Our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. We risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world.
I speak to my fellow senators, when I say that the president is not the only American leader who will have to make adjustments to his or her thinking. Each of us should take a step back from the sloganeering rhetoric and political opportunism that has sometimes characterized this debate.
Lugar isn't a Chatty Cathy kind of politician. When he sounds off like this, people listen.
Here's hoping a certain decider we know was paying attention.
Lugar doesn't need to wait until September to hear General David Petraeus's assessment of the "surge" strategy. He already knows it's a graveyard whistle.
In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) also joined ranks of the GOP disgruntled by echoing Lugar's sentiments in a letter to Mr. Bush. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) said, “I think September is absolutely the endpoint of decision, whether individuals will come to a conclusion before that, I think is likely.”
Senator John Warner (R-Virginia) ominously predicts that after the Independence Day recess, "you'll be hearing a number of statements from other (Republican) colleagues." Presumably, Warner himself will be making a number of those statements. Warner is said to be drafting a proposed amendment to the 2008 defense authorization bill due to hit the floor for debate next month, and given Warner's previously expressed attitude toward the "surge," one expects his amendment will put some sort of hackles on Mr. Bush's ability to extend his woebegone war in Iraq indefinitely.
Good Money After Bad
It seems Congress is getting ready to take control of the war away from Mr. Bush. And it's about time.
A bipartisan congressional investigation released on Wednesday states that we have spent $19 billion to train nearly 350,000 Iraqi soldiers and police since toppling Saddam Hussein. Representative Martin T. Meehan (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations, says that, "We have no idea what our $19 billion has gotten us… The DOD can't tell us how well the Iraqis perform their missions or even plan them."
The 250-page report states that the Pentagon "cannot report in detail how many of the 346,500 Iraqi military and police personnel that the coalition trained are operational today." Strong evidence suggests that some of the Iraqi forces are involved in sectarian violence and other criminal activity. The Pentagon "cannot account for whether coalition-issued weapons have been stolen or turned against U.S. forces." Iraq's defense and interior ministries are incapable of "accounting for, supporting, or fully controlling their forces in the field." The police organization, vital to counterinsurgency operations, is "riddled with corruption and sectarian influence."
Here's the part that really got to me (from Ann Tyson of the New York Times):
U.S. military advisory teams placed with Iraqi security forces were formed on an ad hoc basis and were not fully qualified for their mission in 2004 and 2005, it found. U.S. military police units were not deployed to advise the Iraqi police until 2005, and they did not begin to receive training specific to the mission until March 2007, it said.
It got to me so bad that I spent some time hunting down an article I vaguely remembered from a while back. Here's how it opens:
Helping organize, train and equip nearly a quarter-million of Iraq's security forces is a daunting task. Doing so in the middle of a tough insurgency increases the challenge enormously… Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up.
The institutions that oversee them are being reestablished from the top down. And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously in the face of an enemy that has shown a willingness to do anything to disrupt the establishment of the new Iraq.
This optimistic article appeared in the Washington Post on September 26, 2004. Its author was in charge of the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq, one Lieutenant General David H. Petraeus.
Yes, that David H. Petraeus, the one who is now a four-star and in command of U.S. forces in Iraq. The one who puts on street theater in Baghdad portraying pro-war Republican Senators yucking it up while they shop in open air markets while 100 heavily armed soldiers provide security just off camera. The one who gives reporters helicopter rides so they can see all the soccer games being played in Baghdad, and who talks about the country's besieged capital showing "astonishing signs of normalcy."
This same David Petraeus now tells us that: "Conditions in Iraq will not improve sufficiently by September to justify a drawdown of US military forces."
So the line is pretty much drawn. September 15 was Petraeus's "deadline," Petraeus admits he can't meet it, and congressional GOP heavyweights like Lugar and Warner are clearing their throats in the direction of the White House.
The spit could hit the fan any day now.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.