Sunday, September 24, 2006


“WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.”

New York Times, September 24, 2006.

So what else is new? The United States invaded Iraq in March of 2003, has spent more time there than it took us to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II (from December 7, 1941, through Victory in Europe Day in May of 1945 was three years and five months), and the only statements we get from the President of the United States in recent days are that Iraq had “nothing” to do with the 9-11 attacks, and that we will stay in Iraq until we “win.” Win what, I ask? How do you “win” when you aren’t even fighting a conventional war against an enemy in uniform with geographic positions which can be taken in battles?

You can’t “win” a war against terror any more than you can win a war against crime, blitzkreig, drugs, or any other inanimate object or intangible tactic. That’s as plain as anything else in life, yet our press and at least 35 percent of American adults think that there is such a thing as a “war on terror.”

What is clear at this juncture is that the Bush Administration has no clue about anything involving Iraq, terrorism, Al Qaida, or protecting America’s ports and borders. Unfortunately, that fact doesn’t prevent Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld, vice President Richard Cheney, or President George Walker Bush, from addressing hand picked audiences of people in uniform or veterans who used to be in uniform. They have anointed the War in Iraq as the metaphorical equivalent of the fight to liberate Europe from the Nazis. At the same time, they have labeled those in opposition as “cut and run” defeatists who are the moral equivalent of appeasers like Britain’s 1938 Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, who handed Czechoslavakia to Hitler without a shot being fired.

A more accurate metaphor would be to describe the Bush Administration as arsonists who see a small flame lit by Al Qaida and pour millions of gallons of gasoline on it to ignite and inflame the whole Moslem world. And the sober professionals who put together the National Intelligence Estimate have ratified what those of us with an ounce of common sense have figured out ever since the Bush Administration started beating war drums in the summer of 2002: invading and occupying Iraq will solve few problems and create new huge ones. On April 19, 2003, a scant month after the invasion, I wrote the following in an e-mail to one of the family members of a Marine in my son’s unit:

“Why the UN should take over is simple- whether or not they do a better job, the perception among the people in the region will be hugely different regarding a UN sponsored trusteeship of the country. It simply is in our national interest to have a respected international organization take over the rebuilding of Iraq. The sooner American and British soldiers are out of there, the less likely that terrorists or suicide bombers will attack our loved ones there or here. And a quick exit will defeat the absurd arguments that we are a colonialist country seeking to exploit Iraq's oil.”

Would that a high ranking member of the Bush Administration with decision making powers had made the same point and followed through on it. Iraq would not now be in the throes of a civil war, over 2,000 Americans would be alive, another 15,000 would not have been grievously wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqis would be alive to enjoy the fruits of democracy and freedom.

An Exit Strategy to phase out American Troops without Leaving Chaos or Civil War

Unlike the Bush Administration and every nationally prominent Democrat, I have a plan to exit Iraq without “cutting and running” or conceding defeat. President Bush claims that a specific deadline with a detailed timetable for withdrawal will send a dangerous message to “the terrorists” and other vague enemies that we can be driven out by their tactics. That’s a curious concern for an Administration which has made no secret of its complete disdain for foreign opinion, overwhelmingly against us on this issue, and which maintains that this White House “creates its own reality.” In fact, simple logic tells us that if President Bush really intended to remove American troops once the insurgency was quieted and democracy installed, the smartest tactic for the “terrorists” would be to lay low, pretend to go along with the program, give our troops a chance to leave, then come out of hiding and attempt a coup or instigate a civil war.

Since President Bush has continually maintained that we were going to leave anyway (a statement belied by the billions of dollars we have spent fortifying the Green Zone, constructing our new armed fortress of an embassy, and building permanent military bases), one can hardly see how a detailed exit plan harms our interests. Meanwhile, staying in the country without a firm exit date has provoked more suicide bombings and an increasing number of American casualties. Every benchmark- the June 2004 handover of “sovereignty,” the January 2005 elections, the October 2005, vote on the Constitution- which was supposed to create an environment for success in Iraq, has instead been followed by increased violence and further escalation towards a civil war.

I propose a phased six month pullout of American combat troops from central Iraq- the Sunni triangle- leaving enough troops in the north to protect the Kurds from invasion and in the south to protect the oil fields. As soon as possible (no more than another 12 months) we should replace them with an international peacekeeping force like the one on the Israel-Lebanon border. In central Iraq and Baghdad, we should bring in Arabic speaking Muslim peacekeepers, preferably from our allies Jordan and Egypt, to replace American troops. This area is where our religion and our lack of understanding of language, culture, and ethnicity, has cost us lives and the goodwill necessary to do an effective job of peacekeeping.

We should internationalize Iraq’s oil fields, dedicating half of their revenues to rebuilding Iraq- none of which may be used for procuring arms. The money can go to non-governmental aid organizations with a better track record of disbursing aid than the Halliburton Corporation. The other half should go to repay America’s bill for the war and compensate the victims of Saddam Hussein. Whatever else Iraq’s constitution provides, we should impose requirements on the country that it never have a standing army or air force, that it have a government free of religious influence, and that every person in the country be guaranteed the same rights to free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and democracy that we enjoy here.

I wish the people of Iraq well. My son is proud of the work he did there as a Marine, and in no way should the Democrats or Republicans follow a “cut and run” strategy or a “declare victory and leave” plan that leaves the country in chaos, a Somalia in the heart of the Middle East. However, President Bush does neither Iraq nor America any favors by keeping a large force of American troops there indefinitely with no rational exit strategy and no clue as to what is fueling popular support for the insurgency- namely, the constant irritant of American, English speaking, (mostly) Christian troops.

As I wrote during a run for public office in 2004:

“Many if not most of the people of Iraq do not want to have freedom handed to them by an American army of occupation. If the Iraqi people are to value and treasure freedom the way we do, then they are going to have to earn it.”


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