Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama can really be called an anti-war candidate. While both contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination say the war in Iraq should not have been launched -- and Obama can actually claim to have understood that fact when it mattered -- they still pull their punches when it comes to talking about pulling all U.S. troops out of the quagmire.
It is more than merely sad that neither of the Democratic presidential candidates could -- or would -- say this:
The tragic marker of the 4000th U.S. Soldier to fall in Iraq is now before the American people - with no end in sight. During the vigils, marches and Winter Soldiers' heartfelt testimonies on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the invasion-occupation of Iraq, there was a common expression of public frustration over the rabid intransigence of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to end their cruel and costly war crimes.
Frustration comes not only from a dictatorial regime in Washington regarding the war in Iraq, but also from a sense of powerlessness and lack of access to the corridors of power, especially those of the Congress and the White House.
It is difficult for those who opposed the war's drumbeats in 2002 and early 2003 to forget that thirteen organizations that opposed the war each requested a meeting with President Bush. These groups represented many millions of Americans. They were church, labor, business, students', women's and even former intelligence officials' and veterans' organizations. President Bush did not even have the courtesy of responding to any of these patriotic Americans - even to say no. Among these pleaders were citizens recently back from visiting Iraq and men and women who had fought in hostile conflicts as members of the armed forces.
There is a group of distinguished Americans who have spoken, written, testified, and acted against the invasion of Iraq or who have opposed the war-occupation, now in its sixth year - longer than World War II.
These Americans, numbering in the hundreds, have one common characteristic: they are retired after serving in the federal government under both Republican and Democratic administrations, including the present one, as military, diplomatic and national security-intelligence officials. They include four-star generals, admirals, ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, top national security advisors and a former president. Never in our nation's history have so many such professionals at so many levels opposed a war involving the United States. For that matter, never before was there so much muzzled opposition to a war inside the Department of Defense - up to the four-star general level.
Their opposition was based on strategic, tactical and logistical considerations that subsequently found their way into the media, but to no avail. The two pro-Vietnam War draft-dodgers in the White House prevailed.
I call on these stand-up Americans, who are already on the public record with incisive, analytical opposition, to come together into a powerful force for ending the Iraq war-occupation, both military and corporate.
They can focus on Congress and the White House - with their immense credibility - and intensify the focus of public opinion (what Abraham Lincoln called "public sentiments"). Already, more than two-thirds of the American people oppose continuation of the war as mistaken, costly and not worth the price in casualties and dollars.
These experienced, free-to-speak Americans can press members of Congress to directly face their responsibilities to the American people to end this destruction of a country and its populace, which never threatened the United States, to end the consequential perils to our country and bring our soldiers home without further casualties.
These outspoken retired public servants can get their calls returned. They are widely respected for their service to their country in past years. They have or could have more than usual access to reporters, editors and producers. They do get published and interviewed. Some have direct field experience in Iraq or in various federal agencies since March 2003. Various groups such as Veterans For Peace or Iraq Veterans Against the War no doubt will vigorously support such high level initiatives, as will many other local and national organizations that have so faithfully waged peace all these years.
I have spoken to some of these retired professionals in the past few months. They were enthusiastic about the prospect of working together on an action agenda. They expressed the hope that their busy piers were not too occupied to consider devoting the time needed to band together for this fundamental patriotic initiative.
Most Americans, I believe, will be grateful for their latest service to their country and the cause of world peace. These leaders need to envision the greatly expanded impact they will have if only they band together, organize and present a unified drive forward.
These are the words of a presidential candidate -- but not a Democratic presidential candidate.
This is the statement that consumer activist and independent contender Ralph Nader issued after the U.S. death toll in this needless -- yet, seemingly endless -- war surpassed 4,000.
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