In Iowa, Seeking Clarity On Iraq

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This column was written by John Nichols.
When it comes to the war in Iraq, Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell has been and remains a disappointing Democrat.

The six-term incumbent voted to authorize President Bush to invade Iraq, defended the occupation through three election cycles and voted to fund it even after principled Republicans had begun to object.

On Tuesday, Boswell faces a tough primary challenge from former Iowa State Representative Ed Fallon, who opposed the war from the start and who has been consistently right on other issues that Boswell has gotten wrong (such as trade policy).

Even now, if you visit the congressman's campaign website (, you won't find mention of the war or foreign policy on the list of issues Boswell is focusing on. (Rather, he's highlighting warm endorsements from popular and far more steadily anti-war Democrats such as former Vice President Al Gore.)

In targeted mailings to Democratic voters in Iowa's 3rd District, however, the incumbent is claiming that he's standing up to George Bush to end the war.

Noting the claim, Fallon asks of his opponent: "But where was he most of the past five years?"

There is no question about where Fallon was, and is, on the war.

Back in 2003, as a state legislator, he sponsored a resolution urging the Bush administration not to launch a preemptive attack on Iraq.

In stark contrast, while serving as a State Representative in 2003, Ed Fallon authored HR 17 to encourage the President not to initiate a preemptive, unilateral military strike against Iraq.

Fallon argued in that 2003 resolution that the war President Bush proposed and Congressman Boswell supported would:

1.) Undermine our efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. Bin Laden remains at large.

2.) Destabilize the region. Iran has only grown in influence as a result of the war.

3.) Turn into a humanitarian disaster. Iraqi civilians have suffered greatly throughout the war.

4.) Lead to a long-term military presence in Iraq. U.S. troops have now been in Iraq longer than they were engaged in WWII.

5.) Cause America to bear most of the financial cost of the war, which we have.

6.) Cost between $100 billion and $1 trillion, and we are now almost at a trillion dollars.

7.) Cost us $15-$20 billion per year. That was a conservative estimate: the actual cost is about $12 billion a month, or $144 billion a year.

8.) Cause deeper federal budget deficits, further weakening the economy and undermining of the long-term prospects for solvency the Social Security and Medicare systems.

In hindsight, Fallon comes off as a visionary -- although the truth is that he was just one of the millions of Americans who, unlike too many members of Congress, saw through the administration's now-discredited spin.

As in the presidential race, where Barack Obama's deepest distinction from Hillary Clinton has always been that he got Iraq right when it mattered, Ed Fallon is distinguishing himself from Leonard Boswell by noting that he, too, got Iraq right when it mattered.

"Those who voted for this war had it wrong on so many levels," argues Fallon, who has attracted strong support from anti-war activist groups such as Progressive Democrats of America, as well as the influential endorsement of the Des Moines Register newspaper. "They were duped by President Bush's propaganda machine and failed to understand how the war would cripple our economy, leave thousands dead or injured, and polarize our nation. Congress needs leaders who are able to think critically before similar mistakes are made in the future."
By John Nichols
Reprinted with permission from The Nation