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The Arrogance That Led Us To Iraq Infects Washington Again

Is anyone here old enough to remember the urgent warning issued in a speech to the National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in August 2002 by an American vice president who had artfully avoided the military draft during wartime? Dick Cheney, after acknowledging he was convinced that Saddam Hussein would “acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon,” went on to beat the war drums: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction; there is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

There was not then, and there never would be, any stockpile of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs to be used against us. It was worse than “fake news”; it was taking his country into war under false pretenses, leaving as its legacy death, disillusionment and, yes, despair. But let us also recall the wise, if unheeded, words of a former Marine Corps company commander in Vietnam who there earned the Navy Cross, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts; he posed the consideration the Republican administration sending American troops into Iraq refused to broach with the American people: “whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years.”

That was Jim Webb, who would later be elected to the U.S. Senate from Virginia as an anti-war Democrat. He warned, “wars often have unintended consequences — ask the Germans, who in World War I were convinced that they would defeat the French in exactly 42 days.” Today, 75 years after World War II, the U.S. still has troops stationed in both Germany and Japan, and 67 years after the Korean War ended, American soldiers remain on dangerous watch in Korea.

Does anyone else remember the young Army captain in Vietnam who had held in his arms a young soldier who had stepped on a landmine and was dying? Colin Powell knew firsthand how painful it was to write condolence letters to the grieving next of kin. That led directly to the doctrine that would carry his name; it says that the U.S. should commit men and women to combat only as a last resort and after policy options have been exhausted — and then only 1) when a vital national security interest of the nation is at stake, 2) when the U.S. force employed is overwhelming and disproportionate to the force of the enemy, 3) when the mission and military action are both understood and supported by the American people, and the mission has international support, and 4) when there is a clear and plausible exit strategy for the U.S. troops sent into harm’s way.

Maybe you recall the gentle rebuke Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf had for the fawning flatterers who lionized him after his successful leadership in the Persian Gulf War. He said: “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” These thoughts all come back when an American president, our only chief executive never to have served a single day in either public service or military service before coming to the White House, again confronted a hostile Iran by sending more American troops into harm’s way in Iraq. Now is the time to be sure to remember.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

The Powell Doctrine Has Been Repealed

Long before he would become America’s 65th secretary of state, Colin Powell was a young Army officer who served two combat tours in Vietnam. There, Lt. Powell held in his arms a young American soldier whose body had been blown apart — and whose life would, in a few hours, be ended — by a land mine. Colin Powell understood the responsibility and the pain of comforting the dying, and of then writing a personal letter to the parents of the soldier whose remains would be coming home in a pine box, because powerful and important men in Washington had determined it was necessary for young Americans to fight and to die in the rice paddies of Vietnam in order to stop international communism.

From such painful, personal experiences would come, a quarter-century later, when he was serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush, the “Powell doctrine,” which argued that the United States should only as a last resort, and only after all other nonviolent options had been tried, send our men and women into combat. Powell insisted that before such action, our vital national security interest be threatened by the identified adversary, and that we take action only when the U.S. forces were overwhelmingly disproportionate to the forces of the adversary; and only after the mission was fully understood by and strongly supported by the American public; and only when the U.S. mission had real international backing. Finally, before any such an action was launched, there had to be a coherent and agreed-upon exit strategy for the U.S. troops.

The Powell doctrine was accepted and followed in the first Gulf War after Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces had invaded their oil-wealthy neighbor Kuwait. Republican President George H.W. Bush, with Democrats in control of the Congress, won House and Senate support as well as the backing of the United Nations Security Council for military action to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. The United States also created a coalition of 39 nations and persuaded Saudi Arabia, Germany, Kuwait and Japan to pay 81 percent of the costs of $61 billion. The United States deployed 540,000 troops; the war lasted less than three months; 383 Americans died.

