My article on Republicans marrying the war on terror with the war in Iraq struck a cord with many of you. You are tired of name calling and shifting platforms and what you see as disingenuous politicians.

My point in the article was not to criticize Bush’s policy necessarily, but to criticize the election tactic of marrying the war in Iraq with the war against terror. I think understanding our purpose in Iraq is critical for informed elections, and was surprised that more of you didn’t agree.

Darrin Hinkel writes:

Democrats never want a war, and they will keep coming up with excuses to prevent one for as long as it takes. This may come as a surprise to you, but Republicans don’t like wars either. They just realize that when diplomacy fails, or when it is not an option (as was the case with Iraq), they take initiative and follow through with their threatened actions.

The Iraq war not only was an answer to 9/11 in the sense that it eliminated a state that was a hotbed of terror and a supporter of terrorist groups, but also in the sense that it sent the world a message. This message was that we will not tolerate any state or organization that is connected with international terrorism. If we are going to successfully fight international terrorism, wars will be an inevitable consequence because we will need to eliminate states that fund and support terrorist groups (e.g. Iran & Syria).

SRE: Thank you Darrin, you make important points. I think we should point out however that our actions in Iraq are inconsistent with the way we treat other states that either violate U.N. resolutions or who house terrorists.

Bryan Hull of Thousand Oaks, Calif., writes:

That the war in Iraq has nothing to do with 9-11 is a misdirected argument. 9-11 has to do with terrorism. The appropriate response to 9-11 was not retribution but future prevention. It was known at the time that Iraq had been involved in sponsoring terror in Israel by paying the families of suicide bombers. It was also known how much Saddam hated the U.S. He was a threat. He was also the easiest threat to deal with at the time.

Iran and N. Korea are much more difficult threats to deal with due to the regional geo-political structure and lists of supporters. We took the easiest threat out first. The mistake was in not being more honest in why we needed to go to war, not doing it with enough troops, failing to secure the country during the post war period and having an effective 'exit strategy'.

SRE: Yes, I think those are the mistakes, but I don’t know that overthrowing a dictatorship and implementing a democracy is ever an easy way to neutralize a threat, or that Iraq’s connections to Al Qaeda were sufficient to support this action.

Eric Patterson of O'Fallon, Ill., writes:

Aside from the ranting, we are all ready in Iraq. We have seen issues on the ground and made mistakes but we're there. What should we do now? What is the plan of the Democratic Party beyond, pull our troops out now? Do you realize the vaccuum that would leave? Don't you think Iran is waiting for that vacuum to happen so they can fill it? What is the Democratic plan for foreign relations in the Middle East? Can the Democrats come out with positive positions that will show how voting for them would make the world a better place and the improve life here in the USA?

The current Democratic strategy in the up coming elections seems to be sitting in the grand stands yelling "Bush is wrong" as a diversion because they don't have any idea what to do or what kind of policy they would put in place.

SRE: Thank you Eric, you are absolutely correct that both sides will be pointing fingers and it is critical that the Democratic Party emerges with a concrete plan of action.

Robin Hunt writes:

I enjoy reading your column. I continue to hear from the Democrats that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism. If that is so, what does it have to do with?

SRE: Thanks Robin, I think it is important that we clarify this as rationales for the war have shifted and I have emphatically emphasized the disconnect between the war and anti-terror initiatives in my last article. The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 authorized action based on a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 (hiding WMD), Iraq’s aiding of terrorists, an assassination attempt on George H. W. Bush, and Iraq’s operation in no-fly zones.

Iraq’s financial contribution to terrorist organizations was minimal, particularly compared to other players in the region, and the government has not formally accused Hussein of training terrorists.

That we invaded Iraq to stop terrorism, then, seems questionable because the magnitude of our actions is inconsistent with our actions toward other states who we know have hid and aided terrorists and who have made major financial contributions to their organizations.

Mike Bellomo writes:
Your latest column "Terrorism Trap" outlines why the Republicans are hammering away the idea of the one issue they are leading on in the polls. First off I don't believe polls. You can't get a good idea of what Americans are thinking by sampling 1,000 people on each issue. Remember, John Kerry was leading in the polls (even some of the exit polls had him winning).

Nevertheless, I do have a problem with what's happening in Iraq. Most politicians and political analysts lay blame wherever they can.

I sincerely believe that Bush thinks if we succeed in Iraq, it will help with the problem of terrorism. I know that Iraq didn't attack us on 9/11, just like Lebanon didn't kidnap two Israeli soldiers. Afghanistan didn't attack us either. Terrorists did. Since they reside in places like Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, and something has to be done.

What kills me is the way politicians create a platform by sticking their fingers in the air to test the political winds. After this is said and done, people can lay blame. Fine, but until then every time I hear a politician laying blame anywhere (Republican or Democrat alike) they will not get my vote.

SRE: Thanks Mike, I appreciate your eloquently made points, and many of you agreed that catering a platform toward public opinion, particularly when lives hang in the balance, is tacky and unprincipled.

While I might agree with you on that point, I can assure you that, particularly in election campaigns, politicians do care about being in line with public opinion and appealing to the most people they can. I think it would be fantastic if more voters, like you, demanded solid platforms and a plan of action.