Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman says stay the course, Bush says stay the course.
Our Troops Must Stay, America can't abandon 27 million Iraqis to 10,000 terrorists.
BY JOE LIEBERMAN, Tuesday, November 29, 2005 12:01 a.m.
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.
Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.
There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.
It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
Before going to Iraq last week, I visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has been the only genuine democracy in the region, but it is now getting some welcome company from the Iraqis and Palestinians who are in the midst of robust national legislative election campaigns, the Lebanese who have risen up in proud self-determination after the Hariri assassination to eject their Syrian occupiers (the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias should be next), and the Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Saudis who have taken steps to open up their governments more broadly to their people. In my meeting with the thoughtful prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, he declared with justifiable pride that his country now has the most open, democratic political system in the Arab world. He is right.
In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.
None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.
The leaders of Iraq's duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America's commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.
Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.
The leaders of America's military and diplomatic forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey and Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, have a clear and compelling vision of our mission there. It is to create the environment in which Iraqi democracy, security and prosperity can take hold and the Iraqis themselves can defend their political progress against those 10,000 terrorists who would take it from them.
Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.
We are now embedding a core of coalition forces in every Iraqi fighting unit, which makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces. Progress in "clearing" and "holding" is being made. The Sixth Infantry Division of the Iraqi Security Forces now controls and polices more than one-third of Baghdad on its own. Coalition and Iraqi forces have together cleared the previously terrorist-controlled cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tal Afar, and most of the border with Syria. Those areas are now being "held" secure by the Iraqi military themselves. Iraqi and coalition forces are jointly carrying out a mission to clear Ramadi, now the most dangerous city in Al-Anbar province at the west end of the Sunni Triangle.
Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to "lead the fight" themselves with logistical support from the U.S., and that that number should double by next year. If that happens, American military forces could begin a drawdown in numbers proportional to the increasing self-sufficiency of the Iraqi forces in 2006. If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007, but it is also likely that our presence will need to be significant in Iraq or nearby for years to come.
The economic reconstruction of Iraq has gone slower than it should have, and too much money has been wasted or stolen. Ambassador Khalilzad is now implementing reform that has worked in Afghanistan--Provincial Reconstruction Teams, composed of American economic and political experts, working in partnership in each of Iraq's 18 provinces with its elected leadership, civil service and the private sector. That is the "build" part of the "clear, hold and build" strategy, and so is the work American and international teams are doing to professionalize national and provincial governmental agencies in Iraq.
These are new ideas that are working and changing the reality on the ground, which is undoubtedly why the Iraqi people are optimistic about their future--and why the American people should be, too.
I cannot say enough about the U.S. Army and Marines who are carrying most of the fight for us in Iraq. They are courageous, smart, effective, innovative, very honorable and very proud. After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: "I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates."
Thank you, General. That is a powerful, needed message for the rest of America and its political leadership at this critical moment in our nation's history. Semper Fi.
Mr. Lieberman is a Democratic senator from Connecticut.
Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Chris Cillizza and Peter Slevin
Sunday, November 27, 2005; A04
Democrats fumed last week at Vice President Cheney's suggestion that criticism of the administration's war policies was itself becoming a hindrance to the war effort. But a new poll indicates most Americans are sympathetic to Cheney's point.
Seventy percent of people surveyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale -- with 44 percent saying morale is hurt "a lot," according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale.
The results surely will rankle many Democrats, who argue that it is patriotic and supportive of the troops to call attention to what they believe are deep flaws in President Bush's Iraq strategy. But the survey itself cannot be dismissed as a partisan attack. The RTs in RT Strategies are Thomas Riehle, a Democrat, and Lance Tarrance, a veteran GOP pollster.
Their poll also indicates many Americans are skeptical of Democratic complaints about the war. Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to "gain a partisan political advantage."
This poll is one of the few pieces of supportive news the administration has had lately on Iraq. Most surveys have shown significant majorities believe it was a mistake to go to war, as well as rising sentiment that Bush misled Americans in making the case for it.
Even so, there is still support for Bush's policy going forward. A plurality, 49 percent, believe that troops should come home only when the Iraqi government can provide for its own security, while 16 percent support immediate withdrawal, regardless of the circumstances.
