Thursday, October 09, 2008

Third-Party Blues, by Scott Ritter

Posted on Oct 9, 2008

By Scott Ritter

The war in Iraq has morally crippled the Republican Party, if not all of America. The fact that a conflict which has taken the lives of more than 4,150 Americans to date, wounded tens of thousands more, and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians serves as the centerpiece of the Republican Party platform boggles the mind. As a lifelong registered Republican, I have been torn apart by the immoral embrace of the Iraq war by members of a political movement which at one time seemed to pride itself as being the defender of a strong America built on the ideals and values enshrined in the Constitution.

With such feelings, I found myself headed to the 2008 Republican convention, where I was invited to speak to the Veterans for Peace and other groups, a committed supporter of Barack Obama. I was somewhat surprised at how my opinions and attitudes were changed by the experience.

I landed in Minneapolis in time to watch John McCain introduce his newly selected running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, to the United States. Like many other Americans, I was struck by how little I knew of her. I listened intently as she spoke, and was taken aback not by what she said (it was standard political fare) but rather by how the crowd reacted. One moment in particular concerned me: When Palin stated that her eldest son, 19 years of age, had enlisted in the Army and was soon to be deployed to Iraq, the crowd erupted in wild cheers of “USA! USA! USA!,” as if the mother of five had announced that her son just beat the Russians at hockey. That Sarah Palin stood there, taking in the cheers with a smile, only underscored the fact that she herself had no appreciation of the gravity of the situation, and the reality of what her son was getting into. Her son’s service to his nation had been marginalized into little more than a campaign prop, his patriotism debased by a crowd of political supporters who knew little of the reality of war and instead treated it as some perverse form of national sport. One only hopes that Palin will not have to learn how it feels to be the parent of a wounded vet, or worse, a Gold Star Mother. Would she think back on that moment when she allowed her son’s courage to be demeaned by an act of partisan selfishness? I might have seen this sort of thing coming. In April 2001, at the invitation of Rep. Jack Kingston, I spoke before the Theme Team, a collection of influential Republican congressional representatives. The topic was Iraq, and in particular Iraq’s status as a threat worthy of war. I argued that the United States must exhaust all options, especially resolving the weapons of mass destruction issue through inspections, before there could be any talk of war with Iraq. I provided the assembled Republicans, and their respective staffers, with an in-depth analysis (derived from my June 2000 article, “The Case for the Qualitative Disarmament of Iraq,” published in Arms Control Today) of what I deemed to be the current state of affairs concerning Iraqi WMD, and I warned the Theme Team that any push for war against Iraq based upon the exaggeration of a WMD threat would come back to haunt the Republican Party. As a fellow Republican who had voted for President George W. Bush, I told them, I was loath to see America under Republican leadership head down that path. My advice was not heeded. While Rep. Kingston and his fellow Republicans were receptive, thanking me for my testimony (which they claimed was “enlightening”), the Theme Team backed, and continues to back, President Bush’s disastrous decisions on Iraq. It is with this consistent support for the Iraq war from the heart of the Republican Party in mind that one must judge John McCain’s stubborn insistence on staying the course. Long deemed a “maverick” for his tendency to run afoul of mainstream politics, on Iraq McCain has been anything but. With the presidency clearly in his sights, McCain has retreated to politically comfortable turf. He has a résumé of military service of such merit that no one dares challenge the former prisoner of war’s status as a “true American hero,” and he has built his campaign and, by extension, his party, around the themes of “military service” and “service to country.” His enthusiasm for the invasion of Iraq has been matched by his support for a continuation of the mission there through to completion and victory. In this, McCain staked out the once-lonely position of supporting a “surge” in U.S. combat strength in Iraq, standing nearly alone in 2006-2007 while most others, Democrat and Republican alike, were considering options for the reduction of U.S. force levels in Iraq, if not their outright withdrawal. McCain has staked his campaign on this support of the “surge,” coupled with the subsequent reduction of violence in Iraq. It is his strongest argument that he is a leader capable of seeing America through these difficult times. The illusion is almost perfect. Even I, at times, am left wondering, in the face of the policy vacuum coming out of the Obama camp, whether or not McCain has gotten this one right. I have to admit to having a soft spot for John McCain. His story as rebel naval aviator and courageous prisoner of war is well known to anyone who has studied the Vietnam War and its many profiles in courage. As a junior congressman from Arizona, McCain had the courage to confront President Ronald Reagan about the lack of a viable mission for the U.S. Marines in Lebanon, before the Marine barracks were blown up by a suicide bomber. In 1998, it was John McCain who came to my defense during my testimony before the U.S. Senate, following a contemptuous assault on my viability as a witness by none other than Sen. Joe Biden (more on that later). In 2000, I counted myself among the ranks of the “McCainiacs,” infatuated by the “straight-talk express” and hopeful for some real change in Washington, D.C., following what I believed to be eight ineffective years of the Clinton administration. In fact, McCain is the only presidential candidate I have ever donated money to (although the $50 check I sent following his victory in the New Hampshire primary almost assuredly went unnoticed). But then came South Carolina, and the debacle at Bob Jones University. The absolute caving in by McCain to the religious right of America, and his unconditional surrender to the presidential ambitions of George W. Bush, left me and other “McCainiacs” feeling empty, and the “straight talk express” nothing more than a mangled wreck on the American political highway. I have never trusted John McCain since, and it is with that opportunism in mind that I so dimly assess his much touted “surge” strategy.

