SMPA Delegation Presents Petitions to Senator Corzine
On February 17, 2005, a South Mountain Peace
Action delegation of 10 Maplewood and South Orange
residents presented petitions with 1,228 signatures to Senator
Corzine's senior advisor Mada Liebman in the Senator's Newark
To view SMPA's four petition presentations click on:
Senator Corzine Senator Lautenberg
Congressman Payne Congressman Pascrell
The delegation members included Peggy Auer, Ginny Brown, Cathy
Casriel, Andy Gyory, Maddy Gyory, Theo Buklad, Judi Kramer, Ashley
Sawyer, Dan Symonds and Paul Surovell.
Columbia High School student Maddy Gyory began the presentation by
reading the names of the 32 New Jersey soldiers killed in Iraq. CHS
students Ashley Sawyer and Dan Symonds asked questions that addressed
war spending and the possibility of a draft.
Peggy Auer, CHS class of '42, cited the strong support in Maplewood
for the petition, noting that all 5 Township Committee members were
signatories and she presented a copy of the recent Township Committee
proclamation thanking Paul Surovell for his work with SMPA.
Delegation members made statements in support of our petition and
asked that Senator Corzine take leadership in ending the war.
Senator Edward Kennedy's January 27th speech calling for a UN-led
solution and a timetable for US withdrawal from Iraq was cited as an
example of leadership and a copy of the speech was presented to
Corzine's senior advisor Mada Liebman (text of Kennedy's speech
Andy Gyory asked Senator Corzine to endorse our petition and to read
the petition into the Congressional Record, citing the role of
citizen petitions in US history.
Judi Kramer presented a "Be About Peace" lawn sign and copies of
flyers for SMPA's March 1st meeting with Scott Ritter and Be About
Peace Day on March 19th, and invited Senator Corzine to attend these
A set of written questions for Senator Corzine and a request that he
hold a public meeting on the war with his constituents in Maplewood
and South Orange concluded our presentation (text of questions below).
On the following day, February 18th, the Wall Street Journal report
an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that found 60% of the American public
support a timetable for US troop reductions in Iraq.
DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED TO SENATOR CORZINE:
(1) Petitions with 1,228 signatures Urging Senator Corzine to Speak
Out Against the War in Iraq and to work for an international solution
led by the United Nations to allow a rapid return of US soldiers.
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(2) Question by CHS student Ashley Sawyer:
On Behalf of the Students of Columbia High School:
Election time polling showed that whether they voted for Kerry or
Bush, a majority of Americans agreed that our involvement in Iraq was
a mistake and that most were dissatisfied with our progress in the
conflict. As high school students coming of draft age, we are all
the more aware that each day the war drags on, a draft becomes
inevitable. Current stop loss/ backdoor draft strategies highlight
this. As the weight of the war is overwhelmingly on American
shoulders, a draft must be instated in order to preserve the safety
of our troops and to make Iraq a stable place.
An international effort to bring peace to Iraq, however, could
prevent an imminent US draft. Beyond your anti- appropriations
voting record, you have not done enough to discourage the oncoming
Question: Senator Corzine, when can we expect you to be more vocal
in support of a United Nations led effort, thereby preventing an
American draft from becoming a reality?
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(3) Question by CHS student Dan Symonds:
As Senator Byrd of West Virginia so aptly noted in hisbook "Losing
America", a senator does not serve under any president,but instead
serves with the president. Unfortunately, the war in Iraqhas led the
Senate to abdicate its responsibility as an equal branchof
government. With appropriations bills, the White House has beengiven
an essential blank check by the Senate. Byrd, a member of theSenate
Appropriations Committee has insisted upon more oversight ofwar
Senator Corzine, when can we expect you to be more critical of how money is being spent in Iraq? Will you help to end the complacency in the Senate?
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(4) Statement and question by Andy Gyory:
Senator Corzine, many of us voted for you enthusiastically when you
first ran for office. We hoped you would be a strong and courageous
voice on vital issues facing our country. No issue is more important
than war. We are disappointed that you have not taken a prominent
position on the U.S.-Iraq War. We are disappointed that you have not
stated your views clearly on what course the United States should
pursue to end this conflict. We would like you to be a leader in
promoting peace and in opposing this war.
