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Getting out of Iraq

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As the war in Iraq continues to deteriorate, civil war looms closer on the horizon and the military progress in Iraq is falling far short of President Bush’s own modest goals, it is clear to nearly everyone but this president and a handful of his advisors that it is time to devise another strategy in Iraq.

Diplomacy with allies in the region is one answer, though the collapse of a central power that can provide a modicum of safety for Iraqi residents presents a huge hurdle to overcome. As U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker said late last week, fear now dominates the landscape. “If there is one word I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq — on the streets, in the countryside, in the neighborhoods and at the national level — that word would be fear.”

Think of that. Let it sink in. We’ve been there for more than four years — longer than our involvement in WWII — and the situation in Iraq has only gotten worse for the past three years. Moreover, the threat of terrorism to the U.S. and throughout the world has grown, not diminished. The U.S. and Iran could soon be on the edge of chaos (see commentary on Page 5 called “When Cowboys are in Charge”), Afghanistan is slipping back into turmoil, and the diplomatic triumphs that occurred in the Middle East during the late 1990s before Bush took over are falling apart in rapid order.

In sum, the Bush-Cheney foreign policy in the Middle East, including their ‘war on terror,’ has been a complete disaster.

To continue down this road is foolhardy; each day we do, it gets worse. Bush and Cheney won’t back down, however, because it would be admitting their mistake. So they hold on, not because it is the right thing to do, but because they can’t admit their own failure.

To that end, Congress will have to force the administration to change course. Vermont’s Rep. Peter Welch addressed the issue last week in a statement he made to the U.S. House of Representatives in support of H.R. 2956, the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act. It would require the Sec. of Defense to begin the redeployment of troops from Iraq within 120 days of the date of enactment and to complete the “reduction and transition to a limited presence” by April 1, 2008. Welch’s statement articulates the nation’s opposition.

His statement said, in part: “Mr. Speaker: I vigorously opposed the war in Iraq before it began and now, well into its fifth year, the need for a new policy has never been clearer.

“The toll of this war has been devastating: More than 3,500 of our most courageous young men and women have been killed, and tens of thousands more have been seriously wounded. The toll on civilians: much higher. And while we struggle to fund domestic priorities in Vermont and in communities across the country — health care, crumbing transportation, cost of education — we now spend $12 billion every month on this war.

“From last November’s elections, to pubic opinion polls, to the comments I hear from Vermonters every single day, the voice of the American people is loud and it is clear: it is time to end this war. No, it is well past time to end this war. Since the president refuses to act, Congress must.

“Since the president refuses, Congress must make it clear that the United States will not maintain permanent military bases in Iraq. Since the president refuses, Congress must denounce the use of torture and must finally close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And since the president refuses, Congress must bring our troops home and ensure that they receive the care they deserve when they return.

“Mr. Speaker, seven months ago, under the leadership of the previous Congress (then controlled by Republicans), a bill like this never would have been allowed to come to the floor. And now … there is an emerging bipartisan consensus that the president must be forced to change course.”

The bill passed the House, 223-201, on July 12 and has moved on to the Senate. The president has continued to reject such an approach and has recently again appealed to the public for more time. Americans must wonder when this administra­tion will admit its mistakes and take corrective action — or will they cling stubbornly to those mistakes and try to rewrite history once they are out of office. Our bet is the latter.

Angelo S. Lynn

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