It is never easy to admit you were wrong. It is especially difficult when you are a public figure, and your decision led to major policy directions.
But that is exactly what two courageous politicians (when is the last time you read those words together???) have done in the past week.
First, former Senator and vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards had the courage to say the stunning words, "I was wrong." After admitting his mistake in voting to authorize the President to use force in Iraq, Edwards went on to suggest a three part plan for salvaging the situation:
1. "[W]e need to remove the image of the imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq." - how do we do this? Edwards suggests that first, we get "American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq" to leave. "Return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement about our hopes for the new nation." Secondly, we need to demonstrate to the world that we do not intend to be there forever. "We've reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals." After the next round of elections early next year, we should begin a redeployment of a major portion of the troops.
2. Committment to more effective training of Iraqi security forces. This would include a "clear plan for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met." And as these hard deadlines are met, more US troops will withdraw.
3. Actual, serious, committed diplomacy. There needs to be a unified international front for Iraq to succeed.
Courage to admit error, and a plan to go forward and correct the mistakes. Bravo to John Edwards for making a stand.
Secondly, Rep. John Murtha, top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee and former war hawk, today held a press conference where he declared, "It is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region." And understand, Rep. Murtha is no lightweight when it comes to matters of the military. "Murtha has earned bipartisan respect for his grasp of military issues over three decades in Congress. . . . First elected to Congress in 1974, Murtha is known as an ally of uniformed officers in the Pentagon and on the battlefield. The perception on Capitol Hill is that when the congressman makes a statement on military issues, he's talking for those in uniform. Known to shun publicity, Murtha said he was standing up because he had a constitutional and moral obligation to speak for the troops."
Bravo to Rep. Murtha who had the courage and strength to endure the barrage of attacks he surely knew would come when he decided to make this statement. Radical Republicans - much more concerned about politics and elections than about American lives or America's image abroad - have already unleashed a barrage of attacks upon him and his patriotism...I wonder how many of these new chicken-hawk critics have ever served and earned two purple hearts as Murtha has?
But Murtha did have a response to vice-President Dick Cheney who in a disgusting display of partisan politics above national good, pulled out the tired old attack slogans, "The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out," and "[W]e're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history." Mr. Cheney significantly failed to point out that it was the Bush Administration's "cynical and pernicious falsehoods" that led us into this occupation, and it is their attempt to "rewrite history" had has the Administration up to their ears in investigations and criticism. But Murtha spoke to the true nature of Cheney, and this administration. "Murtha, a Marine intelligence officer in Vietnam, angrily shot back at Cheney: 'I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.'" Well said. And courageous.
And finally, even a Republican got in on the courageous act today. Although Cheney's comments included calling criticism of the mishandling of the run-up to war, "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city", Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, and decorated Vietnam veteran, stated, "The Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic."
It is too bad this administration and right-wing leadership is too busy covering up their mistakes, or blaming others for those mistakes, to have the courage to take a stand for America.
Bravo to John Edwards, Rep. Murtha, and Sen. Hagel for having the courage of conviction - and letting their voices be heard. Let's just hope more follow.