Just Say Noe
Poor Tom Noe. At first, Republican candidates were thrilled with his largess, gladly channeling his campaign contributions into election activities. Then came the campaign finance indictment and allegations that he stole millions from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
Now the politicians are hurrying to get Noe's money out of their accounts -- and they're not even returning it to Noe.
Sen. Mike DeWine split $8,000 in Noe money between Mercy Children's Hospital and Toledo Children's Hospital. Three state senators sent $8,400 to a nonprofit worker safety group. Another shipped $900 to a pair of Summit County nonprofit organizations.
The GOP caucus is holding $10,600 in escrow. Gov. Bob Taft (R), fined by a judge in August for failing to report 52 gifts from Noe and others, put $21,400 in escrow and is searching inaugural committee records for contributions from Noe and his wife, Bernadette.
Auditor Betty Montgomery donated $8,100 to the state workers compensation office, while Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell -- a social conservative running for governor against Montgomery and Attorney General Jim Petro -- contributed $3,000 in Noe funds to an antiabortion group.
A total of $6,000 the Noes contributed to President Bush's campaigns has been delivered to the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" campaign, described by Republican National Committee spokesman Aaron McLear as one of Laura Bush's favorite charities.
Still unclear is the fate of $45,400 ostensibly raised by Noe for the 2004 Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. A Toledo grand jury last month charged Noe with faking the donations by asking 24 people to contribute, then reimbursing them for most of the amount.
"That money is the basis of the investigation," McLear said. Referring to the criminal case, he said, "We're going to allow that process to reach a conclusion before doing anything else."
The Toledo rare-coin dealer's reach touched the campaign of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the only person known to have chosen the traditional route of returning Noe's cash to Noe himself.
"If I recall, there were two checks for about $5,000 each," said Marty Wilson, executive director of Schwarzenegger's political organization, the California Recovery Team. "The fact is, we're not in Ohio. We figured the most expeditious route to take was to refund it directly to Mr. Noe."
Can 14,000 Players Be Wrong?
Is President Bush an easy mark? It seems many poker players would gladly welcome him to join a game at their table.
BetCRIS.com, an online sports wagering firm, has received 14,000 answers to its unscientific survey asking visitors to its poker Web site to answer the question, "Which world leader would you play poker against?" Bush was first, the choice of 27 percent of those voting. Bush supporters may note that this is another case of the president being misunderestimated.
In a news release, Mickey Richardson, chief executive of BetCRIS.com, speculated, "My guess is people want to play against Bush because he looks like someone that's easy to bluff."
For his part, Richardson said he'd be afraid to play against Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who was running second: "If he catches you putting a move on him, you're done for."
Staff writer Kari Lydersen contributed to this report. Cillizza is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com. His online politics column, "The Fix," is updated daily at http://www.washingtonpost.com/thefix.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
If I were you, I'd stay within arms reach of any individual to whom I care for, and place plenty of distance between my allies, and any group of losers. Miserable losers love company, and winners want no part of such company!
Too bad Black folks continue to jump on the wrong horse, namely the losing faction. President George Bush will go down in history as being a great President. Instead of using common sense, the typical Black middleclass allow their hatred for Caucasians to get the best of them.
In the end the winning Bush Administration, and/or Conservative Democrats won't owe the Black community a damn thing. By and large the typical Black middleclass follow losing liberal Democratic ideology even if it kills off the future posterity of the Black community!
....and the Hispanic community being the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., and unlike Black folks, Hispanics are not dominated or controlled by the Democratic Party, lock, stock, and barrel!
The Hispanic community is more balanced between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The Hispanic community is also more private business oriented, which explains why there are a multitude of Hispanic Republicans, who have chosen to be aligned with the conservative business oriented Republican Party. The Republican Party unlike the Democratic Party, promotes the ideals of free enterprise, business development, and less government influence, social welfare, poverty programs, etc., etc.!
Way to go Black middleclass. Give yourselves a losers pat on the back. I'm so glad Michael Lofton is not in any regard a party to being in on any losing hand. Keep listening to the Empty Purnatas, Isomes, Kevin41s, Merv Dymally, Kevin Ross, no good Reverend Jesse Jackson, Kerosene Waters, etc., etc., and I'm willing to bet the only thing the Black community will meet and greet, and/or hope to look forward to is more poverty!