There are two primary reasons why the success of the “surge” is a myth. First, to accept McCain’s assertions, one must accept the overall framework of the argument, which pits levels of violence in Iraq circa 2006 with the levels of violence in Iraq today. This, of course, is a false and misleading benchmark upon which to judge success in Iraq. The Iraq war must be evaluated in a continuum which extends back to the decision to invade Iraq in the first place. While one can make the claim that Iraq today is better off than it was in 2006-2007, there is no way one can responsibly claim that Iraq today, post-“surge,” is a better place than when the United States invaded in March 2003, especially when the issues of violence and instability are considered.. If McCain wants to tout the “surge” as a great policy success, then he should be compelled to do so using a benchmark that is reflective of the totality of Iraq, which means comparing prewar Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s leadership with the postwar Iraq of the present. Of course, if this comparison is drawn, McCain and the war he has steadfastly supported will still be found sadly lacking. The second reason the “surge” is a myth is the fact that the totality of its “success” is derived from illusion, not reality. If one examines the sources of violence which led to the large numbers of American and Iraqi dead in 2006-2007, one will quickly see that the “surge” has treated the symptom and not the disease. The recent turning over of the security of Anbar province from the United States to the Iraqi government has been singled out as a clear indicator that the “surge” is working. However, the “success” of the “surge” in that volatile region is drawn less from any tendency on the part of the Sunni tribes to develop sympathetic links with the Shiite government in Baghdad than it is from the outright bribes of the United States to the tribal leaders in the form of money, weapons and assurances that the Sunni would be given a meaningful voice in the running of Iraq. With the United States now removed as the peacekeeper in Anbar province, it is only a question of time before the tenuous truce that exists between Sunni and Shiite in western Iraq collapses. And, if and when it does, rest assured that the forces of al-Qaida in Iraq, suppressed but not defeated, will once again make their presence known. The same can be said about the situation concerning Moqtada Al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. The lack of heavy fighting does not directly translate into a problem solved. The underlying problems of post-Saddam Iraq remain unresolved, and the reality is that what passes for “success” is nothing more than a flimsy cover for a failed policy. That John McCain needed Hockey-Mom-Turned-Soldier-Mom Sarah Palin to help sell this flawed concept to a skeptical Republican base only underscores the fragility of the argument. Palin’s relentless linkage of “victory” in Iraq through the “surge” and her status as the mother of an active-duty service member only succeeds in generating more inane cheering from a crowd that knows and understands war as little more than entertainment, something they see in a movie or a video game as opposed to feeling it, hearing it, tasting it and smelling it. McCain of all people should be embarrassed when his erstwhile supporters taunt the reality of war with their asinine, childish and demeaning chants. Let me be clear concerning Palin and her son: I salute him for volunteering to serve his nation in these difficult and dangerous times. I share with Sarah Palin the pride that comes from knowing that some of today’s youth do, in fact, give a damn enough to serve. But I will never understand or comprehend how a mother can so gleefully support a war void of justification. I have often said Iraq was never a cause worthy of the sacrifice of American life. I wonder just how willing Sarah Palin actually is to send her son to the altar of this most unworthy of causes, and question her fitness to be in line for the presidency if she is, in fact, as enthusiastic as she appears. Self-described “war hater” John McCain would do well to rein in the immature enthusiasm of his over-eager Hockey Mom. War isn’t a game. The pro-war insanity of the Republican National Convention, rather than reinforcing my support of Barack Obama, raised my concerns about the Democrat. Like many, I have questioned the credentials of this clearly intelligent man. Untested in any real way, save the artificial crucible of American politics, void of any life experience truly worthy of the post of most powerful man in the world, Obama has positioned himself to become the next president of the United States. His message of hope rings just a little too “true,” perhaps just a bit too good to be the genuine article. While I cringe at McCain speaking about the “Russian threat,” I wince when the same words come rushing out of the side of Obama’s mouth, as if he is afraid to chew on the reality of what he is saying. “All Americans are Georgians,” McCain said following the recent spate of fighting in the breakaway Georgian territory of South Ossetia, although in reality most Americans couldn’t point Georgia out on a map, let alone be willing to send their sons and daughters off to fight and die there. But at least McCain himself believes in the importance of keeping the budding democracy in that tiny Caucasian republic viable. Obama’s eyes are alive when he speaks of critical domestic issues but appear glazed and lifeless when he is compelled by circumstance to address matters which may very well propel America and Russia into a new period of Cold War, or worse. America had its “3 a.m. wakeup call” in the first week of August, and Barack Obama was found seriously wanting.

