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November 11, 2005

  It's time -- long past time -- to withdraw the troops from Iraq.

The withdrawal should be orderly, not precipitous. Returning soldiers and marines should be greeted with honor and appreciation for having served our country -- the overwhelming majority of them having served it well. The nearly 2,100 who fell in the line of duty should memorialized in a way that will assure their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

But, please, Mr. President, no 'mission accomplished' extravaganza this time. At most, take the review as commander-in-chief and say thank you.

It has become painfully obvious that the alternative is to subject the nation to rancorous division and pain more acute than what a previous generation experienced over Vietnam.

The shameful display in the House of Representatives was just a foretaste of what would likely come. (CLICK HERE to read the New York Times account of what happened.)

Withdrawal is not retreat. It takes courage and the utmost quality of leadership for one to acknowledge having been wrong. And, Mr. President, you are wrong in the policy you have chosen to pursue.

Where you went wrong is something that history will determine. It serves no purpose to argue now over what is in the past and cannot be undone. What happens going forward is what matters.

The debate -- and there certainly  is need for debate -- should be on the proper role for the United States as the world's only 'superpower'. Should we set ourself up as world police officer? At what point it is proper for us to declare that our national interest justifies intervention in the affairs of other nations? Is it wise -- or, indeed, possible -- for us to impose our concept of political democracy on peoples for whom that is alien? Should it be up to us to determine what governments and rulers are acceptable? Most important of all: What must the United States do to restore our credibility and prestige in the international community?

Two years of serious debate would frame the issues and clearly identify proponents of varying positions. The American people then would be in a position to render an informed decision when they choose the next president and those who will represent them in Congress. Meanwhile, Mr. President, you can continue to govern without danger of falling into the same hapless position as Presidents Johnson and Nixon.

You have said that setting a timetable for withdrawal would serve to embolden radical Iraqi insurgents and undermine the fledgling government. If it is true that that government is not yet strong enough to assume the obligations of sovereignty, it also is true that there are other nations in the Middle East whose real national interests demand that they provide peacekeeping support.

In lining up a coalition, we must acknowledge the preeminence of oil as a determining element in the region. There is a point at which the interests of those who have the resource and those who need it converge. Acknowledging that reality provides the basis for forging a workable scheme.

As we diminish our military presence in Iraq -- in a matter of weeks or, at most, a few months, not years -- we should  invite and welcome other Islamic nations to take our place on the ground. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia are the most likely respondents. Keeping our existing naval and air power in the region to back them would be acceptable on an interim basis. Augmenting the fleet with at least token participation by Great Britain, France, Italy and other allies would confer an international character on it. Japan, China and the oil-dependent nations of Europe should be called upon to help meet  the cost.

If Iraq has the capability ever to assume full responsibility for its own house, such an arrangement would assure that the Iraqis demonstrate it in the shortest possible time. Continued presence of 140,000 foreign troops, which an increasing number of Iraqi regard as an occupation force, offers no such incentive.

  While only slightly less immediately pressing, it would be reasonable to take a fresh look at U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. There seems little or no possibility at this point that they will find Usama bin Laden there. There is now universal recognition that radical terrorism is a worldwide threat. Much would be gained by the United States ending what has become and increasingly quixotic quest in favor of participating in a truly international effort to combat it. The United Nations offers a suitable vehicle for such a venture.

  A survey by the Pew Research Center in association with the Council on Foreign Relations has found a growing amount of isolationist through in America. CLICK HERE to access the report and read it on-line.

  Miss America has traveled thousands of miles from Atlantic City to fine her new home -- in Vegas. Goodbye, Boardwalk; hello, Strip.  MORE

  Earth's warming climate is estimated to contribute to more than 150,000 deaths and 5 million illnesses each year, according to the World Health Organization, a toll that could double by 2030.  MORE


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