We present you today with a petition signed by 1,228 of your
constituents in the towns of Maplewood and South Orange, New Jersey,
who oppose this war and support peace. We would like you to read this
petition in the Senate and have it placed in the Congressional
There is a great tradition of such actions in American history. In
the 1830s, Representative John Quincy Adams, former president of the
United States, battled both powerful, pro-slavery interests and
leaders of his own party by presenting to Congress hundreds of
petitions, signed by American citizens, condemning slavery.
It is for presenting these antislavery petitions that Adams is best
Thirty years later during the Civil War, Susan B. Anthony and
Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered a petition to Senator Charles Sumner
bearing the signatures of 400,000 citizens. Their petition urged
immediate emancipation and the abolition of slavery. Despite
opposition from colleagues, Senator Sumner presented their petition
in the Senate and placed it in the Congressional Record.
In the tradition of these courageous American statesmen who took
clear and forceful stands on the vital issues of their day, we call
on you to read, to endorse, and to present our petition in the United
States Senate. Just as Congressman Adams and Senator Sumner
challenged injustice in the nineteenth century and helped change the
course of American history, we ask you to challenge injustice and
help change the course of history in the twenty-first century.
Will you do this, Senator Corzine, by reading our petition in the
Senate and placing it in the Congressional Record?
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(5) Six Questions Submitted by the Delegation as a Whole:
Questions for Senator Corzine
from Maplewood and South Orange, NJ
Citizens Presenting Petitions on
February 17, 2005, Urging
Senator Corzine to Speak Out Against the War in Iraq,
with Signatures of 1,228 of People in
Maplewood and South Orange.
QUESTION: Senator Corzine, will you please read our petition, Speak
Out Against the War in Iraq, into the Congressional Record and also
please mention that it was signed by 1,228 people in Maplewood and
South Orange, New Jersey?
PREFACE: Our petition mentions that more than 1,400 American
soldiers have been killed in Iraq and that more than 10,000 have been
wounded. Our petition also cites the estimate by Johns Hopkins
Medical School that more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been
killed as a result of US military action in Iraq.
Senator Edward Kennedy, in his speech at Johns Hopkins University on
January 27, 2005, also cites the American and Iraqi casualties as
"Nearly 1400 Americans have died. More than 10,000 have been wounded,
and tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children have been
Senator Corzine, thank you for having acknowledged those American
soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq and for criticizing Bush
administration proposals to cut benefits to Veterans.
QUESTION: Senator Corzine, when and how do you think the United
States Government should acknowledge the tens of thousands of Iraqis
who have been killed by US military action and how should the United
States Government take responsibility for this tragedy?
PREFACE: Senator Corzine, in our petition, we quote Sen. John
Kerry's central Presidential campaign slogan on the war in Iraq as:
"The wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Senator Kennedy, in his Johns Hopkins speech, also refers to the fact
that our involvement in Iraq is wrong and he says we must not allow
the wrong to continue. He says:
"Error is no excuse for its own perpetuation. Mindless determination
doesn't make a better outcome likely. Setting a firm strategy for
withdrawal may not guarantee success, but not doing so will almost
certainly guarantee failure."
Senator Kennedy further says:
"We need to rethink the Pottery Barn rule. America cannot forever be
the potter that sculpts Iraq's future. President Bush broke Iraq, but
if we want Iraq to be fixed, the Iraqis must feel that they, not we,
Senator Corzine, you voted against the War Powers resolution and you
have publicly stated that you regard our invasion of Iraq to be a
mistake, as did Senator Kerry in the Presidential campaign.
Senator Kennedy has courageously gone beyond mere recognition of the
errors of our policy by publicly calling for specific steps to end
QUESTION: Senator Corzine, will you take leadership to end our
mistaken policy in Iraq, by supporting our petition's call to heed
Senator Kerry's campaign slogan and call for concrete steps to end
the war, as Senator Kennedy has done?
PREFACE: Senator Corzine, our petition urges you to work for an
international solution in Iraq, led by the United Nations, to allow a
rapid return home of US troops.
