I used to be a single-issue voter. As an evangelical Christian, I thought it was my duty to only support candidates who claimed to be "pro-life." The Iraq War eventually changed my mind.
I support our military and am grateful to veterans who've been willing to risk their lives defending America. For those and other reasons, I oppose unnecessary wars. That has become a pro-life issue for me.
I voted for Bush in 2000. But even before he gave the order to invade Iraq in March 2003, I was convinced Saddam Hussein posed no serious threat to the United States. In December 2002, I became aware of Scott Ritter. He fought as a Marine in the first Gulf War and later became a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq. He was certain there were no more weapons of mass destruction there and was sure Saddam had no connection with al -qaida terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001. Ritter argued against invading Iraq. In the following months, I became convinced he was right.
I learned that neoconservative political strategists had, for years, been pushing the idea that the United States should reshape the Middle East by military might. The 9/11 attacks provided a convenient excuse to urge President Bush to do more than order a justifiable military response against Afghanistan (where al-Qaida terrorists were being trained). The neocons wanted Saddam removed from power in Iraq.
Soon Bush and Cheney were trying to connect Iraq with the 9/11 attacks and were using fear tactics to sell the idea of an invasion (see Frontline's documentary, Bush's War).
Then the war began. Hearing the military death toll on the nightly news reminded me of how my former boyfriend, Harvey, died in Vietnam in 1967 at the tender age of 19. If the rationale for that war now seems questionable, the reasons to invade Iraq are more so. I wondered how many more "Harveys" would have to die—not to mention civilians—in a conflict that could have been avoided?
By the time the presidential election of 2004 rolled around, I was in no mood to vote for Bush. I agreed with John Kerry when he said, "War should always be the very last resort." And I knew that the "swift boat" attack ads against Kerry were misleading. One day, as I wondered, "How can I vote for a pro-choice candidate?" an answer surfaced: To vote for someone who opposes unnecessary wars is a pro-life issue. So I voted for Kerry.
Sadly, Bush won another term, and the Iraq War dragged on, costing America a terrible price in blood and money and international reputation—not to mention the 100,000 or more civilians who've died there (by conservative estimates), and the millions of people whose lives have been forever scarred by war.
Now, here we are, watching another presidential race. The so-called "pro-life" candidate, John McCain, has never publicly questioned the wisdom of invading Iraq. Barack Obama opposed the Iraq War early on and has promised to bring it to a responsible end, in consultation with military commanders. From Obama's Web site:
"Before the war in Iraq ever started, Sen. Obama said that it was wrong in its conception. In 2002, then Illinois State Sen. Obama said Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat to the United States and that invasion would lead to an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. Since then, Sen. Obama has laid out a plan on the way forward in Iraq that has largely been affirmed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton."
Obama's judgment was correct. Sen. McCain—though right about the need for more troops—evidently doesn't understand that wise foreign policy and "support for our troops" ought to begin with a commitment to make war the very last resort. On the question of when to go to war, Obama is more pro-life than McCain. Obama has said he'll negotiate with nations that may pose a threat, such as Iran, rather than hurrying to bomb them. McCain has mocked Obama's position on that, joked about bomb-bomb-bombing Iran and has warned of more wars to come.
I have moral concerns beyond just the single issue of abortion without restriction. Obama is concerned about the struggling middle class, people trapped in poverty and those without health insurance. He believes what Jesus taught about helping "the least of these" (Matthew 25:40). The programs he advocates will very likely help lower the abortion rate. McCain seems to believe that struggling people should lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, even if they have no boots.
Obama opposes all torture of prisoners—something McCain says he opposes; but in February he voted against a bill banning waterboarding by the CIA. Obama has surrounded himself with tested advisers, while McCain favors neocon advisers and says he consults Sarah Palin about foreign policy, even though her interviews show how little she understands about international issues. Obama is being advised on the economy by people like Warren Buffett, while McCain has said he esteems the (now discredited) economic advice of Phil Gramm and has crusaded in the past for economic deregulation (which is partly to blame for the current financial crisis).
I respect Sen. McCain for his military and Senatorial service, but not for his campaign's style or substance. Obama has run an honorable campaign, while McCain has adopted Bush-Rovian kinds of dirty tricks (which he strongly condemned in 2000 when they were directed against him). Statements by McCain and Palin have encouraged a mean-spirited response in many of their supporters. Obama has come across as intelligent, thoughtful and calm, speaking with great skill and care, without anger. These are qualities we need in a national leader. I'm no longer a single-issue voter. I'm voting for Barack Obama.
Shelley Warner works in a special needs classroom and loves to cook when she's at home. She and her husband returned to Boise six years ago after living in every corner of the United States. They've raised two adopted children from India and have one grandchild. You can contact them at email@example.com.