Thursday, December 21, 2006

Iraq: What We Should Really Do

I have stayed away from diarying about Iraq. Lots of very bright people have been writing about it. I have been focused on the 2006 elections, nationally and here in Florida. I just didn't want to do it.

The elections are over now. WE WON!!! Unfortunately, we didn't win everything we wanted. I dearly wanted Jim Davis to win in FL-Gov. It was not to be. But, we did win a giant referendum on Iraq. Now the President is acting like he is leading a different country than the one that just soundly rejected his vision for Iraq.

So, here I am. I have no excuses for not writing this. Some of you are not going to like what I have to say. Others might. In any event, here is my two cents worth...

First thing, I ought to tell you a little about me. I am old enough to have spent 4 years in the Marine Corps and 13 months in South East Asia. (Viet Nam mostly, but also some other places in that general neck of the woods.) Up until the last few years, I thought this country had actually learned some lessons from Viet Nam. Until ole George W got into his mach0 act.

I long ago came to my own terms with Viet Nam. It was a mistake to have gone there in the first place. We didn't fight the war in a way that would give us a chance to "win". But the men and women who served there did so honorably and felt they were serving the best interests of their country at the time. It was not until several years later that I saw how wrong it was for us to have gotten involved there. But our involvement there did figure into the larger scheme of events and in its own way contributed to the eventual freedom of Eastern Europe. All part of history.

I was not in favor of this war from the beginning. I did not believe that Iraq was an imminent threat to the national security of the United States, and couldn't fathom why Dumbya did. But neither am I a pacifist. There are people out there who want to harm us. I have no problem whatsoever doing it to them before they can do it to us. I would just prefer we focus on the real bad guys out there. There are certainly enough of them. We didn't need to invent any new ones.

On that score, I was in complete agreement with Senator Bob Graham. During the debate for the Authorization of Use of Military Force in Iraq (AUMF), Senator Graham introduced a substitute amendment. The Graham amendment left the Iraq request intact. It added other trouble makers such as Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Syria etc. Graham, who was Chair of the Senate Intelligence committee at the time, urged his colleagues to approve his amendment because there were other bad actors out there who had in fact already killed Americans and wanted to kill some more.

Well, the Graham amendment was defeated. The Bush administration did not want the focus on Iraq to be diluted. Senator Graham's speech the next day on the resolution that ultimately passed should be required reading for every critic of the war.

tonight I am going to vote no on this resolution. The reason is this
resolution is too timid. It is too limiting. It is too weak. This resolution
fails to recognize the new reality of the era of terrorism. And that reality is
that war abroad will, without assertive security actions, increase the prospects
of terrorist attacks here at home. In fact, war on Iraq alone leaves
Americans more vulnerable to the No. 1 threat facing us today, those
international terrorist organizations that have the capability to inflict upon
us a repeat of the tragedy of September 11.

Graham closed his speech with this:

Of all the issues we care about, and those issues over which we have
some capability to determine the outcome, in my judgment, the No. 1
priority should be the war on terrorism and its threat to the people of
the United States in our homeland. Our top targets should be those
groups that have the greatest potential to repeat what happened on
September 11, killing thousands of Americans. Passing this timid resolution, I fear, will only increase the chances of Americans
again being killed. That is not a burden of probability I am prepared
to accept. Therefore, I will vote no.
I close with the words spoken in one of the darkest periods of the
history of the Western World. In 1941, Winston Churchill said:

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and
easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can
measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.
The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that
once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of
policy, but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable

Now to the nub of it. What should we be doing now? There are all these dire predictions of the region falling into chaos if we withdraw precipitously. Sounds a lot like the old "domino theory" to me. We all now that didn't come to pass. , But maybe we just got lucky that time. Maybe this is a different set of circumstances.

