Monday, January 16, 2006

John Murtha - P A T R I O T !!!!!!

Dear Colleague on Redeployment of Troops in Iraq

Dear Colleague:

I am writing you this letter because many have asked me to spell out more completely how I arrived at my decision to introduce a resolution calling for the immediate redeployment of our troops in Iraq and their withdrawal at the earliest practicable time and an emphasis on diplomacy.

From a military perspective, our forces have accomplished an important mission. They have deposed an evil dictator and defeated his army.

The War in Iraq is approaching its third year.

It is time for Iraqi leaders to take control of the future of their country.

It is time that the over 200,000 Iraqis who have received military and police training over the past three years take over the hard job of providing domestic security themselves and stop using American forces as a crutch to lean on.

It is time for U. S. forces to redeploy out of the country in an orderly but rapid way, soon after the Iraqi government is elected on December 15.

It is time that our military “footprint” in the area is converted from a pervasive presence inside Iraq to a powerful quick reaction force outside of Iraq.

It is time for a vigorous and engaged debate on the administration’s Iraq policy based on substance and facts, not political hyperbole.

The American people are ahead of the politicians in Washington and are demanding a change of course. They are deeply disturbed by the high level of ongoing violence, the ever changing explanations of why we are in Iraq, the lack of progress in achieving the war’s poorly articulated goals, and the utterly confusing and conflicting messages from the administration telling the American people we plan to “stay the course” while at the same time planning a rapid drawdown of our troops.

In engaging in the debate about how to proceed, let’s stick to the facts. It is a disservice to substitute personal and political attacks for reasoned debate about a deadly serious topic, especially when such prominent Americans as the following have spoken out:

-General Brent Scowcroft (Army Ret.), who served as President George H. W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, has said that the war in Iraq is “feeding” terrorism;

-General George Casey, Jr., Commanding General, Multi-National Force Iraq, said in a September 2005 Hearing, “the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency”.

-General John Abizaid, Commander, U.S. Central Command, said on the same date, “Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy

It is also a disservice to our fine young men and women in uniform to argue that leaders in Washington and elsewhere must refrain from debating this issue for fear of hurting the morale of the troops in the field. Our troops know that diversity of opinion and honorable debate over matters of war and peace are integral and essential parts of America’s democratic system. A system they have pledged to defend. A vigorous debate based on facts and not political hyperbole helps to hold our leaders accountable and keeps our country strong. Our troops expect their political leaders to come to these decisions that can affect their lives with much deliberation, and a sense of putting the interests of our nation ahead of personal political gain.

Our military forces today are one of the finest in our history. They are loyally and faithfully fulfilling their duty and carrying out their orders. What is demoralizing to them is not a debate in Washington, but the many missteps by the civilian leadership that have led to a situation where the vast majority of the Iraqi people now view them asoccupiers, not as liberators.

My own views have evolved and taken shape after making a number of inspection trips to Iraq, participating in numerous Congressional hearings on the war, holding untold numbers of private conversations with members of the military and Middle East specialists, and visiting hundreds of the wounded at our military hospitals around the world.

Ultimately, my decision to recommend an immediate redeployment of our troops came down to the answers to three basic questions:

1. Are the Bush administration’s stated goals of the war achievable and are they worth the cost in lives and treasure?

2. To what extent, if any, is the War in Iraq contributing towards winning the War against Terrorism?

3. Would the security of the United States of America be strengthened or weakened by a continued open-ended military presence in Iraq?

Iraqi War Goals Are a Moving Target

It is next to impossible to say America’s war goals for Iraq are achievable because they shift and change so often. I believe this is one of the main reasons why the American people are turning against this war. They have not been given a clear and convincing set of reasons as to why the continued sacrifice of brave young Americans is vital to our national security interest.

The administration is currently on its sixth different explanation as to why this war is necessary. The rationale for conducting the war began with emphatic and unequivocal claims that Saddam Hussein and his regime constituted an imminent threat to America. Over time the rationale morphed to the assertion that the war was necessary to remove a vile dictator and free the Iraqi people. It changed again to “if we don’t fight them in the streets and back alleys of Baghdad and Tikrit, they’ll be here in America wreaking havoc and destruction.” It then shifted to the need to spread democracy in the Middle East, followed by the need to prevent a civil war. We are now told that Iraq is the central front of the war on terror and we can’t depart until Iraqi forces are fully and completely trained to take over our mission and not until “complete victory” is achieved.

At the time of our invasion, it was portrayed that Saddam Hussein was a clear and present danger and an “imminent threat” to America and must be removed before a “mushroom cloud” appeared over American soil. It was also implied that Hussein was somehow linked to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Of course, as we now know, Saddam had no nuclear weapons and there was no proven link to al-Qaeda.

After no nuclear weapons or biological weapons of mass destruction were found, the justification for the war changed to the argument that we have removed a despicable dictator and freed the Iraqi people from oppression and suffering. While this in itself was a significant achievement, the reality is that there are many evil, dictatorial regimes around the world. The American people rarely have been supportive of a policy of using the American military for regime change simply because we could potentially better the lives of the oppressed in other countries. There also must be an overriding national security interest.

The Iraq war rationale then morphed once again into an argument that it was better to fight the terrorists in Iraq than on the streets of Washington D. C. or Los Angeles. At first glance, this may seem to be a logical argument. A closer look reveals this argument to be based more on emotion and domestic political concerns than on analysis and reason. Every credible analyst believes that the majority of Iraqi insurgents are not al-Qaeda members, but disaffected Sunni Baathists left over from the Saddam regime who perceive no real hope for their future. They are fighting because they lost power and privilege and need to gain a seat at the bargaining table when the future government is put together. They have little need to export their violence to other lands. They want to share power in Iraq.

When it became apparent that the American public was accepting none of these justifications, the administration turned to a policy rationale that involved a sort of Wilsonian construct saying our goal really has been to make Iraq the centerpiece of our efforts to spread democracy across the Middle East.

I agree with the administration that the upcoming Iraqi election on December 15 th is a very important step towards establishing a democratic style of governance. I commend the Iraqi people for the courage they have shown by participating in past elections and no doubt will show again in the upcoming election. It is gratifying to see the citizens of Iraq go to the voting booths, defy the insurgents, dip their fingers in indelible ink and vote. The “birth throes” of democracy are taking place. American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who have served in Iraq should feel especially proud of this achievement.

However this unfolding milestone must be kept in perspective. Holding a free election is not equivalent to having a functioning democracy. Without the robust institutions of a free press, an effective police force, a fair judicial system, and an impartial system of laws and regulations that guarantee equal rights and privileges for all, a nation can’t truly function as a vibrant democracy.

Unfortunately, this administration has been seen as inconsistent when it comes to setting a good example for the establishment of these democratic institutions, which has set back our objective immensely. We are widely seen around the world as hypocritical, pursuing a policy in Iraq of “do as I say, not as I do.” The disaster at Abu Ghraib, sending incoherent messages from the very top of the American Government regarding the use of torture, paying for favorable Iraqi news stories, running secret prisons, instituting inconsistent practices on giving prisoners due process rights, and running what many people are beginning to see as a circus trial of Saddam Hussein all hurt US credibility around the world, making it more difficult to achieve this worthy goal.

I agree that our foreign policy should support the opening up of Arab societies – culturally, economically and politically. This is very important for the long-term peace and stability of the Middle East. But our policy must be guided by an achievable plan that has a realistic timetable and a full appreciation of the limitations of encouraging radical change for nations with cultures and traditions far different from ours.

The administration simply has run out of both time and American soldiers to install a democracy in Iraq in the way it had planned. Instead, the next steps towards achieving this difficult transition rest with the Iraqis themselves with the role of America reverting to the traditional approach of providing strong and consistent leadership through steady statesmanship, economic aid, and technical assistance. Keeping our troops in Iraq will be a hindrance towards reaching this goal, not a benefit.

We are also hearing yet another justification new for “Staying the Course” – i.e., if we leave a civil war will ensue. I would make three brief observations. First, this position is the ultimate in circular logic. The proponents of this view are saying, in effect, “Our invasion and pervasive military presence have created a highly unstable environment in which a civil war may occur in Iraq and therefore we can’t leave Iraq because a civil war may occur.”

Second, the ethnic and religious strife in the area of what is now the country of Iraq can be measured not in decades or centuries but in millennia. Those potentially explosive hatreds and tensions will be there if our troops leave in six months, six years, or six decades. The answer to stability in Iraq is not based in military power; it is based in a new political structure that gives all people an effective voice and hope for a brighter economic future.

Third, let’s face it; a civil war is already going on, at least to some extent, in the central portion of Iraq – in the four provinces where 50% of the Iraqis reside. Would it expand if American troops withdrew in a relatively short time frame?

