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Re-Fighting the Election

Critics of President Bush's policy in Iraq conveniently forget that the public through their elected representatives in Congress overwhelmingly supported President Bush's decision to go to war. Then two years later, despite all of the news about no WMD and the start of the insurgency in Iraq, the public voted to retain President Bush as Commander in Chief. And it wasn't as if Iraq was a non-issue in the 2004 campaign. We had a free, open and spirited election and the opponents of the President's policy in Iraq made their arguments......and lost.

Retired Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold who set off the recent firestorm against Rumsfeld, and in turn President Bush, wrote in Time Magazine:

I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda.

That's a perfectly fine opinion and I'm sure it is shared by millions of Americans. But generals (whether retired or active) don't set policy in the United States. This is not Venezuela or Pakistan. It is one thing for retired officers to question the execution of the President's policy and whether that was (and is) being carried out competently or effectively by his Secretary of Defense. But Newbold is quite clearly attacking the policy itself. His use of the word "zealot" to describe the President's rationale for war is a clear attempt to characterize the President as out of the mainstream.

Newbold and his supporters in the press should be reminded that President Bush's "rationale" for war was mainstream enough for 51% of American voters in 2004.

If critics of the President's policy wanted to be more constructive, they would suggest how we can better execute in Iraq, rather than continue to fight a policy they never liked or supported. There have been mistakes (as there always are in war) and there are plenty of opportunities to second-guess decisions by Rumsfeld, but proponents of adjusting our Iraq policy would find more support if they stopped trying to re-fight the decision to go to war and the last election. We had the policy debate in 2004 and the opponents of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld lost.