That was 1991. Sadly, in 2001, when the U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11 and another Bush was in the White House and Colin Powell was secretary of state, the United States ignored the Powell doctrine. The cost of having done that is evident everywhere around us: As of this writing, some 18 bloody years later, 6,989 American families have buried a son, father, brother, husband, wife, daughter, sister or mother who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. An America that had taught for centuries that “war demands equality of sacrifice” forgot that value and instead asked no sacrifice of the privileged and the prosperous. Instead of the traditional American response of tax increases to pay for the cost of the wars, tax cuts of more than $6 billion — overwhelmingly skewed, more than 65 percent of them to the richest Americans — have been the signature of these wars that required no home-front rationing, or even required civilians to pay attention to the fighting and the dying of their fellow Americans.

Forget any new, bigger Fourth of July parade or empty “thank you for your service” lip service. Let’s be honest with one another: The Powell doctrine is dead, and we Americans (most of us, anyway), have shown ourselves unwilling, as we once were, “to pay any price, to bear any burden, to meet any hardship … to assure the survival of liberty.”

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

 

Clinton Warns Against Complacency, Trump Warns Of World War Three

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton warned her supporters on Tuesday against complacency as opinion polls show her holding a clear lead over Republican rival Donald Trump with exactly two weeks left until the Nov. 8 election.

Clinton told voters in Florida, one of the battleground states where the election is likely to be decided, that Democrats cannot afford to slacken.

“I hope you will come out and vote because it’s going to be a close election. Pay no attention to the polls. Don’t forget, don’t get complacent, because we’ve got to turn people out,” she told a rally in Coconut Creek, standing in front of a large sign reading “Vote Early.”

Trump also campaigned in Florida on Tuesday. He blasted recent spikes in premiums for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Trumppromised to repeal and replace the health care law, as soon as he is elected.

“This is why we have to drain the swamp and repeal and replace Obamacare immediately, and I’m the only candidate running for president who will do it,” Trump said.

On Monday, the U.S. government said the average premium for insurance plans sold on Healthcare.gov for 2017 rose by 25 percent compared with 2016.

But with polls showing Trump trailing Clinton, Trump has asked his campaign to cut back on work identifying candidates for jobs in his future administration and to focus instead on bolstering his chances on Nov. 8, according to two people familiar with the campaign’s inner workings.

An average of national polls on the RealClearPolitics website since mid-October gives Clinton a lead of more than 5 percentage points, as Trump fights off accusations that he groped women and faces heavy criticism for suggesting he might not accept the result of the election if he loses.

Clinton received a further boost when Colin Powell, who served as Republican President George W. Bush’s secretary of state and was chairman of the U.S. military’s joint chiefs of staff under his father, Republican President George Bush, said on Tuesday he would vote for her.

Trump denies the accusations of sexual misconduct and says the election is rigged against him, although he has not cited widely accepted evidence to back that up.

On Tuesday, Trump told Reuters that Clinton’s plan for fixing the Syrian civil war would “lead to World War Three,” because of the potential for conflict with military forces from nuclear-armed Russia.

In an interview focused largely on foreign policy, Trump said defeating Islamic State is a higher priority than persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, playing down a long-held goal of U.S. policy.

Clinton has called for the establishment of a no-fly zone and “safe zones” on the ground in Syria to protect noncombatants.

The two candidates have sparred in recent days over the U.S.-backed Iraqi military push to take the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State, which Trump described as a “total disaster.”

“He’s declaring defeat before the battle has even started,” Clinton, who was secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s first term, said on Tuesday.

She urged supporters to participate in early voting, which began this week in Florida.

“Nobody should want to wake up on Nov. 9 and wonder whether there was more you could have done,” Clinton said.

Clinton also appeared on Tuesday at the Univision studio in Doral, Florida, on “El Gordo y La Flaca” (“The Fat Man and the Skinny Woman”), a long-running entertainment show aimed atLatinos.

She talked about everything from her hopes for the peace process in Colombia to baking chocolate chip cookies, in an appearance low on policy but that underscored the importance of Latino voters in the battle for Florida’s 29 electoral votes.

Clinton maintained a commanding lead in the race to secure the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, according to Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project results released on Saturday. They showed that Clinton had a better than 95 percent chance of winning, if the election had been held last week.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Sanford, Florida, and Emily Flitter in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally in South Broward Area at Broward College-North Campus in Coconut Creek, Florida, U.S., October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria