A Soldier's Solution For Iraq
by Patrick Murphy for Congress, Mon Dec 05, 2005 at 09:25:17 AM EST
Bring the Guard And Reserve Home By Summer, Redeploy Our Troops In Iraq, And Focus on Securing the Homeland
This morning, the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, made up of members of the 9/11 Commission, issued a report card on implementation of the commission's recommendations. According to Commission Member Jamie Gorelick, "we are less safe today than we were 18 months ago." Because of the focus on Iraq, we have taken our eye off the ball in securing our own shores. First responders still can't talk to each other. There are nuclear weapons on the loose and for which we cannot account. And we are still allocating homeland security funding based on a formula based on politics, not on need.
It's time to change the direction in Iraq and bring our focus back to winning the war on terror and securing the homeland. Bringing the guard and reserve home by summer puts us back on track to accomplish both of these goals.
When Rep. John Murtha, the first Vietnam combat veteran elected to Congress, started the debate on America's role in Iraq by saying "Our troops have done all they can do," he was right. Our troops toppled the Saddam Regime and made sure that there were no WMDs. It is time to change the direction in Iraq, and we need to start bringing our men and women home now.
More After the Jump
I spent 7 months in Iraq as a JAG officer, assisting local Iraqi officials and U.S. forces create and maintain the rule of law. Having seen my share of combat, I am keenly aware of how security, military operations, and local politics are woven into a complex web of challenges that often defy simple solutions.
But even in complex situations, the truth is the truth. And the truth is that we have asked far too much of our National Guard and Reserves fighting in Iraq. It is time to bring them home now and create a framework for drawing down our regular forces in 2006.
Nearly 500 courageous National Guard and Reserve troops have given their lives in Iraq, and thousands more were wounded serving our nation. Their conduct has been in the best tradition of the American Armed Forces, and they must be called heroes for their service.
In my book, the last thing you do to heroes and their families is promise them they'll be home in a year, and keep them in Iraq months after they should have rotated home
I believe we could have all Guard and Reserve troops home in 90 days--or no later than this summer--if we radically speed up the planned redeployment of U.S. Troops from Europe and Asia. The Bush Administration is rightly planning to pull up to 60,000 troops out of Europe and another 30,000 out of Asian posts, recognizing that the vast majority of these troops are no longer necessary from a military perspective.
Unlike their Iraq policy, the Bush plan to redeploy these units is sound militarily, but its implementation is delayed by politics with our European allies. These nations seek to keep our troops longer, not for security reasons but for the boost our troops give to the local economies. If the President and Congress here in the United States can't keep bases like Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Pennsylvania open, then why should the Europeans get to enjoy a long, drawn out negotiation of U.S. troop redeployment?
The ultimate key to our withdrawal from Iraq will be a stable country in a volatile region able to stand on its own. There will be bumps in the road along the way. But the first step is for Iraqis to stand on their own and not rely on America to hold them up. The administration's failure to set a timeline for withdrawal, as they did for elections and as they did for a constitution, does nothing to force the Iraqis to achieve this goal. It is time for Iraqi patriots to be leading and manning the convoys through "Ambush Alley" in Baghdad, as I did, and as long as we remain in Iraq, there is no incentive for the Iraqis to take on those missions and assume control of their own security operations.
Top commanders in the field, including General George Casey, have said repeatedly that it will take more than military might to bring peace to Iraq. This strategic drawdown is necessary to create the conditions for peace in Iraq.
I believe it's time for someone who has seen combat in Iraq to demand honesty, to demand the truth and demand a clear exit strategy to end the bloodshed. We are not getting that from this President right now.
After we have brought the guard and reserve home, U.S. troops should begin a strategic drawdown of forces, bringing another 50,000 troops home by the end of 2006. We do this by withdrawing from the cities and redeploying the remaining troops to protect the borders with Syria and Iran. I agree with Rep. Murtha that we will also need to leave a strike force in the region, either in Iraq or Kuwait, made up of elite forces from the Marine Corps and perhaps members of my own division, the Army's 82nd Airborne, who will be ready to deal with emergency situations.
To those who say this idea fails to clean up the mess we created in Iraq, let me tell you as someone who has been there that staying the current course actually undermines the mission of our troops and will not fix anything. In fact, it will simply prolong the status quo. President Bush said in January of this year that we would leave Iraq when the Iraqis asked us to leave--and they have. Not only have the elected Iraqi leaders said--at the recent Arab League Summit--that it is time for us to go, but 82% of Iraqis surveyed by the British Ministry of Defence agree. Our mere presence in Iraq has been the rallying cry for radical extremists. With Iraqis taking charge, their argument will ring hollow.
I am not advocating an immediate and unilateral pullout from Iraq. We have so drastically damaged the stability of that country that to withdraw in one fell swoop would almost surely lead to civil war and genocide.
What I do believe in, though, is a responsible exit strategy, with benchmarks and a timeline, which encourages the Iraqis to stand up on their own, brings our men and women home, and most importantly, closes this chapter of our history.
Bobby Kennedy once said about the Vietnam War that if our enemies do not want peace, there will be none. The ultimate blame for continued violence is on our enemies, but that does not mean we should follow the current course simply because the President has neither the vision nor the courage to take bold steps to end the fighting.
Richard Clarke and others have pointed out that fighting the terrorists in Iraq did not make the Spanish people safer when Al Quaeda bombed Madrid, nor did fighting in Iraq make the British people safer when the terrible subway and bus bombings killed innocent Londoners. We can now add those injured or killed in the Jordan hotel bombings last month.
Last week, President Bush promised Americans a "Plan for Victory." What he delivered instead was more stay-the-course rhetoric and the same fear-mongering language that has gotten us to where we are now. Using the Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy as a backdrop--as he did with the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln 2 ½ years ago--the President failed present a plan for Iraq, a strategy for the War on Terror, or any indication that he knows what victory will look like.
Not only does the President lack a plan for Iraq, the 9/11 Commissioners have made it clear that he has also failed to secure our nation from future terrorist attacks or, for that matter, natural disasters. Bringing home the National Guard and Reserve troops in a responsible manner will immediately upgrade our capabilities here at home, while improving our position in Iraq,
It is increasingly clear that staying the current failed course undermines the mission of our troops and does little to make America safer. We have fought the war. But only an exit strategy--with benchmarks and a timeline that transfers autonomy to the Iraqis and brings our men and women home--will allow us to say we have accomplished our mission, won the peace in Iraq and are taking the steps needed to secure our homeland.
Our troops have done what was asked with them, and they have completed their missions admirably. Now it is time for the White House and the Administration to do their job.
Visit my Web Site at www.murphy06.com
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