When talking troops, don’t slight Romania

During last week’s debate, Sen. John Kerry forgot to mention Poland as one of America’s strongest allies in the Iraq war. I would give Kerry the benefit of the doubt on this one, but he has a history of ignoring the support of our allies. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski was struck by Kerry’s comments: “It’s sad that a senator with 20 years of experience does not appreciate Polish sacrifice. One thing has to be said very clearly: This coalition is not just the United States, Great Britain and Australia, but there’s also contribution of Polish, Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Spanish soldiers who died in Iraq … We are disappointed that our stance and the sacrifice of our soldiers is so marginalized.”

This is not the first time Kerry has slighted the sacrifices of other countries. His use of the word “unilateral” during his campaign is disturbing: “The [Bush] administration stubbornly holds to failed unilateral policies that drive potential, significant, important, long-standing allies away from us;” “America [is] acting on its own, unilaterally, disrespecting the rest of the world;” and the one that makes the least sense, “Our stubborn, unilateral policy in Iraq has steadily drifted — from tragedy to tragedy.”

The truth is, America has more than 40 allies in the war in Iraq. I don’t know how much less unilateral the Iraq war could be. Kerry’s comments about America’s allies have steadily drifted — from wrong to wrong.

Last week, Kerry tried to diminish the importance of our allies by stating that “we only went in there with three countries — Great Britain, Australia and the United States.” Kerry was correct, except he forgot to mention the troops from Albania, Azerbaijan, Japan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Lithuania, El Salvador, Estonia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Georgia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Latvia, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Philippines, Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Denmark, Romania, Singapore, New Zealand and South Korea. According to globalsecurity.org, these are all the countries that sent troops to Iraq. The liberals reading this are getting upset as the facts come out. They would complain that the troops from America, Britain and Australia far outnumber the troops supplied by all of these other countries. They are right — the 700 troops from Romania pale in comparison to the 12,000 troops from Britain, but who are we to judge the significance and value of each Romanian soldier? I would like to hear Kerry tell Junichiro Koizumi, Japan’s prime minister, that he thinks countries other than Britain and Australia should send troops to Iraq. At one point, over 33,000 foreign troops, including 1,000 Japanese, were in Iraq, but Kerry doesn’t seem to care.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark said it best: “Only the Americans have the military strength to disarm Saddam and liberate Iraq. But we have an obligation to help. If we mean anything seriously about our democratic values, then we should also be ready to make a small contribution to the international coalition.”

Every American should have the highest appreciation for any country’s support. In contrast, Kerry has referred to these allies as “window-dressing to the greatest degree.” Sen. John Edwards even said, “The [real powers] are us and to a much smaller extent the British and nobody else … This is not serious.” Nobody else? Statements like these may be the way to secure the liberal vote, but it is not the way to build stronger alliances.

Other than supplying troops, there are countless ways countries have supported the Iraq war. They have given logistical support, basing rights, intelligence, reconstruction aid and fly-over rights. Canadian, UAE and Czech personnel are even helping train essential Iraqi police officers in Jordan. But in the words of John Edwards, “This is not serious.”

Kerry’s grand plan to help Iraq is to hold a summit to gain allies. Somehow, this summit will be different from the U.S.-European Union summit held four months ago in Ireland. There, the leaders of the now 25-member EU formally recognized “the threat of terrorism to our freedom and basic liberties, and … resolved to defeat it … to prevent terrorists from inflicting horrors like those of Sept. 11, 2001, and March 11, 2004.” President Bush attended this summit on his way to Turkey to meet with NATO members to discuss Iraq. Last May, there was a summit in Qatar for the donors in the Iraqi reconstruction. There will be another such summit in Madrid at the end of this month. And next month, there will be a summit of neighboring Arab countries. Kerry’s new idea for a summit is brilliant, but in the words of our president, “It’s exactly what we’re currently doing.”

Here’s the bottom line: You can disagree with many aspects of the Iraq war, but statements from Kerry such as, “The Bush administration miscalculated by deciding to go it alone without strong allies,” are irresponsible. As Bush stated, “You can’t expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side-by-side with American troops in Iraq.” Whether you’re for the war or against it, the adage “Support The Troops” does not stop at America’s borders.



Mike Slater is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.

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