It is not just what he doesn’t know, or can’t meaningfully talk about, that is troublesome to me. It is also what he does talk about, and claims to know. Obama’s acceptance speech boldly challenged McCain’s fitness to command. “You don’t defeat,” he declared, “you don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but that is not the change that America needs.” But Obama offered no vision of what he would propose to do. How do you defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries? How do you protect Israel and deter Iran? How do you stand up for Georgia? All Obama could offer was the following: “We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe.” Obama needs to be careful here. He is no FDR, and he is no JFK. Both of those men were tested in times of war and peace in a way Obama can never lay claim to. What we get from Obama’s sophomoric pronouncement of “leadership” is, sadly, simply more tough talk, with no strategy: “As commander in chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.” This raises the questions of what circumstances a President Obama might deem worthy of the sacrifice of American troops, and to what lengths a President Obama would go to ensure that all other options had been exhausted before committing our nation, and our troops, to war. The more I listened to Obama, the more I realized that on the major issues of war and peace, there was in fact very little that separated him from the Republicans he opposes. Both have sold out American sovereignty in the name of Israeli security (or more important, Likud-inspired, AIPAC-driven policies falsely sold as being in the best interest of the Israeli people). Both assume Iranian nefarious intent, and point an accusatory finger at “Russian aggression” without reflecting on the cause-and-effect reality of irresponsible American foreign policy (the expansion of NATO, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and the installation on Polish and Czech soil of a ballistic missile defense shield claimed to be for the Iranian threat, but optimized for missiles launched from within Russia). Even on the issue of the “surge,” McCain’s great weakness, Obama has flipped, stating that the “surge” in Iraq has succeeded “beyond our wildest dreams.” The senator from Arizona could not have said it better himself. Doesn’t Obama realize that if he embraces the “surge,” he legitimizes the war in Iraq and as such positions McCain as the candidate of choice, since certainly America would want to go with the architect of the “surge,” and not some untested “Johnny come lately” who simply hangs on the coattails of another’s success? When Obama sells himself as the candidate of change, what change is he talking about? While pondering such thoughts I encountered none other than Ralph Nader, who was happy to point out the inherent contradictions that plague the Obama candidacy. I met Nader in the setting of a quiet, upscale suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of Minneapolis, where he and his running mate, the San Francisco-based lawyer and social activist Matt Gonzalez, were meeting with supporters and raising funds for their campaign. I had never met Nader in person prior to this evening, and must claim that while I was aware of his important role as a consumer advocate, I knew him best as the man who cost Al Gore the presidency. I myself have often spoken out in frustration at the role played by the Green Party in weakening the Democratic Party during national elections. But the importance of the role played by Ralph Nader is best explained by Nader himself. A colleague of mine had asked Nader why he kept running for the presidency, instead of trying to get into Congress where he could perhaps more effectively pursue his advocacy. “Because this isn’t about the power of one,” Nader replied, “but empowering all. The issues I am advocating for cannot be trivialized by pretending that a single vote in Congress will make a difference. These are national issues, and they require a national stage.” Both Nader and Gonzalez spoke about the importance of a third party in America today, at a time when there was no real difference between the Republicans and the Democrats on so many key issues, especially (but not limited to) foreign policy and national defense. I wasn’t sold when I went to the Nader for President gathering, but the need for genuine choice for the American people was driven home that night, not only by what Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez said, but also by the overall political setting in which it was said. There is no greater illustration of the Democrat-Republican political melding than Joe Lieberman. Sen. Lieberman, the one-time “liberal Democrat” from Connecticut who once stood as the running mate of Al Gore, delivered a rancor-filled speech at the Republican National Convention in which he spoke in support of his “good friend” John McCain, and belittled Barack Obama, barely four years removed from the 2004 Democratic National Convention in which Obama made his national debut under the approving eyes of Joe Lieberman himself. Lieberman’s speech came almost two years to the day that Obama personally campaigned on behalf of Lieberman in a hotly contested Senate race against the anti-war Connecticut Democrat Ned Lamont. Lamont went on to win the Democratic primary, only to lose the general election to the newly re-minted “Independent” Joe Lieberman, whose platform looked more Republican than his Republican opponent’s when it came to the issue of the Iraq war. Obama was among the Democratic senators who bent over backward to welcome Lieberman into the Democratic Senate Caucus, enabling them to maintain their slim majority in the U.S. Senate. Lieberman is the personification of just how baseless American politics is today. While Republicans and Democrats might debate around the fringes, when it comes to the major issues of the day, both parties stand for virtually the same thing. The only difference is around which party will the power, and the money associated with such power, achieve orbit.