Here is my proposal. I don't want to lose a single more American life refereeing the civil war going on in Iraq right now. Neither do I want to risk that the bad actors adjacent to Iraq will use our absence to their advantage. My proposal is that we immediately inform the Iraqis that they are responsible for their own internal security. We will pull our forces back to the Iraqi borders or into Kuwait and / or Turkey. We will provide external security to Iraq for a limited time period.

This should deter Iraq's neighbors from making mischief in the area. At the same time we should be talking to all of Iraq's neighbors to get them to buy into a solution for Iraq's external security that will allow us to remove all our combat forces from Iraqi soil. This should begin immediately.

So there you have it. It has some elements of the Murtha plan. It has some elements of the ISG report. And it has ideas borrowed from elsewhere. If I were in a position to advise the President, that's what I would be telling him we ought to do. I am not, so I am suggesting this alternative to you.


gatordem said...

I have stayed away from this subject as most of you know. But I really could not hold back any longer. This is an area that is certainly open to debate amongst people of good will.

Please, let me know what you think. But let's try to have a civil discourse on this subject.

Susan S said...

Good morning, Gene. Here are my 2 cents worth:

What we did in Iraq was such a colossal, devastating mistake that the only way to begin to extricate ourselves is to first admit to the world that we are to blame for the mess. We must pledge to hold our leadership accountable and immediately begin hearings in the House and Senate to fully examine how we got where we are today. The ultimate goal of these hearings should be the removal from office of Bush, Cheney, and Rice (at the very least).

We must throw ourselves at the mercy of the rest of the world. Only by admitting our wrong-doing and punishing the Bush administration can we begin the long climb back to any kind of moral standing.

The Armed Services committee should meet with the Joint Chiefs to determine a military strategy that will allow us to withdraw without too much loss of life.

We must apologize to the Iraqis and set up some kind of fund to help rebuild their country when some level of stability is achieved there. We can only pray that the leaders of other countries (even those that are our sworn enemies) will step in and try to contain the damage.

We are totally responsible for the death and destruction in Iraq, and possibly the entire region. Lecturing the Iraqis on their role in keeping their country secure now sounds very arrogant to me.

gatordem said...

Good morning, Susan. Very well said. I do not disagree with a single word of what you said.

I guess my focus was more on the immediate military and diplomatic process.

Your view is much more comprehensive, and again, very well said.

Thanks for the feedback.

bkirby816 said...

Gene, newly elected Senator Jim Webb from Virginia has a sort of unwritten policy, apparently, of if you haven't served in the armed forces, or don't know exactly what in the hell you're talking about, it's best not to comment on military matters, either way. Though I take note that you have, I have most certainly *not* so I tend not to comment on issues in Iraq.

That said...

It was so clearly a mistake from the beginning, I have a hard time believing we've come this far with the damn thing. I may not be an expert on military issues, but I know disaster when I see one. And Iraq is now a disaster of herculean proportions. The worse news is, it's the kind of thing that likely is going to get worse before it ever gets better. There are a lot of people a lot smarter than me trying to tap-dance around that issue, but that's the bottom line. Again, I really don't think you have to be some kind of expert to recognize that as truth.

Every idea over the last year of so, good and bad, the ISG report, Murtha's plan, the "surge," all of it is designed to minimize the impending disaster. That's fine. It's probably what's going to happen, so better to let people with experience in this (like you, Gene) speculate on how to save the most lives.

For what it's worth from me, an admitted non-expert, I think that unless we pour virtually limitless resources in to rebuilding (or, from some perspectives, building from scratch) diplomatic ties to the region in a meaningful and robust way, it all really will be for naught. If we don't, when your bandages finally come off, Gene, it's likely that the hemmorhaging will start again in the area and the level of human suffering will be unfathomable.

It's time to devote resources -- significant resources -- to asking hard questions, like, Why do terrorists hate America? Why do they attack us? How can we work with difficult regimes in the Middle East and even in the Far East towards mutually beneficial goals without compromising our own values as a free and just nation? Unless we start answering these questions -- and remember that we may not want to ask the questions, because that'll take a whole lot, and furthermore, we may not like the answers we get, anyway -- the Middle East is going to remain a killing field long after my kids are grown.

gatordem said...

