Josiah Ryan | Staff Writer | Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Jon Soltz, a veteran of Iraqi Operation Freedom and the Kosovo campaign, is the co-founder and executive director of VoteVets.org. On Monday, as part of a conference call sponsored by anti-war liberals, Soltznoted that "90 percent" of the U.S. Army is in Iraq. "There is not one of our 42 combat brigades that could deploy anywhere in the world in the next 72 hours. What does America do when there is another Hurricane Katrina? What does America do on our border security issues?" Soltz asked.
Soltz noted that most U.S. troops are fighting far from the remote area where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is rumored to be hiding. "They [the U.S. Army] are stuck in Iraq at a time when Osama bin Laden is on the Afghan-Pakistan border," he said. "We have one tenth the amount of troops there than we have in Iraq, which is not related to the central front on the war on terror," Soltz said.
Soltz's VoteVets, which includes Iraq war critic Gen. Wesley Clark on its board of directors, is leading the liberal charge against decorated war hero John McCain, apparently operating on the theory that it takes a veteran to criticize a veteran. The group presses the point that even "patriotic Americans" and war veterans can and do oppose President Bush's war in Iraq -- and McCain's support for that war.
On Monday, VoteVets.org joined MoveOn.org in an effort to link the high cost of the war in Iraq with economic woes back home. MoveOn.org announced the lobbying and public education campaign on Monday in a conference call with reporters. (See story)
As part of the new effort, VoteVets has released an ad featuring an Iraq veteran with her infant son. The ad blasts Sen. McCain's stance that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for as long as they're needed there.
"This is my little boy," the veteran says in the VoteVets ad. "He was born a year after I came back from Iraq. What kind of commitment are you making to him? How about a thousand years of affordable health care, or a thousand years of keeping America safe? Can we afford that for my child, Senator McCain? Or have you already promised to spend trillions -- in Baghdad?"
The ad will run on cable TV stations in the Washington, D.C., area.
Sen. John McCain has counseled patience -- and success -- in Iraq, saying the "costs of retreat" would bring chaos in Iraq as well as terrorists to U.S. soil.
On Monday, McCain admitted that the war in Iraq is one element by which his candidacy will be judged. At first he said he'd "lose" the election if the American people think the U.S. is losing the war in Iraq.
Then McCain backed off his "stark" comment about losing: "Let me just put it this way," he said: "Americans will judge my candidacy on how, first and foremost, on how they believe I can lead the country both from our economy and for national security." McCain said there's no doubt that how Americans judge Iraq will have a "direct relation to their judgment of me -- my support of the surge. Clearly I am tied to it to a large degree."
MoveOn.org recently endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president. Obama has promised an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq and a greater military commitment in Afghanistan.
"When we end this war in Iraq, we can finally finish the fight in Afghanistan," Obama said in a policy speech in September. "That is why I propose stepping up our commitment there, with at least two additional combat brigades and a comprehensive program of aid and support to help Afghans help themselves."
Obama supports an immediate withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, and he stresses diplomacy over a military solution.
However, the Bush administration has long insisted that Iraq is a central focus in the global war on terror. Sen. McCain and other Republican leaders have supported that policy.
Earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addressed the liberal complaint that the Bush administration is fighting the wrong war.
"I am often asked, 'Well, we don't have Osama Bin Laden, do we?" McConnell said. "Well I assure you he is not staying at the Four Seasons in Islamabad. He is in some cold cave somewhere looking over his shoulder, wondering when the final shoe is going to drop. Going on offense is a big part of protecting America."
MoveOn.org has named McConnell as one of the four "top tier" legislators who stands in the way of the ending the Iraq war.
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