U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 told a group of New Haven fifth-graders Wednesday that he was pleased with coalition forces’ success in Iraq and urged the students to treat the returning soldiers as “heroes.”
Lieberman, a Democrat, discussed his vision for post-war Iraq, his race for the presidency and the future of the war on terrorism during the appearance at the West Hills Magnet School on Chapel Street. The presidential hopeful also answered questions from the students, who are currently learning about the American Revolution.
“What you’re studying is still what I talk about every day,” he said. “It’s about America and what America stands for. We’re America because we stand for something different.”
Lieberman said he hopes the end of the war and the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime will add fuel to the war on terrorism.
“I think the successful war will end a government that was already working with terrorists,” he said. “Secondly, I hope it frightens the terrorists. Third, the war against terrorism has to go on. We’re working very hard in Washington. I don’t want you to grow up in that fear.”
Lieberman said he was disappointed that the country had to go to war, but felt something had to be done. He said “Iraqis never had freedom” under Hussein and blamed the war on promises not met by the Iraqi regime.
Lieberman also talked to the students about international opposition to the war, especially in Europe. He said the lack of support stemmed partially from European dissatisfaction with how President George W. Bush ’68 has handled issues they view as important, such as global warming.
“Unfortunately, there was a lot of opposition to this war,” Lieberman said. “President Bush didn’t listen to them — so they didn’t listen to him.”
Lieberman called on the governments of France, Germany and Russia to relieve some of the debt that Iraq owes them. He said he wants the rebuilding process in Iraq to be a global effort, involving the United Nations and the European countries that originally opposed the war.
“We’ve got to work real hard to bring in all of the Iraqis,” Lieberman said. “One of the hopes for post-Saddam Iraq is that there will be freedom of religion.”
Lieberman was impressed with the students’ questions and said he enjoys meeting with children because they offer a fresh perspective.
“The students’ questions were excellent,” said Lieberman’s press secretary, Adam Kovacevich. “They clearly thought a lot about what goes into funding a democracy and they’ve also clearly followed the war and the issues surrounding it.”
Kovacevich said Lieberman has a full plate balancing his presidential campaign and his Senate job, but added that the senator will not sacrifice his work with his Connecticut constituents.
If elected president in 2004, Lieberman said he would devote resources to the war on terrorism.
“The record of the Bush administration in Afghanistan has not been a good one and I hope we learn from it,” he said. “I take it as one of my responsibilities to create a country, a world, where people are our friends, not our enemies.”
Lieberman said the Bush administration uses rhetoric supporting universal health care and improved education in liberated Iraq, but he suggested that Bush should consider implementing these reforms in America first.
“We ought to do some of the same here at home,” he said.
Lieberman told the students to continue to pray for the safe and swift return home of coalition troops still in the Middle East.
“We won the war, so we protected ourselves from Saddam,” Lieberman said. “It was a brilliant victory, but 119 or 120 Americans died. This feeling of safety that we have didn’t come without sacrifice. They’re heroes, just like the heroes of the American Revolution.”