Probably so if the Iraqis establish a governmental system in the coming months that excludes meaningful participation from major portions of the population (such as the Sunnis).

Probably not if all major stakeholders are given a voice and have a sense of participation in the new government.

The War in Iraq and the War On Terror


The Bush Administration’s most recent rationale for the war is that Iraq has become the “central front” in the War on Terror, and American troops cannot depart until an Iraqi Army and police force is fully trained and equipped to provide stability and contain or eradicate these terrorists.

If the War in Iraq and our continued large military presence was actually succeeding in driving a stake into the heart of Al Qaeda, the terrible loss of life and limb and the quarter of a trillion dollars we have spent in Iraq to date would be worth it. But I believe that President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, General Brent Scowcroft, was right when he observed that the way we are handling the War in Iraq is “feeding” terrorism, not eliminating it. Our heavy military presence in Iraq is the single most important reason our radical enemies have been able to recruit fresh new suicide bombers and terrorists and garner a measure of support from the Iraqi people. Even by the administration’s own numbers, our current policy is creating as many or more terrorists than it is eliminating. It is simply not working.

Recent polls now show that 80% of the Iraqi people view us as occupiers and want us to leave. In a recent conference in Cairo, Iraqi leaders who are friendly to U.S. interests and are under the constant threat of death from radical terrorists called for a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces. They know what our administration refuses to acknowledge, that our military presence is adding to instability in Iraq, not contributing to peace.

I also have to question the way we have decided to fight this war from a military strategy perspective. From the beginning of the invasion our civilian war planners in the Pentagon and the White House have badly miscalculated and made gross errors. They have no effective political strategy to this day to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.

Instead they have adopted a strategy of military attrition in which they assume the terrorists (or "deadenders” as they were first called) had no base of support, only limited numbers, and no recruiting capability for new fighters. Therefore our policy has been to kill or capture them with US troops (and eventually Iraqi troops) until they are effectively wiped out or neutralized. But we have found this to be a much tougher fight that requires a far more sophisticated approach.

The War in Iraq is the ultimate case of “Asymmetrical Warfare” – i.e. one side has overwhelming superiority in weapon systems, tactics and training and the other has a very limited conventional military capability, but uses other strengths such as knowledge of the local neighborhoods, language, and culture, a strong nationalistic sense of resistance to any foreign intervention among the population, religious zealotry, and an abundance of weapons left over from Saddam Hussein (that we have been unable to secure) that will supply them for years to come.

Does the United States have the staying power to fight this type of war of attrition as designed by the civilian Pentagon planners? We have proved we can do amazing things when our Nation is committed to doing so. But it is a different question when our leaders have not convinced the country of the need for an all out commitment. That is certainly the case for Iraq even though the American people overwhelmingly support a true War on Terrorism.

Let us compare, for a moment, the staying power of the two sides in terms of sustainability of their logistics base and their ability to provide sufficient manpower. We have an 8,000-mile supply chain to sustain our forces costing about $1.5 billion dollars a week. The total cost thus far has been a quarter of a trillion dollars. The complexity of this logistics “tail” is as enormous as its length. As just one example, we must supply 14 different grades of gasoline for our various vehicles and aircraft in the region. At a bare minimum, to sustain our forces there must be two long truck convoys coming out of Kuwait every day to distribution points near Baghdad each consisting of roughly 100 Army trucks the size of eighteen wheelers that must travel a gauntlet of 700 miles round trip, or the distance between Washington D.C. and Canton, Ohio. The routes of these long convoys are known by many Iraqis, as are the general schedules. They are regularly attacked. On the personnel side, we have an Army and Guard and Reserves stretched so thin that many soldiers are preparing for their fourth tour in Iraq. This has caused grave concern about our ability to recruit quality men and women into the Army, the Marine Corps and our Guard and Reserve units, which has grave consequences for our armed forces for many years to come.

For the insurgents to maintain their battle, they need only to hire from what seems to be an inexhaustible supply of apolitical locals for a nominal fee to imbed cheap explosive devices in the roadbed, or to convince young religious zealots to drive an old cars filled with explosives into an American convoy.

Without the resolve of the American people, our current strategy for Iraq is bound to fail over time and we must change course.

On the other hand, the American people know we need to be fully engaged in the War on Terror. The Administration has tried to make the case that the War in Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror. I simply do not concur that these are one and the same. I believe American people have reached the same conclusion.

