UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Kennedy Calls 12,000 Troops Home

Senator Ted Kennedy speaks against the current administration´s handling of the war in Iraq.
John Kane III
Senator Ted Kennedy speaks against the current administration´s handling of the war in Iraq.

As part of a series of recent criticisms of the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq, Massachusetts senator, Edward M. Kennedy, took the podium in UMB’s Campus Center Ballroom last Friday morning. Kennedy, long regarded as the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party, took aim at the current administration’s failure to outline a definitive exit strategy for United States involvement in the region.Drawing parallels to US military action in Vietnam, Kennedy called upon President Bush to abandon the “Pottery Barn rule” of “you break it you own it,” and begin to outline ways to transfer control of Iraq back to the Iraqi people.

“If we want Iraq to be fixed, the Iraqis must feel that they, not we, own it,” said Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy offered that last weekend’s elections in Iraq, although promising, cannot be held as a substitute for decreased American presence in the country and real sovereignty. “Our military and the insurgents are fighting for the same thing -the hearts and minds of the people -and it is a battle we are not winning,” said the senator. He continued, “The goal of our military should be to allow the creation of a legitimate, functioning Iraqi government, not to dictate it and not to micromanage it…Our continued, overwhelming presence only delays it.”

Kennedy allowed that the creation of a democratic state in Iraq would take time, however, maintained that the United States should play a supplementary role and support the United Nations as principle provider of support to the region in establishing a system of government and a constitution.

Calling for the immediate removal of at least 12,000 American troops, the senior senator cited heightened US training of Iraqi troops before the election of a permanent government as a way of expediting the return of American soldiers.

“If America can train the best military in the world in 13 weeks, why can’t we train the Iraqis in 8 or 12 or 15 months to fight and die for their country?” he asked.

He continued that the US should begin diplomatic talks with the Arab League and Iraq’s neighbors in the Middle East, as well as the international community at large.

Senator Kennedy conceded that the removal of American troops from the region would not be an immediate salve for the people of Iraq, but offered that these steps may lead to a path of setting right the “quagmire” that the United States involvement in the region has become.

“President Bush has left us with few good choices. There are costs to staying and costs to leaving. There may well be violence as we disengage militarily from Iraq, and as Iraq disengages politically from us,” Kennedy explained. “But there will be much more serious violence if we are forced to go it alone. Setting a strategy for withdrawal may not guarantee success, but not doing so will almost certainly guarantee failure,” he said.

Kennedy further criticized President George W. Bush and his administration for its failure to successfully pursue Osama bin Laden, and referenced the war in Iraq as a reckless shift in focus from the terrorist who was at the root of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“In his State of the Union Address, President Bush talked about the war on terror. He spoke 27 times about terror, but he did not mention Osama bin Laden once. What world is he living in?” said Kennedy.

“He started a war we never should have fought. He stopped fighting a war we hadn’t won, and left our greatest enemy in the world still at large, planning his next 9/11,” he said of President Bush.

The senator’s words were met with applause and support from the audience of faculty, staff, and students that assembled in the Campus Center for the speech. UMass President Jack Wilson and UMB Interim Chancellor J. Keith Motley joined Senator Kennedy on stage.

After the speech, Dr. Motley acted as moderator, as Kennedy fielded questions from the audience that had been collected by the senator’s interns.

“It was an awesome speech. I am a big fan of Senator Kennedy. It was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this,” said Freshman James DiLoreto.

Of his decision to deliver his speech on the UMB campus, Kennedy said, “I think it’s one of our schools of excellence and the people are interested and concerned about foreign policy and domestic issues. The chairs have had an invitation to come here and speak for some time and this was an opportunity to do so, so I took advantage of it.”

At a press conference following his remarks, the senator was asked whose minds he is changing on a campus like UMass Boston where delivering his speech was the equivalent of “preaching to the choir.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a variety of different places about this subject,” said Kennedy. “Obviously it moves beyond just the 200 people there into the general [popular] debate,” he said.