Everything that needs to be known is now known: The reasons the Bush Administration gave for the American war in Iraq were all falsehoods or deceptions, and every day the US occupation continues deepens the very problems it was supposed to solve. Therefore there can no longer be any doubt: The war–an unprovoked, unnecessary and unlawful invasion that has turned into a colonial-style occupation–is a moral and political catastrophe. As such it is a growing stain on the honor of every American who acquiesces, actively or passively, in its conduct and continuation.

The war has also become the single greatest threat to our national security. Its human and economic costs are spiraling out of control, with no end in sight. It has driven America’s reputation in the world to a historic low point. In the meantime, real threats suffer terrible neglect. These include more terrorist attacks, jeopardized oil supplies, rising tension with China, the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and even natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. All are pushed aside as this Administration pours the country’s blood, treasure and political energy into a futile war. In short, ending the Iraq War is the most pressing issue facing America today. Until it is ended, a constructive national security policy cannot be forged.

Americans are well on their way to a full appreciation of the dimensions of this debacle. In an October CBS news poll, 59 percent of citizens surveyed and 73 percent of Democrats now want an end to US military involvement in Iraq. But this growing majority has made its judgment with virtually no help from our nation’s leaders. Most shameful has been the Democratic Party’s failure to oppose the war. Indeed, support for it has been bipartisan: A Republican President and Congress made the policy, and almost all of the leading Democrats–most of the honorable exceptions are members of the House of Representatives–supported it from the outset and continue to do so. To their credit, would-be presidential candidate Senator Russell Feingold and former Senator Gary Hart have recently made strong antiwar statements. More recently two other presidential contenders, Senator John Kerry and former Senator John Edwards, have begun to call for a shift in policy, though still in vague and reticent terms. More typical, however, are the other presidential hopefuls, Senators Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Evan Bayh, who continue to huddle for cover in “the center.” They offer little alternative to Bush’s refrain “We must stay the course!” Nor do the party’s Congressional leaders and its head, Howard Dean, once a leader of antiwar sentiment. Can such politicians, who cannot even follow a majority–in the Democratic Party, a large majority–really be considered leaders?

The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, but we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of Bush’s disaster should not be permitted to excuse the creation of a worse disaster by continuing the occupation.

We firmly believe that antiwar candidates, with the other requisite credentials, can win the 2006 Congressional elections, the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and the subsequent national election. But this fight, and our stand, must begin now.

In the coming weeks and months The Nation will help identify–and encourage support for–those candidates prepared to bring a speedy end to the war and to begin the hard work of forging a new national security policy that an end to the Iraq War will make possible.

There is no other way to save America’s security and honor. And to those Democratic “leaders” who continue to insist that the safer, more electable course is to remain openly or silently complicit in the war, we say, paraphrasing the moral philosopher Hillel: If not now, when? If not you, who?