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How much time on the front line: with President Bush sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq, and the new Democrats in Congress talking only about a phased withdrawal, when will our troops come home?

"The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people--and it is unacceptable to me," President George W. Bush acknowledged in his January 10 speech announcing his new strategy for Iraq. "Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."

The soldiers have indeed done everything they were asked to do. More than 3,000 of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and many more have been maimed for life. But the war drags on and the casualties continue to mount--with no end in sight. Even the streets of Baghdad are not secure.

According to the president, "Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have" To address these failings, President Bush announced that he's sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq and that Iraqi and American forces will now have a "green light" to enter "neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence."

In past operations, the president acknowledged, "political and sectarian interference" have prevented the military from entering those neighborhoods. Now, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated"

Maliki's pledge rings hollow because he did more than "tolerate" the interference--he helped orchestrate it. As the New York Times recalled in its January 12 edition, Maliki "has consistently refused to sanction major offensives in Sadr City," the Shiite district in northeast Baghdad that serves as a major base of operation for the Mahdi Army led by radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. The Times also reported that Maliki has "postponed any action on a new law to disarm and demobilize the militias" and that he has "on at least one occasion ... intervened to secure the release of a man captured by American troops and identified by American commanders as a death squad leader with links to Mr. Sadr."

Sadr's Mahdi Army, the most powerful of the Shiite militias, is responsible for so much of the sectarian violence now tearing apart Iraq that the Pentagon has described it as the country's biggest security threat. Yet this major security threat is also intertwined with Maliki's government. Sadr's "parliamentary bloc sustains Mr. Maliki in office," the Times noted.

Not surprisingly, Bush said nothing about the Maliki-Sadr connection in his January 10 address to the American people. Nor did he try to explain why an Iraqi government that owes its very existence to American blood and treasure would ally itself with those responsible for much of the violence, why we would have continued supporting that government under those circumstances, and why we would have cooperated with political and sectarian restrictions that provided safe haven for insurgents and terrorists who targeted Americans as well as rival Islamic sects and Iraqi Christians.

But Bush at least acknowledged that Maliki might fail to honor his pledge to no longer tolerate the political or sectarian interference. "I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended" Bush said in his nationally televised address. "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people."

As well it should! Furthermore, looking beyond Bush's declaration of limits on American support, questions should be raised: is the Iraqi government now deserving of the support of the American people? Is it deserving of the continued sacrifice of our soldiers? Was it ever deserving? And regardless of the answers to those questions, what exactly does President Bush hope to achieve by keeping our troops in Iraq, let alone escalating our involvement?

The New iraqi Government

In his January 10 speech, the president cautioned: "Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship." He added: "Victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world--a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people. A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them."

However, the regime we have installed in Iraq through our military intervention has not only harbored insurgents and terrorists but has also violated human rights. It has done this indirectly by allowing the Shiite-led death squads and militias to operate with impunity, and it has done this through direct government actions. Iraqi prisons, for instance, are once again becoming infamous for the widespread use of torture.

The post-Saddam Iraqi government has also been moving steadily to establish closer relations with the radical Islamic regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next door in Iran. Virtually all of the leading Shia Muslim figures in the Iraqi government have long ties to Iran. Post-Saddam Iraq's former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is a radical Shiite Muslim and a disciple of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who labeled the United States the "Great Satan" and held our embassy and American citizens hostage. Prime Minister Jaafari made an historic pilgrimage to Tehran in July 2005, along with eight of his cabinet ministers, to lay a wreath on the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini. Jaafari spent nine years (1980-1989) in Iran, and at Ayatollah Khomeini's behest, became a founding member of the Ayatollah's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Maliki, who replaced Jaafari as prime minister, was hosted by Ahmadinejad in Tehran in September 2006. Like Jaafari, Maliki is a member of the Iran-backed Dawa "Islamic Call" Party. Maliki has called for Iran to play a larger role in helping "stabilize" Iraq, though Iran, which is closely tied to Mahdi Army leader Moktada al-Sadr, appears to be helping not only Sadr but other warring factions fueling the violence. Iraq's President Jalal Talabani also promotes closer ties with both Iran and Syria and has made historic visits to both Tehran and Damascus to solidify relations with both terror regimes.

Last December, U.S. forces captured Iranians, including a top commander of Iran's elite al-Quds Force, in a Baghdad compound belonging to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the same al-Hakim that the Bush administration was putting forth as a "moderate" element who would help bring peace to Iraq. Also captured were documents reportedly detailing Iran's support for Shiite and Sunni insurgents. Iraq's Maliki government pressed the United States to release the Iranians. Again, in January 2007, when U.S. forces captured members , of Iran's Revolutionary Guard in northern Iraq, the Iraqi government came to the defense of the Iranians, claiming that they are "diplomatic" representatives of Iran.

