can our troops, and how can the Iraqis fighting alongside them feel comfortable with someone who describes this war as the “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time”? If someone believes this is the wrong war, what kind of confidence does that person give to the people who are fighting to win it? How does describing this war in that manner work in helping us to bring allies onboard? When another country hears potential president Kerry say “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time” what does that say to them?

The answer to all of the above is that it says that Kerry is not committed in a way that is necessary of a Commander in Chief to win this war which our men and women are fighting bravely and that other countries need not be concerned with committing troops and/or money to this “wrong war” despite Kerry’s promises to bring them to the table. Kerry can say whatever he wants, that he won’t surrender the sovereignty of this country over to the UN and that he’ll “hunt down and kill the terrorists” but what do those very terrorists think when they hear someone describe Iraq – one of two countries where our troops and the coalition are battling terrorists daily – as the place where we have conducted the “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time”? How can they not secretly feel good about that?

This is not to suggest Kerry is “pro-terrorist” – I’m sure he’s not. But Kerry has shown a history of willingness to negotiate with people with whom you cannot negotiate. I won’t rehash his meeting in France during the Vietnam area but you know what the result of that “negotiation” was. Nothing. He failed in his attempt to negotiate with the Sandinistas back in the 80’s was just that – failed. Kerry mentioned a “global test” which our country must pass in order to conduct a war – which essentially is that we have to go into it with the UN’s blessing. What does it say to the Iraqis who know that the last time we went into Iraq full scale – in 1991 – that the Kerry “global test” was passed yet Kerry voted against the US going to war with Iraq?

The fact of the matter is that war is *never* the answer with John Kerry. Before I continue, let me just say that no one wants war. But as we’ve learned the hard way, it is sometimes necessary. John Kerry, as was Bill Clinton, is someone I can’t ever see being able to see what we’re doing in Iraq through to its logical conclusion. This man has repeatedly said that the President “misled” the people, he’s “lied” regarding Iraq, etc etc. How can this man lead our men and women in Iraq in a war he thinks was based on lies?

These are the questions that undecided voters need to ask themselves before they visit the polling booth on Tuesday. Forget the 60 Minutes hit pieces, all the campaign ads, and think about this one thing: when it comes to fighting terrorism, who has taken the most consistent position almost to the point of bullheadedness to some? The answer is obvious. Our President, even with the faults that he has, is the answer. John Kerry, on the other hand, you just don’t know how he’s going to feel about the war from one day to the next. Our men and women fighting in Iraq and the Iraqis who are fighting alongside them need to know that the man they call Commander in Chief is willing to stay committed to the mission there, who wants to see his vision of a democratic Iraq materialized because a free Iraq, alongside a free Afghanistan, will give hope to a region of the world which doesn’t have much in the way of hope. Showing the people of the Middle East that democracy is the answer promotes freedom and discourages the attitudes of those who want to promote hate and terror throughout the world.

This is why George W. Bush will have my vote on Tuesday. I encourage Bush supporters to call any family or friends you know who may not be voting or may be undecided and do what you can to convince them of your choice. Know any Democrats who may be leaning towards the President but still unsure? Have them read Tammy Bruce’s piece “Why Democrats Should Vote for Bush” for all they need to know. President Bush is the most sensible choice to make: in these troubled times, one person has stood out as the clear choice to lead us through them. There have been a lot of ups and downs on this road, to be sure, but they are ups and downs this country can and will weather. We must. And we must do so with President Bush as the Commander in Chief. Our men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq – we need to win this war because their lives lost must not have been lost in vain.

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