It is a little late but there is still time for John Kerry and the Democratic party to offer the electorate a genuine alternative to a continuation of President Bush’s Iraq policy.

The Kerry proposal might go like this:

We cannot afford the continuing, even increasing, loss of life among American troops, nor the financial drain which is piling high the national debt and denying us the funds to improve the nation’s education, public health and repair to our crumbling infrastructure of highways, bridges, dams and mines.

The Bush administration promises nothing but more of the same. It talks of another four or five years of war. This is madness. The only way out now is to admit that the Bush policies, that the invasion of Iraq, were terrible mistakes. We must acknowledge our chagrin, our embarrassment in admitting that our policies, our military intervention was a mistake. We must extend our apologies to those we misled and who suffered our rashness and our mistakes. This is not cowardly but is the courageous and honorable thing for us to do.

My administration’s first move will be to name a panel of military experts from those retired top officers who from the beginning have criticized the Iraqi war, the administration’s lack of planning and the use of its limited forces.

This panel would plan the immediate withdrawal of our forces in Iraq with the goal of bringing the last soldier home within six months. A portion of those soldiers who wish to volunteer, would be sent on to bolster our forces in the real war against the terrorists in Bin Laden’s home ground of Afghanistan.

The rest of the brave and courageous troops, who bear the great brunt but none of the responsibility for the failure of the Bush Iraqi policy, will be welcomed home as the heroes they are. The bands will play and the people will cheer as they parade down the Broadways and Main Streets of America’s cities.

Those thousand and more who have given their lives in this lost cause will never be forgotten by a grateful nation. They should get their own memorial aside those of other wars on the Washington mall.

And those other thousands maimed as they did their duty will be honored and not forgotten. Special programs will help them become useful citizens and will assure their financial support the rest of their lives. Those returning soldiers who do not wish to remain in the regular armed forces will be given full educational opportunities similar to the GI Bill for World War Two veterans.

For those professional people and self-employed who were called up with their National Guard and Reserve units- and held overseas overlong- we will provide financial help for them to resume their pre­Iraq careers.

As for the Iraq government, we will extend it limited help in supplying its armed forces. We will leave behind for it billions of dollars of military equipment – to the degree that our military panel believes it will be useful.

However, our financial aid to Iraq will primarily be on the humanitarian side. We will supply bounteous funds to aid in the restoration of housing and vital services, most particularly hospitals and other medical facilities. These funds will be administered by the American Red Cross and other such organizations to isolate them from any U.S. political interests.

We will declare a new policy toward Iraq. We will not pretend a dominant role there. Our representation will be the normal peacetime embassy. We will clearly proclaim our abandonment of any suggestion that we seek to profiteer in the nation’s rebuilding. We shall make that clear by not only welcoming but urging the nations that once were prominent in Iraq’s economy to return without any interference from the United States. If our industry wishes to invest there, it will be in fair competition with the interests of other nations.

If the United States is to share in Iraq’s oil treasure it will do so with clearly recognized and enforced federal rules that ensure our fair and honest participation.

This revolution in our Iraq policy will be accompanied, of course, by a redefinition of our general foreign policy. The Democratic administration will not totally abandon the Bush policy of preemptive war against a threatening nation. The growing profusion of nuclear and biologic weapons of mass destruction conceivably could justify such action. But this administration would rebuild, with the programs outlined above ­its alliance with our long-time friends overseas whose confidence in us was destroyed by the Bush administration’s arrogant and nearly solitary aggression. Having regained the faith and trust the world once bestowed upon us, we also will hasten to repair the damage our solo performance in Iraq caused to the prestige of the United Nations. We will lead in strengthening it as the one body that could establish and enforce world peace.

This policy – the Kerry promise would note – is the answer to the Bush administration’s policy that promises only the continued waste of so much American and Iraqi blood and the waste of billions of dollars that will be denied to the strengthening of America and the recovery of Iraq.