Iran, recall, was identified as an "axis of evil" nation by George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address in 2002. President Bush also said, nine days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." Obviously that standard does not apply to Iraq's post-Saddam government, which is not only treated as a friend but is actually propped up by our continued military intervention.

While there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime was a murderous and brutal dictatorship, the new Iraqi regime may prove to be even worse than Saddam's. Unlike Saddam's nonsectarian regime, which was an enemy of Iran, the new sectarian Iraq has not only enshrined Islamic law in its constitution but has aligned itself with Iran--and, by extension, Iran's terror network. And it is that terror network that makes Iran more dangerous than Saddam's despicable regime was.

It is indeed tragically ironic that many American Christians have supported U.S. intervention in Iraq sincerely believing that this intervention would lead to a bastion in the Middle East against radical Islam, when in fact our intervention paved the way for a new Iraqi government that, by developing strong ties with Iran, appears to be headed in the opposite direction. Yet President Bush's new strategy is somehow supposed to result in "a democratic Iraq" that "fights terrorists instead of harboring them."

Shifting Objectives

The day after giving his speech announcing his new strategy, the president visited the troops at Fort Benning in Georgia. He told them: "It's important for our citizens to understand that as tempting as it might be, to understand the consequences of leaving before the job is done." That job, however, is very different from how it was originally defined when the Bush administration launched its offensive war against Iraq in March of 2003. And that shift in mission has also meant a redefinition of what constitutes victory and what our soldiers are supposed to accomplish before being brought home.

When President Bush made the case for going to war against Iraq, he repeatedly stated that the purpose was to disarm Saddam's regime of its reputed weapons of mass destruction, pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions. On March 6, 2003, a few days before the offensive war was launched, Bush explained: "The world needs him [Saddam Hussein] to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed, as required by Resolution 1441, or has it not?"

But after we went into Iraq, no WMDs were found, despite administration claims that Iraq not only possessed such weapons but possessed the military capability to directly threaten the United States. "Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people, and to all free people," Bush said on March 6, 2003. "I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons." Of course, the relative quickness with which the Saddam Hussein regime fell demonstrated that the administration, in this and similar statements, had greatly overstated the threat. And the objective of getting rid of the reputed WMDs became moot.

When the administration decided it had to forcibly disarm Saddam Hussein of his reputed WMDs, another objective became removing him from power. Not only was that quickly accomplished, but Saddam is now dead.

Still another objective, then as well as now, has been to wage war against the terrorists who had attacked us on September 11, 2001. During the months leading up to the war, and after, the Bush administration repeatedly juxtaposed references to Saddam Hussein and Iraq with references to 9/11, thereby creating the impression in the public mind that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks without explicitly making the assertion. But the administration did not possess evidence supporting such an assertion. As President Bush himself acknowledged on September 17, 2003, six months after our invasion of Iraq: "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th [attacks]."

Many Americans were also led to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of repeated administration assertions of high-level contacts between al-Qaeda and Saddam's Iraq. On February 5, 2003, the month before the invasion, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN Security Council that Iraq's denials of its reputed ties with al-Qaeda were "simply not credible." However, 10 months after the invasion, Powell acknowledged during a January 8, 2004 press conference: "There is not--you know, I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I think the possibility of such connections did exist and it was prudent to consider them at the time we did."

To this day the administration argues that we need to keep American troops in Iraq to fight the terrorists, including al-Qaeda. "On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities," President Bush said in his January 10 address announcing his new strategy. "For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq." Meanwhile, the new ties that the post-Saddam Iraqi regime has formed with Iran has actually strengthened the terror network's hand in Iraq.

What Now?

When President Bush sent American soldiers into Iraq, most Americans supported the war. But with the war approaching four years in duration with no end in sight, and with the deaths of more than 3,000 American soldiers and the expenditure of some $400 billion, American public support for the war is waning.

In fact, the growing dissatisfaction with the war was a major factor in last November's congressional elections that transferred majority control of both the House and Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats. Those elections were not so much an endorsement of the Democrats as they were a repudiation of the Republicans, whom the voters associated with the Republican president's Iraq policy.

It is therefore not surprising that public-opinion surveys found that most Americans are opposed to the "surge" of additional troops the president announced on January 10:61 percent are opposed according to a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, and 70 percent are opposed according to an AP/Ipsos survey.

The growing public dissatisfaction has fractured President Bush's Republican support for the war in the Congress, with some Republicans voicing unhappiness about the president's new "surge" strategy and his January 10 address. "This speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out," Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a Vietnam War veteran, said in a Senate hearing. "I will resist it."

Hagel, like most congressional Republicans and many Democrats, including new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), voted for the October 2002 resolution giving the president the authority to go to war against Iraq.

Five days before the president made his announcement, Reid, together with new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), sent an open letter to Presi dent Bush asking him not to send additional troops to Iraq. "Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq," Reid and Pelosi wrote, "we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror."

