Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ford Stands By Original Support Of Iraq War

Though he continues to insist that President Bush rethink the nation’s current strategy in Iraq, Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr. made it clear Friday night that he would not repudiate his original support of the president’s decision to intervene military in that Middle Eastern nation.

And, while praising as "a brave young lady" Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who has been keeping a well-publicized vigil outside the president’s vacation home in Crawford, Texas, Ford declined to second-guess Bush’s decision not to meet with Sheehan concerning the war in which her son Casey had lost his life.

Addressing the annual awards banquet of the University of Memphis Law School Alumni, Ford expressed his initial support of the war effort this way: "I support this war in Iraq. I supported it from the very beginning for one reason. Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. Now, there are those who criticize and quarrel with this, and make the point over and over again that perhaps we shouldn’t have done it the way we’ve done it, and I would agree. But I wouldn’t blame the president, or anybody else for that matter, from waking up on September 12th and wondering aloud what would happen if Saddam Hussein and bin Laden married. It would be very easy for us to sit back in the comfort of our own homes and say, Well, one is secular and one is religious and they won’t . It would be very easy for us to think that 9/11 wouldn’t happen, but it did."

Bush’s "instinct" had been right, said Ford, who has visited Iraq three times in the last two years and plans a fourth visit, but there is "a lot of room for change" in how the president pursues operations in Iraq. "I love my president. I love him personally," Ford said. "But he’s just wrong. – wrong for not being willing to admit that we’ve made some mistakes….It was right to take him down but wrong to think that we can’t right this course."

In particular, Ford said, military action by itself cannot achieve our aims. He said it was incumbent on Americans to understand Islam and suggested the creation of university curricula to facilitate just that. "They understand us, and we don’t understand them," he said.Without naming Saudi Arabia as such, Ford was critical of the administration’s policy of "subsidizing the same group of people" who had suppressed women’s rights and otherwise curtailed freedom in their own country and had given financial support to Islamic extremist groups.

Spelling that out, in remarks after his speech, Ford said, "I’m not calling the Saudis bad people, My point is that it’s clear that the majority of the people on those planes were Saudis. It’s clear that the Saudi government supports the radical Wahhabism, as it’s called."

Concerning Sheehan’s vigil in Crawford, Ford said, "Americans have a right to express their views, and that young lady lost her son and wanted the president to have a conversation with her about that. It’s clear we really don’t have a strategy. I can’t answer for the president as to why he didn’t meet with her."

Ford, considered the Democratic frontrunner in next year’s U.S. Senate race, added: " If I were president, we’d be doing things a lot different than this president is doing them. I do know that we don’t seem to have a clear plan."

From: The Memphis Flyer