Edwards to be in Iowa this Memorial Day weekend

Former North Carolina Senator/Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife are spending the Memorial Day weekend campaigning in Iowa.  Earlier this month, Edwards urged his supporters to use this weekend as a chance to speak out on the war and he unveiled a new website:  www.supportthetroopsendthewar.com.  There’s been criticism from veterans groups.

During a brief telephone interview with Radio Iowa this afternoon, I asked Edwards about the criticism:  "What I’ve said is that this Memorial Day weekend we should show our support for our troops.  My family, my campaign — they’re sending care packages to troops.  We’re writing letters.  We’re asking other people to do the same thing, to make it clear that we’re patriots, that we love our men and women in uniform and appreciate their service, but one of the things we need to do as patriots is to speak out about ending this war and bringing our men and women home and that’s what I’ve called for.  I think it is the heart and soul of our democracy and it’s clear that the American people want this war to end and their voices need to be heard."

During a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York today, Edwards talked about his wife’s father — a WWII era vet.  Here’s that section of the speech — from the text prepared for delivery — followed by one of my questions to Edwards about comparing the aftermath of WWII to today:

"Memorial Day has always had special meaning for our family.  My wife Elizabeth grew up on military bases around the world, as the daughter of a Navy aviator.  From the U.S.S. Quincy, Elizabeth’s father Vincent took part in the first bombing runs of Japan during World War II.  Later, after the war, Elizabeth and her parents returned to live in Japan, where her father was stationed.

"World War II was not simply a moment of military glory, a moment of triumph for the citizen soldier.  It was much more than that.  The generation that won World War II is not called The Greatest Generation because of the victory they earned on the battlefield, but because of what they did with that victory, of what they gave to us and the world.  Military power without purpose is ultimately self-defeating.  Our active engagement in the world after World War II is an example of why we need a strong military.  It reveals the relationship between the strength of our military and the power of American ideals.

"Think about the choices our wise leaders made in 1945.  It would have been easy enough for America to glance at the devastation and just as quickly look the other way.  We had saved the world from Nazism and fascism.  We were wealthy and we were safe.  Many thought it was time we went home. 

"But Americans like President Harry Truman and General George Marshall saw the truth:  that it would require not only America’s military might, but our ingenuity, our allies, and our generosity to rebuild Europe and keep it safe from tyrants who would prey on poverty and resentment. Our leaders resisted the imperial temptation to force our will by virtue of our unmatched strength. Instead, they built bonds of trust founded on restraint, the rule of law, and good faith.  They were magnanimous out of strength, not weakness.

During the Radio Iowa interview, I asked Edwards the following:  "There are some people who argue that back then (in 1945) America did wisely impose democracy on Japan and Germany in the same manner America’s current administration is imposing democracy on Iraq.  Do you see those paralells?"

"No.  What I see is an administration that has consistently misled the country about what’s actually happening in Iraq and a very complex situation in a country that’s been volatile since its existence.  The fighting between Sunni and Shiia has been going on literally for centuries in this region of the world and this is a very, very different situation, at least from my perspective," Edwards replied.

Edwards is suggesting a sort of "smart power" foreign policy doctrime if he’s elected president.

"What we want is we want America to combine its strength with a moral authority to lead," Edwards said in our telephone interview.  "That means that we maintain our strength — our military strength, our economic strength and our political strength, but in order for the rest of the world to follow. they’re going to have to see us as a force for good again which means we’re going to have to lead in humanitarian efforts.  We’re going to have to get out of Iraq.  We’re going to have to lead on issues of genocide in Darfur, the spread of HIV/AIDS.  The world needs to see America as a force for good again."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.