Obama might be able to shrug off his unsightly relationship with Lieberman as purely coincidental, noting that he could not have known in 2006 how Lieberman would have turned out in 2008. But it is Obama’s relationship with another that raises the most questions about not only how little separates mainstream Republicans from Democrats when it comes to war and peace, but also Obama’s judgment, and by extension his fitness to lead. Before I go on, I need to conduct a bit of full disclosure: Joe Biden and I have a history. Many people are familiar with the infamous “Scotty-Boy” line uttered by Biden during my Senate testimony in September 1998, coupled with his dismissive (and insulting) comments about the issue of Iraq being “above my pay grade” and best left to those who “get the limos” (it was at this juncture that John McCain, much to his credit, came to my defense, noting that “… some of us who fought in another conflict wish that the Congress and the American people had listened to someone of your pay grade during that conflict, and perhaps there wouldn’t be quite so many names down on the wall. So we appreciate the fact that someone of your pay grade would be willing to come forward with this vital information.”) What many people don’t know is that I was invited back to Biden’s office a few weeks later, where we had a more frank and open exchange void of the rancor of domestic politics (Biden was, during the hearings, in full “attack dog” mode, defending the policies of President Bill Clinton which I was daring to question in a public manner). We agreed that the subjects discussed during that meeting would remain private. Sen. Biden did, however, take the time to pen me a personal note afterward. “Dear Mr. Ritter,” he wrote. “Thank you for taking time to meet with me. Your insight into this complex issue is invaluable and I appreciate your candid thoughts regarding the continuing challenges that we confront in Iraq. I hope that I can call on your knowledge and expertise in the future as we move forward in making some difficult choices.” Underneath his signature, in the same blue ink he used to sign his name, Biden wrote “PS – I hope to speak with you again.” I gave Biden that opportunity in May of 2000. I was in Washington, D.C., for the purpose of trying to head off what I viewed as irresponsible rhetoric about Iraq and its WMD programs. I was pushing for getting U.N. weapons inspections back on track in Iraq, especially since the last inspectors had been ordered out of Iraq by President Clinton in December 1998 on the eve of “Operation Desert Fox,” and felt that the speculation over what Iraq may or may not have in the way of WMD was without foundation. I had verbally coordinated with Sen. John Kerry, who encouraged me to put my concerns down “in writing” (this led to my June 2000 Arms Control Today article), and had a lengthy meeting with Sen. Chuck Hagel, who cautioned me not to expect any “profile in courage moments” from Congress when it came to Iraq. But Hagel had left the door open for some sort of political solution, so I called Biden’s office in an effort to enable him, to quote the senator, “to speak with [me] again.” Biden was busy, but he did arrange for me to meet with Edward P. Levine, a senior professional staff member of the Committee on Foreign Relations who, Biden said, represented him “personally.” The meeting did not go well. Levine immediately questioned my view of Iraq as a nation “qualitatively disarmed.” I had with me a draft of the Arms Control Today article, together with a collection of supporting documents dating back to my time with the United Nations. Levine challenged my facts, noting that my former boss, Rolf Eké us (a Swedish arms control expert and diplomat), had testified differently before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I stated that I could not directly speak to what Eké us had or had not said, but could only note that the documents I had, and which I was prepared to share, directly supported my position. Levine immediately exploded, stating that the documents I had were sensitive in nature, and shouldn’t be in my possession. I reminded him that these documents were from my time as a U.N. inspector, and that there was no security-related issue so far as the U.S. government was concerned. Levine stated that, in his opinion, the fact that I had these documents in my possession only demonstrated, in his eyes, my disloyalty, and that if it were up to him I would be arrested as a traitor. I held my tongue, and then reminded Levine that as a former officer in the Marines Corps, I did not take such accusations lightly and unless he wanted to take this conversation to another level he should tone down the emotions and focus on the issue. Certainly, I queried Biden’s “personal representative,” Levine wasn’t trying to suppress the truth? He eventually calmed down enough to admit that the U.S. policy regarding Iraq was a shambles but, like Sen. Hagel, he underscored that there would be no changing of policy during an election year. “The Democrats are not going to get out ahead of Al Gore on this issue before an election.”

