Research: Commentary

Remarks by Tom Andrews, National Director of Win Without War

August 30, 2007 | Speech

By Tom Andrews

National Press Briefing on U.S. Policy in Iraq
National Security Network
Washington, DC
August 30, 2007

A resolution of the deepening crisis in Iraq can only be achieved through political negotiation and compromise. As most independent observers and analysts have pointed out and as the GAO report leaked this morning underscores - there has been little to no progress in this important regard since the surge began and there is little to no prospect that we will be any closer to a political resolution next April than we are today.

The cost of continuing the status quo surge is unacceptable: death and severe injury to thousands more American soldiers and ten billion dollars of U.S. tax dollars every month to end up, at best, exactly where we are today.  If current trends continue, we will in fact be even further away from a resolution.

The fact is that the prospect for political compromise has decreased since the surge as it has continued to enable the stubborn intransigence of a religious sectarian regime that continues to resist compromise and change. The Maliki regime supports militias that kill Sunnis and American soldiers. It is clear by his actions that he has no intention of reconciling with other political forces, be they Sunni, secular or Shiite outside of his own block.

As a result, any pretense of a "unity government" has been laid to rest as the cabinet has been decimated by resignations- 15 of 37 at last count.  Baghdad has gone from being a majority Sunni city (65% of the population before the U.S. invasion) to a majority Shiite city (75% Shiite today). The number of sectarian attacks and deaths have increased since the surge began. There has been more civilian and American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any summer we have been there.

Gen. Abizaid and Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee before the surge that the reason they opposed it was because it would lower the likelihood of Iraqi armed forces being able to act independently- that American forces would bear the burden and thereby decrease the incentive for Iraqi units to independently stand up. 

In fact, according to the GAO report that was leaked today, this is exactly what has happened - the number of Iraq units capable of operating independently has declined from ten in March to six last month. 

Even worse, the evidence points to security forces that are even more aligned with extremist Shiite militias. Military analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who recently traveled to Iraq, wrote in his report of his findings: "The security forces are more divided, facing more problems in terms of alignment with Sh'ite factions than I had expected to see, even for the army." He added: "It is clear, that in some ways our intervention in Iraq has allowed the Sadr milita to and Shiite extremist groups to operate in terms of sectarian cleansing with more freedom than they did in the past."

So, the surge that was supposed to provide Iraqi leaders the breathing space to compromise and reach a political accommodation has led to an even greater political crisis and the decline of any realistic prospect of a political settlement while fueling extreme sectarianism and death squads.

Ladies and gentleman, there are some problems in this world that cannot be solved by U.S. military power and the civil war in Iraq is one of them. If anything, the U.S. military presence fuels the conflict, ensuring that it will go on indefinitely. At best, it might slow down the pace of a civil war in the short term in some sections of the country, but it has not and cannot bring it to an end.

Allowing this mission impossible to continue may accommodate the fantasies of some political leaders or kick the can down the road to another administration and Congress, but giving it more time means deciding to condemn hundreds more U.S. soldiers to die and another $10 billion dollars to be spent every month AND ALL TO END UP RIGHT WHERE WE ARE NOW, OR WORSE. 

I have been traveling with retired three star army general Robert Gard to conduct National Security Town Meetings and meet with editorial boards and reporters around the country. General Gard was an assistant to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the Vietnam war. He recounts with great pain the fact that U.S. policy makers knew midway through that awful war- after nearly 30,000 American soldiers had died - that the war was unwinnable. But because our leaders, Democrat and Republican alike, didn't have the political courage or moral fiber to end it, they sent another 30,000 soldiers to their deaths in an effort that they knew was doomed to failure.

The facts on the ground in Iraq are unmistakably clear- this misadventure of the Bush administration is also doomed to failure. 

As Admiral Michael Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the next Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "No amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference" in the absence of a functioning government. The Maliki government is LESS functional now than when the surge began. The chances of political compromise and reconciliation are grimmer now than ever.

It is clear what the so-called "Petraeus Report" will contain and recommend. We know because it turns out it will not be written by the General- the White House is writing it for him and nearly refused to allow him to testify at all!

The stubbornness of the president and the White House cannot be allowed to stand. The facts on the ground in Iraq are so stark and clear that not even the vaunted White House spin machine can mask it.

That machine is now spinning furiously about the extreme risks of the U.S. military leaving Iraq. It is time for them to be challenged- by Congress and the American people - about the extreme and unacceptable risks of staying with a doomed mission.

That is what the Win Without War coalition and its member organizations and allied networks are doing in every state and in every battleground Congressional District across the country. Office holders and candidates can run but they will not be able to hide from this issue. Members of Congress will be hearing from us and so will those who are seeking the presidency. It is time for Congress to stand up for our troops and demand their safe and orderly withdrawal from Iraq. It would be unconscionable to do anything less.

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