Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
You will hear Republicans describe the Democrats plans for exiting Iraq as “Cut and Run.” But what exactly does that mean? Republicans will tell you the Democrats are not united. But most Democrats are united in the belief that Stay the Course is not working and America needs to go in a New Direction. A number of Democrats have begun to put forth plans on how to succeed in Iraq. You might be surprised to see that these plans don’t exactly look like cut and run. Even the most liberal plan, put forth by Senator Kerry and Senator Feingold, which requires a draw down of troops by July 1, 2007, allows for as many troops as required to stay and train the Iraqi security forces, conduct counter terrorism operations and protect U.S, troops and facilities. So we can continue to keep troops there to train the Iraqis, we can continue to fight the terrorist in Iraq, and we can secure U.S. personnel and facilities. That plan does not exactly abandon the Iraqis to fend for themselves.
But if you would like a plan that allows even more troops to remain and doesn’t set a date for withdrawal, the Democrats have a plan for that as well. Senator Carl Levin and Jack Reed put forth a non-binding resolution that calls on the President to transition from a combat mission to a limited mission of training and logistics support of Iraqi security forces, protection of U.S. personnel and facilities, and counter terrorism activities. So with this plan we could not only train, but also provide logistics support, something that can be difficult for even experienced armies. We can protect our interests and we can fight the terrorists. This plan does require the President to report to Congress on his plans for Iraq by the year’s end, something the President was supposed to do as part of the resolution that passed with strong bipartisan support last November, which declared 2006 should be a “year of significant transition in Iraq.”
While Democrats have been looking for a solution to the situation in Iraq, the Republicans have passed a resolution to Stay the Course until we create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq. Since we can’t even get Republicans and Democrats to united on anything, I am not sure how they expect our soldiers to unite Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. What we do know is that Stay the Course has cost over 300 billion dollars total on the war, 2,515 soldiers killed, and 18,356 soldiers maimed. President Bush as no plan on how to bring our soldiers home, he plans to leave that for a future president. He has no plan. He will just keep staying the course. Can we really afford to stay the course? This war is costing us nine billion a month, and on average 2 fatalities a day. Because President Bush grossly underestimated the cost for the war this year in his budget, the Stars and Stripes reported on 6/1/06 that Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody sent out a memo to all commanders informing them that all Army units were to stop ordering “non-critical spare parts and supplies.” Fort Bliss began laying off civilian workers and instituted a hiring freeze. According to Gary Knight, Fort Bragg’s deputy garrison commander, “It costs about a million a day to run a post, but officials are being asked to spend much less.” Lt. Gen. John R vines said, “Any time you defer maintenance, you incur additional costs, if we defer maintenance on ranges and infrastructure, that’s a challenge.” In addition, retention and recruitment are down. We are loosing our most experienced soldiers; something that will take years for the military to rebuild. England and Spain have had terrorist attacks and we have found homegrown terrorists in Canada and the U.S. The Somalia Capitol is now under the control of Hassan Dahir Aweys, a Muslim Sheik with links to terrorism. We need to focus our combat efforts on terrorists and not sectarian struggles within Iraq.
I don’t what is the best plan for succeeding in Iraq, but I do know that the current plan of stay the course is too costly in both dollars and lives. General Casey has proposed a plan to reduce troops before the fall congressional elections and again before the 2008 presidential elections. This plan seems more motivated by politics than an actual solution to the situation in Iraq. It does no good to bring our boys home if they are just sent back after the election. According to Paul Rieckhoff, Executive director for The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, “There are a number of alternate plans out there that can offer a change in course in Iraq. But most Americans have never heard about them. These plans fly around military and diplomatic email lists, and rarely make it to the mainstream media. They are different from the Bush Plan, and are more than just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. They appreciate the enormity of the problem in Iraq. They realize that the United States and our allies must work to prevent the Iraq war from expanding into a regional war. They also understand the commitment to the Iraq people—that we have a moral obligation to do our absolute best to fix the mess we have made.” It is time for Congress to explore these plans; to hold hearing, and solicit testimony from current and former military personnel, former Secretaries of Defense and Secretaries of State, Middle East experts, and Iraq veterans and their families.
After learning all they can, they can refer the plans to the President and his Generals to consider in formulating a policy for moving in a new direction in Iraq. As Paul Rieckhoff said, “President Bush does not need to give a specific date. But how about a ballpark? One year? Five years? Fifty years? Every military mission I ever executed had a timeline. The American people, the Iraqi people, and our troops all need an idea of how far away the goal line is.” This is what the Iraqi President, Jalal al-Talabani has said, in a document released by the government, that, “We must agree on a timed schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq, while at the same time building up the Iraqi forces that will guarantee Iraqi security and this must be supported by a United Nations Security Council decision.” It is time for the Bush administration to stop characterizing plans to exit Iraq as “Cut and Run” and develop a policy that will allow the Iraqis to develop their full potential, assuming primary responsibility for their county, and bring our boys home before we loose another 2,500.