I gave Biden one more chance to speak with me, this time in June 2002, when I was in Washington pushing for in-depth hearings on Iraq. It was less than a year since the events of 9/11, and I was concerned that the issue of Iraq and al-Qaida were being dangerously morphed into one and the same. If the Senate could conduct meaningful hearings on Iraq, perhaps the war drums could be silenced long enough to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq, and thus bring fact-based clarity to the rhetorically based speculation that was running rampant at the time. Biden, Kerry and Sen. Richard Lugar all turned down meetings, saying that Senate hearings on Iraq were “not on the table at this time.” Barely a month later, at the end of July 2002, Sen. Biden, together with Sen. Lugar, convened a hearing on Iraq with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In an Op-Ed article published in The New York Times (July 31, 2002), Biden and Lugar described the purpose of these sudden hearings: “Without prejudging any particular course of action—including the possibility of staying with non-military options—we hope to start a national discussion of some critical questions.” But there was really only one option being considered by Joe Biden: regime change. Biden never saw fit to challenge the conventional thinking concerning Iraq’s WMD programs. He never saw fit to, as he once wrote in reference to me, “call on your knowledge and expertise in the future as we move forward in making some difficult choices.” The choice, as Biden made clear in his opening statement at the hearing, was simple: How to “remove a tyrant” without “leaving chaos in his wake.” Biden’s concerns did not revolve around WMD and the legitimacy of a U.S. war, but rather around how to achieve “… a better understanding of what it would take to secure Iraq and rebuild it economically and politically.” That Joe Biden is an architect of the war in Iraq is without question. His hearings and the manner in which he shaped the conduct of those hearings (prohibiting, for instance, the appearance of witnesses such as myself and Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponek, both senior U.N. diplomats who directed U.N. humanitarian operations inside Iraq) were geared for facilitating a vote in the Senate authorizing President George W. Bush to use military force against Iraq—a declaration of war, so to speak. Only Biden can answer questions concerning his conduct at this critical juncture in our nation’s history. But the fact that Barack Obama would select as his running mate a man so heavily involved in bringing about the war in Iraq, at a time when Obama claims to be in opposition to that very same war, speaks volumes about the lack of judgment and, frankly speaking, character of the senator from Illinois who aspires to be commander in chief. I am not one of those who accept at face value Barack Obama’s contention that he is an anti-war candidate. True, unlike Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Joe Biden, Barack Obama did not vote in favor of the Iraq war powers resolution in October 2002: He was not in the U.S. Congress. However, there is nothing in Obama’s statements, actions and record of collaborations (including his selection for vice president) which back up his assertions that he would have voted against the resolution if he had been in Congress at the time. One must be judged, in the absence of demonstrable action, on the record of past patterns of behavior. Obama’s short tenure in the Senate has shown him to be an astute political survivor who has taken the path of least resistance when it comes to the most critical (and politically sensitive) issues. This is especially true concerning Iraq (Obama is a consistent supporter of fully funding a war he claims to oppose) and Iran (Obama’s ongoing embrace of the Bush administration’s case against Tehran, despite the many similarities between the Iran situation and the buildup to the war in Iraq, including wild exaggerations on issues pertaining to threats derived from weapons of mass destruction programs based more on rhetoric than fact, fear-based charges void of substance concerning “terrorism” and “sponsorship of terror”). While we will never know for certain, I am strongly inclined to believe that, had Obama in fact been a senator in 2002, his status as a political