While I certainly respect Sen. Elect Webb, I have to disagree with him on his policy about people speaking up on military matters who haven't served. I get where he is coming from, but I believe in free speech too much to agree with him here.

Also, Abraham Lincoln's military experience was limited to one very brief militia experience fighting Indians. It was a very unsatisfactory one at that. However, due to necessity, Lincoln made himself a military expert. One could argue whether this was a good or a bad thing. However, once he found a genereal he truly believed in (Grant), he stayed the hell out of the way.

tally said...

I don't know Gene. This topic has been diaried about an awful lot. Also, the 3rd highest diary from yesterday from jotter's list was No by Welshman which ended with:

What is there for us on DKos to discuss further? Are we to spend the next few months letting words flow as we dissect the White House policy or add to the rants about those who are promulugating this bloody tragedy in our lives? There is no longer any need to exercise any of these faculties on this barbarism.

Let the power of Daily Kos speak simply, clearly and powerfully without our endless diaries on the pollitics of the situation: STOP THIS WAR!

Why don't you right a diary on Graham's last year in the Senate and/or the disappointment of his failed presidential bid. That's something that needs to be told and I think you would be a good one to do it.

We need to honor our heroes, and he's certainly one of ours.

gatordem said...

Well, it is never so easy as "jotter" might wish. He throws out the phrase "STOP THIS WAR!". Pray tell, how does he plan to bring this about?

Is our immediate and total withdrawal from Iraq supposed to end the bloodshed there? Does her really think that our total withdrawal in and of itself will end the civil war there amongst the Iraqis?

If he does, he is naive beyond words. The Iraqis are going to have to decide to quit killing each other on their own. However, we ought to make sure that other outside parties are not assisting them in killing each other, at least for a while.

Susan S said...

Good morning, Gene. Sorry I never got back to this yesterday. I was out collecting signatures for Mary (and shopping, of course).

Forgot to thank you for bringing up the subject here at FK. The sad thing is there is no answer to Iraq. There never was and there never will be. We can only try to limit the damage.

BTW, our SAC group has been discussing what type of action to take when the casualty count hits 3000. We will post it here so everyone in the Tampa Bay area can attend.

gatordem said...

Susan - Sorry I couldn't be with you collecting petitions for Mary. Hope it went well.

I would urge you to plan a respectful memorial event for our Iraq war dead at the 3,000 mark. It will be all the more poignant coming from those who oppose the war, but honor the sacrifice of those who gave the last full measure of devotion.

Susan S said...

Re: our action at 3000--We will join forces with Veterans for Peace, and possibly St. Pete for Peace. At 2000, we held a candlelight vigil on Bayshore and read the names of Floridians killed in Bush's war. I suggested that we move to a more prominent location this time. Bayshore is beautiful but the number of cars passing by is limited and the wind is often too ferocious for candles. One of our members suggested we go to Kennedy and Westshore outside of Mel Martinez' office. I like that idea. We need media attention.

tally said...


I think you missed the point of my previous comment. Let me reiterate: THIS TOPIC HAS BEEN DIARIED ABOUT A LOT.

The diary I quoted from was by Welshman. It was Number 3 on jotter's list of High Impact Diaries, meaning a lot of people on dkos thought it was important.


Gene, diaries that get noticed are those where the author composes something from their heart. It is clear that every time you speak of Bob Graham you are speaking from your heart.

If you write something about Bob Graham and really put your feelings into it people will notice it. It you post on dkos yet one more diary on Iraq, no one will care.

gatordem said...


I got it. My point is that it has not been diaried by me.

The diary did OK. I got a dozen recs, 33 votes in the poll and over 40 comments. And I really don't give a fuck what the other guy said. We're still there, our kids are still dying and we've got to bring that to a halt as quickly as possible.

That's what I care about.