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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Stay the Course?

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

I'd like to spend a bit of time talking about the campaign's latest press release. Our campaign has noticed that while John Kline was very outspoken about the U.S. occupation of Iraq during the first three years, he's been relatively quiet on the subject lately. Is this because the congressman is going soft in his previously rock-ribbed support for the war? The election is less than three months away, and the voters deserve to know.

For the record, Coleen opposed going into Iraq from the beginning, citing her belief that doing so would be a shot in the arm for al-Qaeda recruitment, and pose a greater threat to our security over the long term. She has held to that view, and is now an outspoken supporter of responsible redeployment along with Pennsylvania Democrat and 37-year Marine Corps veteran John Murtha.

According to a October 24, 2002 Pioneer Press article by Rachel Stassen-Berger, John Kline supported war in Iraq "long before it came to a vote in Congress". Perhaps he still does. But his relative silence on the subject has got us wondering, so we're asking him for a clear statement of his position.

And since it seems John Kline doesn't want to talk to us, we're asking the media to do what they can to get an answer.

Here are a few of Kline's statements on Iraq from late last year:

"What I would expect to happen is that they [Iraqi security forces] will get better and better and stronger and stronger, and by this time next year, I'll be very surprised if we don't have significantly fewer U.S. forces in Iraq" - Star Tribune, September 18, 2005

Kline said troop reductions are a near certainty in the coming year - barring unforeseen circumstances. "If you're talking to me in eight or 10 months, and we're not starting to see actual withdrawals, I'll be shocked." - Star Tribune, November 24, 2005 --- 8.5 months ago

"President Bush's speech reemphasizes that there is a clear plan for victory in Iraq. It is uplifting to see the courage of the Iraqi security forces as they take on more and more responsibility." - Star Tribune, December 1, 2005, shortly after Kline returned from a visit to Iraq

But then this past April, we have:

Gutknecht and Kline, meanwhile, who have been consistent supporters of the war, had little to say last week about Iraq and the election.

Kline declined to comment. His spokesman Troy Young said: "We're not going to continuously air our political election views through the press. That's not the way we operate. That's not the way any incumbent operates." - Star Tribune, April 28, 2006

Now perhaps it's unreasonable for us to expect that John Kline will, as the incumbent, talk about his positions on issues like the situation in Iraq. But oddly enough, first district congressman Gil Gutknecht, who like Kline is an incumbent as well as a long-time supporter of the U.S. presence in Iraq, not only spoke out recently, but announced that he had changed his mind:

Rep. Gil Gutknecht (Minn.), once a strong supporter of the war, returned from Iraq this week declaring that conditions in Baghdad were far worse "than we'd been led to believe" and urging that troop withdrawals begin immediately.

If Gutknecht can a) Speak up about Iraq and b) Change his mind, why can't Kline? Especially when our top General in the Middle East, John Abizaid, and Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have this to say about Bush's "clear plan for victory in Iraq":

"The sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it," Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."

. . .

"We do have the possibility of that devolving to a civil war, but that does not have to be a fact," said Pace. ". . . We need the Iraqi people to seize this moment."

This is where George Bush and John Kline's 'stay the course' strategy has brought us. After 3.5 years of fighting, $300 billion spent, 2600 U.S. soldiers and untold thousands of Iraqis dead, Iraq is further from Democracy than it has been at any time since the fall of Saddam.

Has it made us safer? There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but if we measure the safety of our country by the readiness of our military, the answer is a resounding "No". Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, himself a Vietnam veteran, recently declared:

"We're ruining our United States Army. We are decimating our army. We can't continue with the tempo and the commitment that we are on right now."

John Kline wanted this war, and he has supported the Bush administration in its conduct of the war every step along the way, even praising Donald Rumsfeld as having done "a very good job" in the wake of the Abu Ghraib abuses. So the very simple question is, does he still support the Bush 'stay the course' strategy?

Coleen believes emphatically that 'stay the course' is no strategy at all; it's simply a mantra for the Bush administration to repeat over and over until 2009, when someone else will move into the Oval Office and be forced to clean up the mess.

If John Kline is confident in his position, he shouldn't hesitate to share it with the voters.

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