animal with high aspirations would have compelled him to take the same politically expedient move all of his similarly inclined senatorial colleagues did, and vote in favor of the war powers resolution. People today spend a lot of time discussing the relative merits of the vice presidential picks of both candidates. While I in no way share the value systems of a Sarah Palin, I am comfortable that neither does John McCain. There is a reason why the religious right in America does not like him. And while Palin will be only a heartbeat away from the presidency if McCain is elected president, the choice is still about John McCain versus Barack Obama. Palin is but a footnote in this matter. I know why McCain picked Palin as his running mate: It was an act of crass politics, a caving in to the religious right which constitutes such an important part of the current base of the Republican Party. It was this same sort of craven submission to the radical right which caused me to move away from McCain back in 2000. Nothing which occurred at the 2008 Republican National Convention, from the standpoint of Republican actions, surprised me. But the Republican National Convention did provide a fuller backdrop from which to better assess the Democratic Party’s nominee, Barack Obama and, sadly, he was, and is, lacking in so many ways. The choice of Joe Biden as his running mate was as crass a political move as was the selection of Sarah Palin, with one major exception: Palin was selected by McCain to shore up McCain’s shortfalls among the Republican base. Biden, on the other hand, was selected to shore up the shortfalls of Barack Obama. McCain can overcome his shortcomings among his political base. It is questionable whether Obama can overcome his own weaknesses. The American people are, in my opinion, ready for change. McCain is running away from the past eight years of the Bush presidency as fast as he possibly can. This is never a good thing, especially since both McCain and Bush are from the same party. Obama talks the talk of change, but it is not certain that he can walk the walk. No matter how hard he tries, his fundamental lack of experience in the critical fields of foreign policy and national security compel him to take the safe road of conformity, morphing into a Republican-light candidate whose pronouncements of command capability ring empty. Ralph Nader is right: The two-party system is failing America. There isn’t time between now and Election Day to create a viable third-party candidate, and so the sad reality is one of two deeply flawed men, the byproduct of a deeply flawed political system, will serve as president for the next four or eight years. During the time before the election, both candidates will do their best to woo the American people. McCain will base his courtship on the false promise of security, and his exaggerated sense of duty-driven purpose that he claims he alone can provide. Barack Obama can trump John McCain’s militaristic vision of American greatness by returning to his own core values, those which inspired America and breathed life into the audacity of hope. But to do this he will need to re-engage on the issue of national security in a manner which clearly sets himself apart from McCain. The war in Iraq continues to be a disaster, as is the war in Afghanistan. There is no need to seek out additional military adventure against either Iran or Russia. Obama must reject the neoconservative agenda of global hegemony set forth in the Bush administration’s national security strategy, and define a new course which has America assuming a leadership role in seeking multilateral solutions based upon fact-based criteria driven not by American power and greed but rather the rule of law. America needs and wants a change for the better. If Obama can succeed in capturing the imagination of the American people by convincing them that he is a viable candidate of change, then he will be the next president of the United States. But what I learned from my experience observing the Republican National Convention is that Barack Obama has a long way to go, and a short time to get there. Scott Ritter is a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq and author of “Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Anti-War Movement” (Nation Books, 2007).

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