So I’m still plugging away at this essay on the Responsible Plan. Part of the reason it’s taking so long to write is that this is on a subject that’s near and dear to my heart — namely, the Iraq War. 

Look, we’re five years into this war. Half a decade. Does anyone know why we’re still in Iraq 5 years later? Anyone? We’ve been in Iraq longer than it took to defend the Four Freedoms, longer than it took to make the world safe for democracy, longer, even, than it took to make sure that government of the people, for the people, and by the people wouldn’t perish from the earth. 

About the only thing that it took us longer as a nation to accomplish was securing our independence from Great Britain.

So — why are we still in Iraq? This morning, we got word of our 4,000th death in Iraq. Was it worth it? Was it? Can anyone say, in all seriousness, that it was, and continues to be?

Silly me; of course I know the answer! It is, at least for that talented third of the population convinced of the infallibility of their ways.

For the rest of the population, though: what gives? I marched to the White House last Wednesday, as we seemingly cried down the pouring rain. I marched, along with several dozen people, from the hotel where we were holding a conference, all the way down to Lafayette Park — and at best, we were met with some random signs of approval; for the most part, what we got was benign indifference.

How can I blame the people who saw us, though, when our leaders hesitate to lead?

Ever since last Monday (3/17 — St. Patrick’s Day), I’ve been pounding the Responsible Plan to every person I talk to. I talked about it yesterday on my friend John’s inaugural radio broadcast. I’ve sent copies of the plan to every candidate for Federal office here in Colorado. 

Ordinary people are enthusiastic about the plan; it’s the candidates who are asking for more time to study.  I’m appreciative of the political realities that candidates face; I’ve worked on my fair share of campaigns, and, who knows, I might get the bug to run for office myself someday (not bloody likely, but, hey, never say never), but this is slightly frustrating to me, as a veteran.

Let’s break it down in terms we can all understand. Let’s look at the bottom line.

$500,000. $30,000,000. $720,000,000.

That’s how much we’re spending on the war every minute, every hour, and every day.

You say you want to make universal health care a reality? Sorry, you can’t — gotta spend that money on Iraq.

You say you want access to quality schools for kids? Sorry, no can do — the money’s already gone.

You want affordable energy? Nope. A cure for cancer? No way, brother. Free wireless in the cities? Riiiiight. 

All the things that we say we want to accomplish that we never got around to doing in prior Democratic administrations? We won’t get to accomplish unless we first end the war. 

The Responsible Plan is a good plan; a serious plan. More than that, it’s an eminently realistic and achievable plan because it’s composed of legislation that’s already before Congress and has multiple co-sponsors. 

In other words, if you’re a candidate that’s hesitant to come on board, we’ve got you covered! You’ve already got friends! You’ll never walk alone, in other words.

I mentioned earlier the cost of the war per minute, per hour, and per day. Here’s the thing, though. Those dollar figures can only measure the cost of the war on our nation’s Treasury. 

They cannot measure the cost of the war on our most precious resource — our people. They cannot tell the toll on families shattered by the death of a loved one or the ruin unleashed on minds and bodies wrecked by the war’s course. 

If you’re a candidate, and you don’t want to sign on to the plan, that’s fine. Here’s the thing, though:

If you’re opposed to the war, then you have to come up with a plan that’s equally realistic and equally achievable — otherwise, I have to question just how interested you are in leading our country, and actually fulfilling the promise of American life.   

Five years is half a decade too long. The argument over the exit strategy has ended. If you’re running for Congress, you need to lead now, not when you take the oath of office.

The cost of war is too high. I know too many people broken in mind, broken in body, broken in spirit to further afford vacillation. The toll on our national conscience is far too dear. In your hands, more than mine, lie the eventual wages of this war.

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