Senator Kennedy also urges an international solution under UN
leadership and also involving the Arab League.
Senator Kennedy says: "The United Nations, not the United States,
should provide assistance and advice on establishing a system of
government and drafting a constitution. An international meeting, led
by the United Nations and the new Iraqi Government, should be
convened immediately in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East to begin
Kennedy further says: "While American troops are drawing down, we
must clearly be prepared to oppose any external intervention in Iraq
or the large-scale revenge killing of any group. We should begin now
to conduct serious regional diplomacy with the Arab League and Iraq's
neighbors to underscore this point, and we will need to maintain
troops on bases outside Iraq but in the region.
"The United Nations could send a stabilization force to Iraq if it is
necessary and requested by the Iraqi government. But any
stabilization force must be sought by the Iraqis and approved by the
United Nations, with a clear and achievable mission and clear rules
of engagement. Unlike the current force, it should not consist mostly
of Americans or be led by Americans. All nations of the world have an
interest in Iraq's stability and territorial integrity."
QUESTION: Senator Corzine, as one who has supported the primacy of
the United Nations in the maintenance of peace and security in the
world, will you support the call of our petition, as echoed in
Senator Kennedy's speech, to make the United Nations, not the United
States, responsible for achieving a solution in Iraq?
PREFACE: Senator Corzine, you have publicly criticized the current
Bush administration budget proposal, its irresponsible deficit, and
its inhumane call to slash needed humanitarian and environmental
Our petition cites the fact that more than $150 billion of our
national treasure has been squandered on "the wrong war in the wrong
place at the wrong time." Additional requests totaling an estimated
$300 billion have been made, including the immediate call for $80
billion to continue to perpetuate the errors of our policies.
As Senator Kennedy says: "Another $80 billion bill for the black hole
that Iraq has become has just been handed to the American people."
QUESTION: Senator Corzine, as one of our nation's leading experts on
finance, will you respond to our petition's reference to the more
than $150 billion dollars spent on the war in Iraq, echoed by Senator
Kennedy, and take leadership in the Senate to end the war and the
enormous waste of taxpayer funds and American resources that is not
only contributing to a potential financial disaster, but is depriving
our nation of needed resources for education, health care, jobs and
QUESTION: Senator Corzine, given the serious and urgent nature of the
issues raised by our petition and the large number of citizens in
Maplewood and South Orange who have signed the petition, would you be
willing to schedule a public forum in Maplewood or South Orange to
discuss your responses to the petition and the questions herein?
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(6) Text of Senator Kennedy's Speech of January 27, 2005:
Address by Senator Edward Kennedy Delivered on January 27, 2005, at
Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Thank you Dr. Fukuyama for that generous introduction.
I'm honored to be here at the School of Advanced International
Studies. Many of the most talented individuals in foreign policy have
benefited from your outstanding graduate program, and I welcome the
opportunity to meet with you on the issue of Iraq.
Forty years ago, America was in another war in a distant land. At
that time, in 1965, we had in Vietnam the same number of troops and
the same number of casualties as in Iraq today.
We thought in those early days in Vietnam that we were winning.
We thought the skill and courage of our troops was enough. We thought
that victory on the battlefield would lead to victory in the war, and
peace and democracy for the people of Vietnam.
We lost our national purpose in Vietnam. We abandoned the truth.
We failed our ideals. The words of our leaders could no longer be
In the name of a misguided cause, we continued the war too long.
We failed to comprehend the events around us. We did not understand
that our very presence was creating new enemies and defeating the
very goals we set out to achieve. We cannot allow that history to
repeat itself in Iraq.
We must learn from our mistakes. We must recognize what a large
and growing number of Iraqis now believe. The war in Iraq has become
a war against the American occupation.
We have reached the point that a prolonged American military
presence in Iraq is no longer productive for either Iraq or the
United States. The U.S. military presence has become part of the
problem, not part of the solution.
We need a serious course correction, and we need it now. We must
make it for the American soldiers who are paying with their lives. We
must make it for the American people who cannot afford to spend our
resources and national prestige protracting the war in the wrong way.
