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[casi] Sen Robert Byrd: We Need HelpGetting Out of Iraq

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Subject: Sen Robert Byrd: We Need Help Getting Out of Iraq
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2003 00:07:51 -0400
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We Must Ask the World for Help on Iraq

By Sen. Robert Byrd
July 11, 2003

On August 22, 1920, an article written by former
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence appeared in
one of the great newspapers of London, the Sunday Times.
This legendary British military officer - better known
as Lawrence of Arabia - began his commentary with a
sharp warning about his country's occupation of ancient
lands in the Middle East:

    "The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia
    into a trap from which it will be hard to escape
    with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into
    it by a steady withholding of information. The
    Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere,
    incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have
    been told, our administration more bloody and
    inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace
    to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed
    for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a

Colonel Lawrence concluded with an equally sharp

    "How long will we permit millions of pounds,
    thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands
    of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial
    administration which can benefit nobody but its

These were the observations some 83 years ago of a
British soldier who had studied the history of the
Middle East, fought alongside Arabs in the Great War,
and understood the anger of those who lived under the
administration of a distant power.

His observations, which might have been considered
academic in the months before U.S. and British troops
began their advance into Iraq, now appear prescient. As
violence in the streets of Baghdad increases, as our
troops are being killed and wounded by guerilla attacks,
as progress toward creating a new Iraqi government
stagnates, the American public is only just now
beginning to come to grips with the enormity of the task
that we have before us in Iraq. A clear picture had
never been painted for them by the "powers that be."
Rosy scenarios about instant liberty and flowers to the
troops were the order of the day.

But now reality has emerged and it is harsh. And seeing
the enormity of the task before us, and the increasing
dangers to the loved ones who serve in uniform, the
American people are beginning to ask, How long must our
troops remain in those distant, hot sands? How long must
they patrol the dangerous streets of Najaf and Fallujah?
When will our troops be coming home?

Weeks ago, the President gave vague assurances about the
timely withdrawal of our troops. He said, "We will stay
as long as necessary to get the job done, and then we
will leave." [Remarks at Santa Clara, CA, 5/2/03] Such
words are without substance. They are "doublespeak."
They do nothing but feed the hopes of the American
people that our troops will soon return from Iraq while
avoiding any real indication of when that might happen.
The fact is that the Administration has carefully
avoided telling the American people when it expects our
occupation of Iraq to conclude. So far, this
Administration has yet to even estimate how soon it will
be able to hand Iraq over to the Iraqi people. In short,
it appears that we have no exit strategy. The word
"quagmire" is starting to be used by the media. Clearly,
many people are very worried about our situation in
Iraq. The death toll keeps mounting.

Last week, the President actually taunted those forces
who are murdering our troops in the streets of Iraq. He
dared the violent militants by saying "Bring 'em on."
One can hardly think of a more inappropriate comment for
a President to make when Americans are under siege in
Iraq and being asked to deal with the treacheries of
urban guerrilla warfare with no end in sight. Chest
thumping should have no place in such a situation. This
was the President who went to the trouble to put on a
flight suit, land on an aircraft carrier, and, with
great fanfare, tell the American public that "major
combat operations in Iraq have ended." But, British and
American soldiers are still dying in Iraq. Now, the
President is saying, "Bring 'em on." What are we to

The President has backed away from earlier suggestions
of a foreseeable end to U.S. peacekeeping efforts in
Iraq. He warns of the return of tyranny if our troops
begin returning home. Judging by the President's
statements, our armed forces have become the thumb in
the dike - the only obstacle that prevents the return of
a repressive dictatorship in Iraq.

How did it come to this? Members of Congress were told
that our forces would be greeted as liberators. Iraqi
citizens were supposed to eagerly embrace democracy and
serve up Saddam Hussein on a silver platter the moment
that they sipped from the cup of freedom. We should have
known that the burden of democratizing Iraq would be no
easy task. The Administration should have been more
forthcoming about the difficulty of that task, about the
time it would take to execute it, and about the cost to
the taxpayer.

To be sure, the Defense Department is now scrambling to
scrape up as many as 20,000 foreign troops to join our
forces in occupying Iraq by the end of September. I
applaud these efforts. But it would be folly to believe
that a deployment of 10,000, 20,000, or even 30,000
foreign troops would significantly reduce the dangers to
the nearly hundreds of thousands of Americans who are
now in Iraq.

The failure of this Administration to adequately plan
for post-war Iraq has become painfully evident. At
yesterday's Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that he did not know if
the United States had made any formal request for
assistance from NATO or the United Nations since the
beginning of the war in Iraq. The deployment of
experienced peacekeepers from our friends and allies
would go a long way to relieving the strain on our
troops. It is simply shocking that our Secretary of
Defense would be unaware of any efforts by the
Administration to make a formal request to NATO and the
U.N. to provide these troops.

