Saturday, January 7, 2006

It isn’t very politically correct to be a pro-war Democrat these days — just ask Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who recently came under fire for opposing withdrawal of our troops.

The former Democratic vice-presidential nominee has taken hits from both House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who have openly chastised the Connecticut legislator for saying “we need to finish the job.”

Virulent opposition to the war, accented with anti-American sentiment has prevailed at the very heart of the Democratic Party in the last two years. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean recently said, “The idea we’re going to win this war is an idea that is unfortunately just plain wrong,” while former President Clinton called the war a “big mistake.” Former presidential nominee John Kerry recently claimed American soldiers were “going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children.”

It’s more than clear to Americans and the world that the Democratic Party leadership views the war in Iraq as both hopeless and without value.

That’s quite a change since the legendary days of President John F. Kennedy, whose nerves of steel single-handedly pushed America to victory during her coldest war against communism. One has to wonder what would have happened on the 13th day of the Cuban Missile Crisis had the current Democratic leadership occupied the White House then.

Amidst repeated cries for American withdrawal, only one Democrat has echoed the hawkish courage of Kennedy — Mr. Lieberman. In a recent op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Lieberman wrote, “What a colossal mistake it would be for America’s bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.” In a later press conference, Mr. Lieberman admonished fellow Democrats to acknowledge President Bush’s position as commander in chief and not “undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.”

In response, a senior Senate Democratic aide said of Mr. Lieberman to The Washington Post that “everything he does is seen as advancing his own self-interest, instead of the Democratic interest.” The aide added the discontent in Democratic chambers over Mr. Lieberman was “widespread.”

Liberal advocacy groups such as Democracy for America and are considering supporting a challenger against Mr. Lieberman in the primary. Former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker has considered running as an independent against him.

Apparently, the old adage is true that no good deed goes unpunished. After all, to those liberals and nonpartisan voters who oppose this new breed of antiwar fanaticism, Mr. Lieberman is seen as the last hope the Democratic Party will once again fight as it once fought best for — democracy.

Former Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Kennedy knew promoting democracy abroad was as important as preserving it domestically. From fighting communism, fascism, imperialism and genocide, the Democratic Party has always championed the rights of those oppressed in foreign countries. Even President Bill Clinton sent troops to Bosnia to quell ethnic cleansing and signed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. For some reason, that flair for liberation seems to have been dampened by the death toll in the Middle East.

Nonetheless, there have been great strides in Iraq. More than 600 health-care facilities have been equipped and 2,500 schools renovated. American forces have vaccinated more than 3.2 million children and 700,000 pregnant women since the 2003 liberation. More than 77,000 public works jobs have been created for Iraqis through public projects. And 80 banks have become operational. Iraq even has a new constitution that mandates at least a quarter of its legislators be women.

Americans should be proud of all this, considering the kind of torture and oppression Iraqis previously endured under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

As Mr. Lieberman wrote in the Journal, “None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S…. The leaders of Iraq’s duly elected government understand this…. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this.”

Mr. Lieberman understands this. His peers need to understand it, too. Some of us in the Democratic Party support this war and respect our president, and we would like to come home.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative journalist and recent graduate from the University of Florida School of Law. He was an intern to Sen. John F. Kerry’s Democratic presidential legal team and in the Clinton White House.

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