BARCELONA, Spain — This week in Kansas City, Mo., the Commander in Chief received something he’s not getting a lot of lately: multiple standing ovations. The applause came from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) when he told their convention, “a free Iraq” is within reach and that “here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility — but the terrorists see it differently.” Leaving no doubt where he stands, President Bush added, “We will support our troops, we will support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed."
Here in Spain, the country that pulled its troops out of the Iraq coalition in 2004 after suicide terrorists bombed the Madrid transit system, our president’s words aren’t getting any accolades.
What Europeans say about American presidents and their policies shouldn’t really matter. None of them pay U.S. taxes or cast ballots in our elections. But that doesn’t prevent our political and media elites from citing “Euro-opinions” to shore up their own positions. That’s why we should expect to hear a lot of care and concern from Democrats about what the Europeans think of us in this presidential election campaign. What we’re not hearing from Democrats is any consistency about what they would do about Iraq if they win the White House.
Perhaps the Euro-critics who are so willing to condemn America, President Bush and our troops in Iraq don’t think the outcome in Mesopotamia matters to them. Or maybe, like much of our mainstream media, the Euros simply want “Anybody but Bush” in the White House. But if that’s the way they think, they ought to care about what the Democrats’ position on the war really is. I know I can’t figure it out.
Hillary Rodham Clinton — the leading contender for the Democrat nomination — told the VFW conventioneers gathered in Kansas City that the surge is “working.” But then she added, "We're just years too late in changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war." She concluded that the best way to honor U.S. forces is "by beginning to bring them home." She did not specify just where her “new war” might be or how bringing our troops home honors them.
Senator John Edwards didn’t even bother to show up for the VFW. His campaign simply released a statement reminding supporters that he wants “an immediate reduction of 40,000 to 50,000 troops to stop the surge and get all regional parties to begin to find a political solution.” He also wants “all combat troops to be withdrawn within the next year.” That, his campaign says, will “finally put Iraq on the path to stability.” He doesn’t say how.
And then there’s Senator Barack Obama — widely considered to be in second place in the Democratic horse race. Mr. Obama has apparently become a new believer in the efficacy of military force. He told the veterans, “If we put 30,000 additional troops into Baghdad, it will quell some of the violence short term.” But then he added, "All of our top military commanders recognize that there is no military solution in Iraq,” and “one reason to stop fighting the wrong war is so that we can fight the right war against terrorism and extremism.” Though Mr. Obama failed to specify exactly where this “right war” is to be fought, one can presume it may be in Pakistan – a place he offered to bomb during a debate last month.
Or perhaps the “right war” is in Afghanistan. Two weeks ago in a campaign appearance, the Illinois senator suggested that we need more troops to back up the Karzi government in Kabul: “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding (sic) villages and killing civilians which is (sic) causing enormous problems there.”
Mr. Obama concluded his remarks to the veterans by observing, “That is why I have pushed for a careful and responsible redeployment of troops engaged in combat operations out of Iraq, joined with direct and sustained diplomacy in the region.”
Unfortunately, for those seeking it, clarity on the war isn’t found in other Democrats either. In an interview this week with the Detroit Free Press, Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, conceded the troop surge was working, but then added that the democratically elected government of Iraq is “non-functional,” and that “I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office." Mr. Levin has repeatedly said that he wants to begin withdrawing U.S. forces by the end of this year.
Those are the positions of leading Democrats on the war. As we say at FOX News: “We report, you decide.” I sure can’t.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of “War Stories” on the FOX News Channel and the founder of Freedom Alliance, a foundation that provides support for the troops and scholarships to the dependents of servicemen killed in the line of duty.
Lt. Col. Oliver L. North (ret.) serves as host of the Fox News Channel documentary series "War Stories with Oliver North." From 1983 to 1986, he served as the U.S. government's counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. "Counterfeit Lies," is his novel about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Click here for more information on Oliver North.