Reid and Pelosi also wrote that "it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq." But if Reid and Pelosi are correct about this, then why aren't they proposing to bring the troops home now? Why are they instead proposing a phased withdrawal that would not even begin until four to six months from now--and perhaps could be extended even further into the future if changing conditions are deemed to warrant a delay? If nothing more can be accomplished militarily, why maintain the status quo and keep our troops in the middle of a sectarian civil war while the body count mounts?

One congressman who wants to bring home the troops now is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Paul, one of only six Republicans in the House to vote against the 2002 Iraq war resolution, recently observed on the House floor that "preemptive, undeclared wars fought under false pretenses are a road to disaster." (See the sidebar on page 14.) That has indeed been the case. And undoubtedly many more Americans would now agree with that stark assessment than in 2003 when the invasion of Iraq was launched.

RELATED ARTICLE: Saddam Hussein is dead--so are 3,000 Americans.

by Ron Paul

Ron Paul is a Republican congressman from Texas who is now considering running for president. During the last (109th) Congress, he earned a 100 percent cumulative score in this magazine's "Conservative Index." Rep. Paul made the following remarks on the floor of the House five days before the president gave his nationally televised address announcing his new strategy.

Mr. Speaker, Saddam Hussein is dead. So are 3,000 Americans. The regime in Iraq has been changed; yet victory will not be declared. Not only does the war go on; it is about to escalate. Obviously, the turmoil in Iraq is worse than ever and most Americans no longer are willing to tolerate the costs, both human and economic, associated with this war.

We have been in Iraq for 45 months. Many more Americans have been killed in Iraq than were killed in the first 45 months in Vietnam. I was in the U.S. Air Force in 1965, and I remember well when President Johnson announced a troop surge in Vietnam to hasten victory. That war went on for another decade. And by the time we finally finished that war and got out, 60,000 Americans had died. We obviously should have gotten out 10 years sooner. Troop surge then meant serious escalation.

The election is over and Americans have spoken: enough is enough. They want the war ended and our troops brought home. But the opposite is likely to occur. With bipartisan support, up to 50,000 troops may well be sent. The goal no longer is to win. Now it is simply to secure Baghdad. So much has been spent with so little to show for it.

Who possibly benefits from escalating chaos in Iraq? Neoconservatives unabashedly have written about how chaos presents opportunities for promoting their goals. Certainly Osama bin Laden has benefited from the turmoil in Iraq, as have Iranian Shiites who are now in a better position to take control of southern Iraq.

Yes, Saddam Hussein is dead, and only Sunnis mourn. The Shiites and Kurds celebrate his death, as do the Iranians and especially bin Laden, all enemies of Saddam Hussein. We have performed a tremendous service for both bin Laden and Ahmadinejad [the president of Iran], and it will cost us plenty. The violent reaction to our complicity in the execution of Saddam Hussein is yet to come.

Three thousand American military personnel are dead. More than 22,000 are wounded, and tens of thousands will be psychologically traumatized by their tours of duty in Iraq. Little concern is given to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed in this war. We have spent $400 billion so far with no end in sight. This money we do not have. It is all borrowed from countries like China that increasingly succeed in the global economy while we drain wealth from our citizens through heavy taxation and insidious inflation. Our manufacturing base is now nearly extinct. Where the additional U.S. troops in Iraq will come from is anybody's guess, but surely they won't be redeployed from Japan, Korea, or Europe.

We at least must pretend that our bankrupt empire is intact, but then again, the Soviet empire appeared intact in 1988. Some members of Congress intent on equitably distributing the suffering among all Americans want to bring back the draft. Administration officials vehemently deny making any concrete plans for a draft.

But why should we believe this? Look what happened when so many believed the reasons given for our preemptive invasion of Iraq. Selective Service officials admit running a check of their list of available young men. If the draft is reinstated, we probably will include young women as well to serve the god of equality. Conscription is slavery, plain and simple, and it was made illegal under the 13th amendment, which prohibits involuntary servitude. One may well be killed as a military draftee, which makes conscription a very dangerous kind of enslavement.

Instead of testing the efficacy of the Selective Service System and sending more troops off to a war that we are losing, we ought to revive our love of liberty. We should repeal the Selective Service Act. A free society should never depend on compulsory conscription to defend itself.

We get into trouble by not following the precepts of liberty or obeying the rule of law. Preemptive, undeclared wars fought under false pretenses are a road to disaster. If a full declaration of war by Congress had been demanded as the Constitution requires, this war never would have been fought.

If we did not create credit out of thin air, as the Constitution prohibits, we never would have convinced taxpayers to support this war directly by increased taxation. How long this financial charade can go on is difficult to judge, but when the end comes, it will not go unnoticed by any American.
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Author:Benoit, Gary
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Cover story
Date:Feb 5, 2007
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