The tragic failure of the Administration's efforts to
build international support before launching its
impatient rush towards war against Iraq is now bearing
its bitter, bitter fruit. The difficulty in finding just
20,000 peacekeepers to patrol Iraq is evidence that
White House efforts to assemble 49 nations into a
"coalition of the willing" was merely an exercise in
rhetoric, meant to cover the lack of significant
military or financial contributions from dozens of
nations, save for those of Britain, Australia, and

Has the lack of a plan for post-war Iraq needlessly cost
American lives? If we had not been so convinced that
Iraqis would greet our armies with flowers and smiles,
could we have better anticipated the chaos and
lawlessness that broke out in the days after the war?

If we had not been so cocksure about our ability to
neatly decapitate the leadership of the Iraqi regime,
could we have fashioned a better plan to deal with the
collapse of civil order as our tanks rolled into

Perhaps this White House should have listened to the
advice of many senior military leaders who foresaw the
need for several hundred thousands troops to stabilize
post-war Iraq. Perhaps it should have contemplated the
consequences of a Saddam Hussein driven into hiding, but
still potent and dangerous. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

The Administration appears quite ready now to dedicate
our military to a long-term occupation of Iraq. War-
weary soldiers will continue to patrol the areas around
Baghdad. The citizen-soldiers of the National Guard and
the Reserves will be kept from returning to their homes,
their jobs, and their families. Thousands of American
families will continue to worry about the fate of their
loved ones.

And in spite of the heavy commitment that this
Administration has made to the most ambitious policy of
nation-building in more than half a century, it appears
to be on the verge of sending unknown numbers of U.S.
troops to yet another peacekeeping mission in Liberia.

In my home state, there is a growing sense of
disenchantment with these foreign adventures. Every day,
more letters come to my office from West Virginians
asking when their family members will be coming home.
They contain details about National Guard and Army
Reserve units with unclear missions and open-ended
deployments. I have received word that some units are
without mail service, others must wait weeks between
phone calls home to their families. One unit had to
ration water to just 20 ounces per day because of supply
shortages. I suspect that other Senators are
experiencing a similar phenomenon in the content of
their mail from families of the Guard and Reserve.

These part-time soldiers are proud to serve in our
nation's military, but they know that they are also
full-time members of their communities. Our nation's
reservists have important duties in their civilian
lives, serving their cities and towns as police
officers, businessmen, doctors, teachers, and laborers.
Members of the Guard and Reserves proudly joined to
serve their country in times of crisis, not to be a
permanent constabulary force in the Middle East.

Our brave and professional fighting men and women are
awesome on the battlefield, but they must not be
expected to carry out the role of peacekeepers or
nation-builders in an open-ended mission, whether it
take place in Lebanon, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan,
Liberia, or Iraq. Our American soldiers are not Iraqi
bureaucrats. Our Armed Forces are trained to win wars,
not run countries. Putting our men and women in such an
untenable situation is a misuse of our military and a
disservice to our military personnel.

This Administration should think hard about whether we
have the manpower to sustain a large commitment of
troops in Iraq for the long term. We currently have
overseas commitments in South Korea, Japan, the Balkans,
and Afghanistan. Keeping tens or hundred of thousands of
troops in Iraq for as many as ten years may demand more
troops than our voluntary armed forces can muster.

This Administration should think hard about whether we
have the money to single-handedly pay for the occupation
and reconstruction of Iraq. The Department of Defense
has reported that we are spending $3.9 billion each
month to occupy Iraq, in addition to the $950 million we
are spending each month for our mission in Afghanistan.
At a time when the United States is running record-
breaking deficits of $400 billion each year, the
Administration has not even included these $58 billion
in occupation costs in its budget. In sharp contrast to
the 1991 Persian Gulf war, where our allies contributed
$54 billion of the $61 billion cost of that war, the
American taxpayer is virtually alone in bearing the
burden for the staggering cost of this most recent war
with Iraq.

Americans have good cause to be proud of the men and
women who unselfishly serve our country in uniform. They
have carried out their duty in Iraq admirably. But what
is the next step? The last thing we want to do is repay
the services our troops have given to our country by
committing them indefinitely to a fuzzy reconstruction
mission of uncertain duration.

Iraq is fast becoming an urban guerilla shooting gallery
with U.S. troops as the targets. It is time to go to the
United Nations and work to deploy a trained
multinational peacekeeping force to cope with the perils
of the occupation of Iraq. Before there is a disaster to
cope with. Before there is a major loss of life. Before
there is a crisis, we must read the tea leaves.

This White House cannot further presume on the patience
of the public. The American people must be given an exit
strategy for our troops. We must ask the International
Community for help in Iraq.

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