1) Leaving the National Guard at home

If the President requires more troops for any military situation than currently in uniform, the nation must be allowed to vote. That means instituting a draft and allowing citizens to vote in the next election on a military burden that falls equally on all. Do not ask inexperienced guardsmen to fill in without proper equipment and training on a job they never signed up to undertake. Particularly shameful from a President who miraculously jumped to the head of a guard unit’s queue, keeping him from seeing real duty in Vietnam.

2) Stop contracting out military jobs and domestic emergencies to contractors

Again, close the loopholes and force a draft and subsequent vote. Reduce immoral pay inequities between soldiers and contractors. Also, remove a class of combatant that needs obey no law – in the case of Iraq, neither U.S. military law nor Iraqi laws cover these well-armed cowboys.

3) Plan wars based on strategic needs, not election politics

Remember the pre-war quote that no product is rolled out in August? Karl Rove latched onto 9/11 as a means to prop up a faltering presidency. The administration conflated 9/11 and Iraq through sheer obstinacy and repetition, and we as a nation bought it hook, line and sinker. To our everlasting shame.

4) Allow war planners to plan wars

Simple idea surely, but in the build-up to our inevitable march on Baghdad, every plan sent up the line returned with troop levels cut dramatically. Few top brass dared speak what their staffs were telling them daily, especially after Rumsfeld effectively ended General Shinseki’s career for his bold speaking of the truth.

5) Close Guantanamo and make Abu Graib a Hall of Shame, open to all

The world clamors for more and better from a country even recently held in high esteem. After 9/11, even Tehran held mass demonstrations in sympathy and support. A scant six years later and the question becomes, “Is there anywhere in the world that would hold a tickertape parade for W and his band of snake oil salesmen?”

6) Examine American imperialism and foreign policy incompetence and openly discuss our failure to live up to our ideals

Germany deserves tremendous accolades for confronting the horrors of Nazism; we need to better understand why our actions and our ideals so often end at loggerheads. W’s attempt to bring democracy to Iraq has the seeds of idealism and true progress embedded in a brace of lies that don’t pass the smell test. Can one bring about democracy at the butt of a gun? Can we continue to ignore the undemocratic regimes in the neighborhood that we support – Saudi Arabia and Pakistan among them? Can American idealism survive in the international “real politic” that is foreign relations?

The current administration will shuffle off the stage, determined to ignore and minimize the damage it has inflicted on American military strength, American moral standing in the world, and American foreign relations. The next president will face bankrupt coffers, a damaged military, domestic problems grown overlarge through inattention, and a cynical if not hostile world unwilling to believe our words or actions.

God bless the party and the person who accepts this dubious task. God bless America, and God bless every nation. May we all be part of the solution.

It will require something from each and every one of us.    

Terry Finnegan
Oak Park

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