There should be two “central fronts” in the War on Terror. For military purposes it should be focused on where the leadership and main strength of Al Qaeda and related organizations exist. To me, that is clearly in the area of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, not Iraq. We do not have unlimited intelligence and military assets to cover both theaters, and unfortunately the priority of Iraq has hurt our ability in the true fight, which is currently in Afghanistan and surrounding areas.

The second and perhaps more important “front” in the War on Terror is the long-term battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. This is not a battle for the Department of Defense, but for the Department of State. It is a battle we should be able to win resoundingly because we share so many values with common Muslims and stand for the principles of freedom and equality. Yet, by any measure our efforts have been a dismal failure so far. We simply have not put the emphasis on articulating our common purpose, values, and intentions with the general Muslim population that we should. This is the area that deserves the most attention in the coming years.

America Needs a National Strategy to Win the War against Terrorism

In setting a national security strategy, communicating that strategy to the public, and analyzing alternative proposals, America’s leaders must, first and foremost, view matters through the lens of the threat. What is the primary threat to America’s national security? How do we best protect ourselves from that threat? What resources should we allocate to which programs in order to counter the threat in the most cost-effective manner? This administration has become so deeply engrossed and invested in the politics of the Iraqi war that they have lost this bigger and more important perspective.

The $1.5 billion a week cost of the War in Iraq is astronomical. Funds appropriated for the war and related nation building are quickly approaching $300 billion. In constant dollars, that total is almost three quarters of the cost of the Korean War and one half of the cost of the Vietnam War.

The annual expenditures for the War on Iraq dwarf those of the combined budgets of all other programs in place to fight terrorism. That is a gross misallocation of resources and has important consequences for making our population safer from terrorist attack. The dollars used to pay for an 8,000 mile logistical pipeline to Iraq could be reapplied to fixing our many vulnerabilities at home in the transportation sector, or at chemical plants, river levees, or nuclear power plants.

Just in the last two weeks the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States chaired by Gov. Thomas Kean issued a failing report card on the administration’s leadership to improve our counter terrorist defenses. Of the 41 commission recommendations made 17 months ago, progress was judged to be “unacceptable,” with many more grades of F’s than A’s being issued by the commission (5-F’s, 12-D’s, and 1-A-). Basic recommendations such as the coordination of fire and police communication lines still have not been accomplished.

Conclusion


The administration has spelled out its “Strategy for Victory in Iraq.” Instead, I believe we must have a “Strategy forVictory Against Global Terrorism.”

We should be conducting a war against the terrorists in which America’s borders are effectively guarded to keep out terrorists, and programs are in place to ensure that none of the millions of cargo containers that enter American ports contain explosives that could render one or more of our great ports inoperable and debilitate our economy, not a “War on Terror” where our finest young people are sacrificing their lives and limbs to implement the visions of “intellectual geopolitical strategists” who fantasize about Jeffersonian democracies being installed in Middle East cultures that have had authoritarian regimes during their entire two millennia of existence.

A “War on Terror” should be waged in which respect for America’s policies and America’s principles enables our country to count heavily on the cooperation and action of the intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies of countries around the world to achieve ultimate victory against the terrorists.

Ever since the invasion of Iraq, each major event has been described by the administration as an important turning point toward achieving its goals in Iraq. Those events include Saddam Hussein’s sons being killed in a firefight, the agreement to transfer power to an interim government, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Council signing an interim constitution, replacement of the Iraqi Governing Council with a caretaker government, Ayad Allawi being designated Prime Minister of the Iraqi interim government, and October 15 elections to approve a Constitution.

Yet, the violence is as widespread as ever. The killed in action and wounded soldiers; those who have lost limbs, have been maimed and disfigured, those with traumatic head injuries, those whose bodies are embedded with shrapnel and the thousands who are suffering from battle fatigue; are returning home every day.

It is time to change course.

If the War in Iraq was actually driving a stake through the heart of al-Qaeda, the cost of the war and loss of life and limb could be justified. But, as I noted earlier, I believe the opposite is true -- the war in Iraq is not enhancing the War against Terrorism, it is hurting the prospects for winning it.

It is time to “change the course” of our Iraqi policy. It is time to wage an effective war against international terrorism. The American people know it. It is time for the administration and the Congress to catch up with them.

JOHN P. MURTHA

Member of Congress
December 14, 2005

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