We must make it for the sake of the Iraqi people who yearn for a
country that is not a permanent battlefield and for a future free
from permanent occupation.
The elections in Iraq this weekend provide an opportunity for a
fresh and honest approach. We need a new plan that sets fair and
realistic goals for self-government in Iraq, and works with the Iraqi
government on a specific timetable for the honorable homecoming of
The first step is to confront our own mistakes. Americans are
rightly concerned about why our 157,000 soldiers are there, when they
will come home, and how our policy could have gone so wrong.
No matter how many times the Administration denies it, there is
no question they misled the nation and led us into a quagmire in
Iraq. President Bush rushed to war on the basis of trumped up
intelligence and a reckless argument that Iraq was a critical arena
in the global war on terror, that somehow it was more important to
start a war with Iraq than to finish the war in Afghanistan and
capture Osama bin Laden, and that somehow the danger was so urgent
that the U.N. weapons inspectors could not be allowed time to
complete their search for weapons of mass destruction.
As in Vietnam, truth was the first casualty of this war. Nearly
1400 Americans have died. More than 10,000 have been wounded, and
tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children have been killed.
The weapons of mass destruction weren't there, but today 157,000
As a result of our actions in Iraq, our respect and credibility
around the world have reached all-time lows. The President bungled
the pre-war diplomacy on Iraq and wounded our alliances. The
label "coalition of the willing" cannot conceal the fact that
American soldiers make up 80% of the troops on the ground in Iraq and
more than 90% of the casualties.
The Administration also failed to prepare for the aftermath
of "victory", and so the post-war period became a new war, with more
casualties, astronomical costs, and relentless insurgent attacks.
The Administration failed to establish a basic level of law and
order after Baghdad fell, and so massive looting occurred.
The Administration dissolved the Iraqi army and dismissed its
troops, but left their weapons intact and their ammunition dumps
unguarded, and they have become arsenals of the insurgency.
The Administration relied for advice on self-promoting Iraqi
exiles who were out of touch with the Iraqi people and resented by
them, and the result is an America regarded as occupier, not as
The President recklessly declared "Mission Accomplished" when in
truth the mission had barely begun. He and his advisors predicted and
even bragged that the war would be a cakewalk, but the expected
welcoming garlands of roses became an endless bed of thorns.
The Administration told us the financial costs would be paid with
Iraqi oil dollars, but it is being paid with billions of American tax
dollars. Another $80 billion bill for the black hole that Iraq has
become has just been handed to the American people.
The cost is also being paid in shame and stain on America's good
name as a beacon of human rights. Nothing is more at odds with our
values as Americans than the torture of another human being. Do you
think that any Americans tell their children with pride that America
tortures prisoners? Yet, high officials in the Administration in
their arrogance strayed so far from our heritage and our belief in
fundamental human decency that they approved the use of torture: and
they were wrong, deeply wrong, to do that.
The Administration's willful disregard of the Geneva Conventions
led to the torture and flagrant abuse of the prisoners at Guantanamo
and Abu Ghraib and that degradation has diminished America in the
eyes of the whole world. It has diminished our moral voice on the
Never in our history has there been a more powerful, more painful
example of the saying that those who do not learn from history are
condemned to repeat it.
The tide of history rises squarely against military occupation.
We ignore this truth at our peril in Iraq.
The nations in the Middle East are independent, except for Iraq,
which began the 20th century under Ottoman occupation and is now
beginning the 21st century under American occupation.
Iraq could very well be another Algeria, where the French won the
military battle for Algiers, but ultimately lost the political battle
for Algeria. Despite the clear lesson of history, the President
stubbornly clings to the false hope that the turning point is just
around the corner.
The ending of the rule of Saddam Hussein was supposed to lessen
violence and bring an irresistible wave of democracy to the Middle
East. It hasn't. Saddam Hussein's capture was supposed to quell the
violence. It didn't. The transfer of sovereignty was supposed to be
the breakthrough. It wasn't. The military operation in Fallujah was
supposed to break the back of the insurgency. It didn't.
The 1400 Americans killed in Iraq and the 10,000 American
casualties are the equivalent of a full division of our Army and we
only have ten active divisions.
The tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed last year
included nearly a thousand members of the new Iraqi security forces,
and a hundred more have been lost this year. The recent killing of a
senior Iraqi judge was the 170th assassination of an Iraqi official
since June of 2003.
We all hope for the best from Sunday's election. The Iraqis have
a right to determine their own future. But Sunday's election is not a
cure for the violence and instability. Unless the Sunni and all the
other communities in Iraq believe they have a stake in the outcome
and a genuine role in drafting the new Iraqi constitution, the
election could lead to greater alienation, greater escalation, and
greater death for us and for the Iraqis.
In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency's top official in
Baghdad warned recently that the security situation is deteriorating
and is likely to worsen, with escalating violence and more sectarian
clashes. How could any President have let this happen?
General Brent Scowcroft, who until recently served as Chairman of
President Bush's National Intelligence Advisory Board and who also
served as the first President Bush's National Security Adviser,
recently warned of an "incipient civil war" in Iraq. He said, "the
[Iraqi] elections are turning out to be less about a promising
transformation, and it has great potential for deepening the
President Bush's Iraq policy is not, as he said during last
fall's campaign, a "catastrophic success." It is a catastrophic
failure. The men and women of our armed forces are serving honorably
and with great courage under extreme conditions, but their indefinite
presence is fanning the flames of conflict.
The American people are concerned. They recognize that the war
with Iraq is not worth the cost in American lives, prestige, and
credibility. They understand that this misbegotten war has made
America more hated in the world, created new breeding grounds and
support for terrorists, and made it harder to win the real war
against terrorism, the war against Al Qaeda and radical jihadist
Conservative voices are alarmed as well. As Paul Weyrich, founder
of the Heritage Foundation, said last November, we are "stuck in a
guerrilla war with no end in sight."
As former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Larry Diamond
recently said, "There is a fine line between Churchillian resolve and
self-defeating obstinacy." We must recognize that line and end the
obstinate policy of the Administration.
A new Iraq policy must begin with acceptance of hard truths. Most
of the violence in Iraq is not being perpetrated. as President Bush
has claimed by "a handful of folks that fear freedom" and "people who
want to try to impose their will on peoplejust like Osama bin Laden."
The war has made Iraq a magnet for terrorism that wasn't there
before. President Bush has opened an unnecessary new front in the war
on terror, and we are losing ground because of it. The CIA's own
National Intelligence Council confirmed this assessment in its report
two weeks ago.
The insurgency is not primarily driven by foreign terrorists.
General Abizaid, head of our Central Command, said last September, "I
think the number of foreign fighters in Iraq is probably below
1,000". According to the Department of Defense, less than two percent
of all the detainees in Iraq are foreign nationals.
The insurgency is largely home-grown. By our own government's own
count, its ranks are large and growing larger. Its strength has
quadrupled since the transfer of sovereignty six months ago, from
5,000 in mid-2004, to 16,000 last October, to more than 20,000 now.
The Iraqi intelligence service estimates that the insurgency may have
30,000 fighters and up to 200,000 supporters. It's clear that we
don't know how large the insurgency is. All we can say with certainty
is that the insurgency is growing.
It is also becoming more intense and adaptable. The bombs are
bigger and more powerful. The attacks have greater sophistication.
Anthony Cordesman, the national security analyst for the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, recently wrote: "There is no
evidence that the number of insurgents is declining as a result of
Coalition and Iraqi attacks to date."
An Army Reservist wrote the stark truth: "The guerillas are
filling their losses faster than we can create them. For every
guerilla we kill with a smart bomb, we kill many more innocent
civilians and create rage and anger in the Iraqi community. This rage
and anger translates into more recruits for the terrorists and less
support for us." Our troops understand that. The American people
understand it. And it's time the Administration understand it.
Beyond the insurgency's numbers, it has popular and tacit support
from thousands of ordinary Iraqis who are aiding and abetting the
attacks as a rejection of the American occupation. It is fueled by
the anger of ever-larger numbers of Iraqis, not just Saddam
loyalists, who have concluded that the United States is either unable
or unwilling to provide basic security, jobs, water, electricity and
Anti-American sentiment is steadily rising. CDs that picture the
insurrection have spread across the country. Songs glorify
combatants. Poems written decades ago during the British occupation
after World War I are popular again.
