The most important thing about Tester's
address today is that it was a crucial step back in the right
direction. When I heard about the address, I hoped that the Tester
who so strongly campaigned against the war would return, and for
the most part, that was who spoke today. The Senator is definitely
fed up with the Bush Administration and its moving targets for
success in Iraq. Did Jon give President Bush too much benefit of
the doubt initially? Was he too timid? Perhaps, but today was a
strong signal that he intends to help end this war.
In more detail, Tester's plan is as follows:
PROTECT the mental and physical health of U.S. troops:
Tester supports legislation requiring the military to keep U.S.
troops at home for adequate rest and training before sending them
overseas for additional tours. He said the measure is critical to
the strength, health and readiness of America’s armed forces.
REDOUBLE counterterrorism efforts in
Afghanistan: Tester stressed the importance of refocusing the
War on Terrorism. He said Afghanistan is quickly becoming the
forgotten war, and Al-Qaida extremists there are regrouping. Tester
supports keeping military intelligence trained on Iraq and across
the Middle East to monitor terrorist suspects.
DEAUTHORIZE the 2002 use-of-force
resolution: Tester supports a resolution deauthorizing the war
on October 11 of this year, five years after Congress approved its
use-of-force resolution for Iraq. In order for Congress to
reauthorize the war, President Bush would have to make a case for a
new mission in Iraq.
While the first two elements are critically important to our armed
forces and our national security, the third point is essential if
this war is to come to an end.
It's a really sensible approach. It's
not unreasonable to force the President to provide a justification
for the continued presence of American troops. As Tester said, if
the goal was to eliminate Saddam, we should have left three years
ago, if it was to facilitate free elections, we should have left
two years ago, and if it was to ensure no WMD attack, we should
have left four years ago. If the President cannot convince the
Congress and American people that there is more good work with
achievable objectives left to accomplish in Iraq, it's time to get
This is the kind of strategy that Montanans should embrace. We
demand a great deal from our military; it's certainly not
unreasonable to demand that its commander in chief can justify
their deployment and the risks they take. Combined with the first
point of the plan, endorsement of Jim Webb's bill that will give our troops
more time at home between deployments, Tester's plan is what the
Administration claims to be: supportive of the soldiers. Meaningful support of our
military means giving them clear objectives, adequate support for
injuries, and enough time away from the battlefield to protect
their mental and physical health.
Was today's speech or this proposal perfect? No, but it provides a
path out of this debacle, one that protects the national security
interests of the nation as well as the soldiers to provide that
security. Let's hope that other members of the Senate have the
courage to step forward to do both.