As we await word on the denouement of the Democratic psychodrama - will Barack Obama gain enough superdelegates to clinch the nomination by midnight? will Hillary Clinton put her husband on Zoloft? - let us step back briefly from the furies of the moment and ponder this series of remarks by a prescient politician:
Sept. 19, 2002. Six months before President Bush launched war in Iraq: "As of today, many questions remain unanswered. Is war the only option? How much support will we have in the international community? How will war affect our global war against terrorism? How long will the United States need to stay in Iraq? How many casualties will there be?...War must always be a last resort, not the first resort."
Sept. 27, 2002: "How can we best achieve this objective in a way that minimizes the risks to our country?...How can we ignore the danger to our young men and women in uniform, to our ally Israel, to regional stability the international community, and victory against terrorism?...(T)he administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary."
Also from Sept. 27, 2002: "(I)nformation from the intelligence community over the past six months does not point to Iraq as an imminent threat...or a major proliferator." In terms of a major proliferator, consider "Russia's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. America spends $1 billion a year to safeguard those weapons. Yet the administration is preparing to spend between one and two hundred billion dollars on a war with Iraq."
Oct. 11, 2002, while voting No on Bush's war resolution: "The power to declare war is the most solemn responsibility given to Congress by the Constitution. We must not delegate that responsibility to the president in advance."
Feb. 8, 2003. The war is six weeks away: "(H)ow do we win the peace if there are massive civilian casualties, if factional fighting fractures Iraq, if food, water, and medicine are in short supply and millions of Iraqis are displaced from their homes, or if a new wave of terrorism erupts against America as an occupying power, or because of the war itself?...There are real dangers that the administration has minimized or glossed over...Billions of dollars and years of commitment may well be needed to achieve a peaceful postwar Iraq, but the American people still do not know how that process will unfold and who will pay for it...Before pulling the trigger on war, the administration must tell the American people the full story about Iraq. So far, it has not."
July 15, 2003. The war is barely four months old: "(T)he Administration was blinded by its own ideological bravado...The foundation of our postwar policy was based on a quicksand of false assumptions, and the result has been chaos for the Iraq people, and continuing mortal danger for our troops...Saddam Hussein may no longer be in power, but the people of Iraq will not truly be liberated until they live in a secure country. And the war will not be over, no matter what is said on the deck of an aircraft carrier, until the fighting stops on the ground, democracy takes hold and the people of Iraq are able to govern themselves."
Sept. 23, 2003, refuting the Bush acoloytes who were assailing his antiwar dissents: "(These) are legitimate questions...I'm going to keep asking them."
The guy who voiced those warnings didn't always get it right; when he spoke in September '02, he underestimated the price tag of war by at least $300 billion. The Bush war team's largesse was beyond his darkest conjurings.
He has not always led the most exemplary life; his private transgressions have been embarrassingly public, and his flight from a fatal accident is a permanent stain on his reputation. He has sometimes miscalculated politically, challenging an incumbent Democratic president and splitting his own party in the disastrous 1980 campaign. But on the most crucial war-and-peace issue of this young century, he asked the legitimate questions when so many others cowered.
So consider this a get-well card to Ted Kennedy, and here's hoping that he will return with more questions, and a renewed willingness to "keep asking them."