The International Crisis Group, a widely respected conflict
prevention organization, recently reported, "These post-war failings
gradually were perceived by many Iraqis as purposeful, designed to
serve Washington's interests to remain for a prolonged period in a
We have the finest military in the world. But we cannot rely
primarily on military action to end politically inspired violence. We
can't defeat the insurgents militarily if we don't effectively
address the political context in which the insurgency flourishes. Our
military and the insurgents are fighting for the same thing, the
hearts and minds of the people, and that is a battle we are not
The beginning of wisdom in this crisis is to define honest and
First, the goal of our military presence should be to allow the
creation of a legitimate, functioning Iraqi government, not to
Creating a full-fledged democracy won't happen overnight. We can
and must make progress, but it may take many years for the Iraqis to
finish the job. We have to adjust our time horizon. The process
cannot begin in earnest until Iraqis have full ownership of that
transition. Our continued, overwhelming presence only delays that
If we want Iraq to develop a stable, democratic government,
America must assist, not control, the newly established government.
Unless Iraqis have a genuine sense that their leaders are not our
puppets, the election cannot be the turning point the Administration
To enhance its legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people, the
new Iraqi Government should begin to disengage politically from
America, and we from them.
The reality is that the Bush Administration is continuing to pull
the strings in Iraq, and the Iraqi people know it. We picked the date
for the transfer of sovereignty. We supported former CIA operative
Iyad Allawi to lead the Interim Government. We wrote the
administrative law and the interim constitution that now governs
Iraq. We set the date for the election, and President Bush insisted
that it take place, even when many Iraqis sought delay.
It is time to recognize that there is only one choice. America
must give Iraq back to the Iraqi people.
We need to let the Iraqi people make their own decisions, reach
their own consensus, and govern their own country.
We need to rethink the Pottery Barn rule. America cannot forever
be the potter that sculpts Iraq's future. President Bush broke Iraq,
but if we want Iraq to be fixed, the Iraqis must feel that they, not
we, own it.
The Iraqi people are facing historic issues: the establishment of
a government, the role of Islam, and the protection of minority
The United States and the international community have a clear
interest in a strong, tolerant and pluralistic Iraq, free from chaos
and civil war.
The United Nations, not the United States, should provide
assistance and advice on establishing a system of government and
drafting a constitution. An international meeting, led by the United
Nations and the new Iraqi Government, should be convened immediately
in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East to begin that process.
For our part, America must accept that the Shiites will be the
majority in whatever government emerges. Sixty percent of the
population in Iraq is Shiite, and a Shiite majority is the logical
outcome of a democratic process in Iraq.
But the Shiites must understand that Iraq's stability and
security will be achieved only by safeguarding minority rights. The
door to drafting the Constitution and to serving in government must
be left open, even to those who were unwilling or unable or too
terrified to participate in the elections.
The Shiites must also understand that America's support is not
open-ended and that America's role is not to defend an Iraqi
government that excludes or marginalizes important sectors of Iraqi
society. It is far too dangerous for the American military to take
sides in a civil war.
America must adjust to the reality that not all former Baathists
will be excluded from Iraqi political life in the new Iraq. After the
Iron Curtain fell in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, many former
communists went on to participate in the political process. The
current Polish President, a strong ally of President Bush in Iraq, is
a former active member of the Communist Party who served under
Poland's martial law government during the 1980's. If communists can
change in this way, there is no reason why some former members of the
Baath party cannot do so.
If Iraqis wish to negotiate with insurgents who are willing to
renounce their violence and join the political process, we should let
them do so. Persuading Sunni insurgents to use the ballot, not the
bullet, serves the interests of the Shiites too.
Second, for democracy to take root, the Iraqis need a clear
signal that America has a genuine exit strategy.
