As the war in Iraq drags on, conservative citizens, mostly Republican, face a growing dilemma in the November election.
In the face of growing evidence that the president was deceived and misguided about the cause and urgency for waging war on Saddam Hussein, it is time for those responsible to stand forth and accept accountability. True, the president is ultimately responsible for the actions of his vice president, his Cabinet and the executive departments. But it has become clear that the counsel the president received from the vice president, secretary of defense, deputy secretary of defense and senior uniformed leadership was severely flawed and uncorroborated. Whether the president was intentionally misled by neoconservatives or whether their advice was a result of pure incompetence remains to be seen. The fact is that he was misled sufficiently to require him to take bold action to restore his diminished credibility.
The supposedly urgent need to attack Iraq was based partly on inflated, creative intelligence information, some of which originated with Ahmed Chalabi, an associate of the vice president and deputy secretary of defense. The information from Chalabi led the vice president and defense secretary to believe that war with Iraq would be a "cakewalk" and U.S. forces would be received with open arms. This belief resulted in a fatal flaw in developing a complete war strategy. A principal tenet of forming a strategy -- have a "war termination" phase -- was neglected. Although the tactical and operational phases of the war were conducted flawlessly by superior field commanders, the absence of a complete strategy has needlessly cost lives.
Our service members are the ultimate victims of this incomplete strategy, misguided policy and false intelligence. It is inconceivable and derelict not to have a viable war termination strategy for an operation as complex as a major theater war. America's citizens and our service members deserve far better for their sacrifices. This combination of things -- misleading the president with false intelligence and omitting a principal element from our war strategy -- is reason enough to seek change in the vice presidency and senior defense leadership, civilian and military.
It is our patriotic duty to speak out when egregiously flawed policies and strategies needlessly cost American lives. It is time for the president to ask those responsible for the flawed Iraqi policy -- civilian and military -- to resign from public service. Absent such a change in the current administration, many of us will be forced to choose a presidential candidate whose domestic policies we may not like but who understands firsthand the effects of flawed policies and incompetent military strategies and who fully comprehends the price.
The writer is a retired major general in the Marine Corps. He served as director of the expeditionary warfare division in the office of the deputy chief of naval operations.