The Iraqi people do not believe that America intends no long-term
military presence in their country. Our reluctance to make that clear
has fueled suspicions among Iraqis that our motives are not pure,
that we want their oil, and that we will never leave. As long as our
presence seems ongoing, America's commitment to their democracy
The President should do more to make it clear that America
intends no long-term presence. He should disavow the permanence of
our so-called "enduring" military bases in Iraq. He should announce
that America will dramatically reduce the size of the American
Embassy, the largest in the world.
Once the elections are behind us and the democratic transition is
under way, President Bush should immediately announce his intention
to negotiate a timetable for a drawdown of American combat forces
with the new Iraqi Government.
At least 12,000 American troops and probably more should leave at
once, to send a stronger signal about our intentions and to ease the
pervasive sense of occupation.
As Major General William Nash, who commanded the multinational
force in Bosnia, said in November, a substantial reduction in our
forces following the Iraqi election "would be a wise and judicious
move" to demonstrate that we are leaving and "the absence of targets
will go a long way in decreasing the violence."
America's goal should be to complete our military withdrawal as
early as possible in 2006.
President Bush cannot avoid this issue. The Security Council
Resolution authorizing our military presence in Iraq can be reviewed
at any time at the request of the Iraqi Government, and it calls for
a review in June. The U.N. authorization for our military presence
ends with the election of a permanent Iraqi government at the end of
this year. The world will be our judge. We must have an exit plan in
force by then.
While American troops are drawing down, we must clearly be
prepared to oppose any external intervention in Iraq or the large-
scale revenge killing of any group. We should begin now to conduct
serious regional diplomacy with the Arab League and Iraq's neighbors
to underscore this point, and we will need to maintain troops on
bases outside Iraq but in the region.
The United Nations could send a stabilization force to Iraq if it
is necessary and requested by the Iraqi government. But any
stabilization force must be sought by the Iraqis and approved by the
United Nations, with a clear and achievable mission and clear rules
of engagement. Unlike the current force, it should not consist mostly
of Americans or be led by Americans. All nations of the world have an
interest in Iraq's stability and territorial integrity.
Finally, we need to train and equip an effective Iraqi security
force. We have a year to do so before the election of the permanent
The current training program is in deep trouble, and Iraqi forces
are far from being capable, committed, and effective. In too many
cases, they cannot even defend themselves, and have fled at the first
sign of battle.
It is not enough to tell us,as the Administration has, how many
Iraqis go through training. The problem is not merely the numbers.
The essential question is how many are prepared to give their lives
if necessary, for a future of freedom for their country.
The insurgents have been skilled at recruiting Iraqis to
participate in suicide attacks. But too often, the trained Iraqi
forces do not have a comparable commitment to the Iraqi government.
Recruits are ambivalent about America, unsure of the political
transition, and skeptical about the credibility of their military and
political institutions. The way to strengthen their allegiance is to
give them a worthy cause to defend as soon as possible, a truly free,
independent and sovereign Iraq.
We now have no choice but to make the best we can of the disaster
we have created in Iraq. The current course is only making the crisis
worse. We need to define our objective realistically and redefine
both our political and our military presence.
President Bush has left us with few good choices. There are costs
to staying, and costs to leaving. There may well be violence as we
disengage militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from
us. But there will be much more serious violence if we continue our
present dangerous and reckless course. It will not be easy to
extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin.
Error is no excuse for its own perpetuation. Mindless
determination doesn't make a better outcome likely. Setting a firm
strategy for withdrawal may not guarantee success, but not doing so
will almost certainly guarantee failure. Casualties are increasing.
America is tied down. Our military is stretched to the breaking
point. Our capacity to respond to crises and threats elsewhere in the
world has been compromised.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible teaches us that, "Pride goes
before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." It's time
for President Bush to swallow his pride and end our country's
continuing failures in Iraq and in the eyes of the world. When the
President delivers the State of the Union Address next week, I hope
he will demonstrate his intention to do that. The danger is very real
that if he does not, our leadership in the world will be permanently
lost. We cannot let that happen.
There is a wiser course we can take in keeping with the best in
our heritage and history, a course that will help America, at long
last, to regain our rightful place of respect in the world and bring
our troops home with honor. Let's take that course, and take it now.
Thank you very much.