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Mainstream American Military, Foreign Service and Intelligence Leadership Says No to the Iraq War
By Kevin Zeese, www.democracyrising.org
While Cindy Sheehan has deservedly gotten a lot of attention for reawakening the anti-war movement with her allies from veteran and military family organizations, the especially interesting thing about the opposition to the Iraq War is that it includes former military leaders, former national security and intelligence officials as well as foreign service officers. The Iraq War that is opposed by those who generally support U.S. foreign and military affairs.
In fact, in March 2003, shortly before the war began hundreds of retired military officers wrote President Bush requesting a meeting before a final decision was made to invade. They expressed grave concerns about a war with Iraq. Their letter foretold the future, saying:
". . .we strongly question the need for a war at this time. Despite Secretary of State Colin Powell's report to the Security Council and the testimony of others in the administration, we are not convinced that coercive containment has failed, or that war has become necessary.
"Our own intelligence agencies have consistently noted both the absence of an imminent threat from Iraq and reliable evidence of cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Again, we question whether this is the right time and the right war.
"Further, we believe the risks involved in going to war, under the unclear and shifting circumstances that confront us today, are far greater than those faced in 1991. Instead of a desert war to liberate Kuwait, combat would likely involve protracted siege warfare, chaotic street-to-street fighting in Baghdad, and Iraqi civil conflict. If that occurs, we fear our own nation and Iraq would both suffer casualties not witnessed since Vietnam. We fear the resulting carnage and humanitarian consequences would further devastate Iraqi society and inflame an already volatile Middle East, and increase terrorism against U.S. citizens."
President Bush and his advisers ignored their request.
Now that we are three years into the war more and more military, national security and intelligence leaders are speaking out. Some examples:
Brent Skowcroft, national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush and deputy to Henry Kissinger in the Nixon Administration argued in 2002 before the decision to invade Iraq that "An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken." Weeks before the 2004 presidential election he described the Iraq War as a "failing venture," President George W. Bush being "mesmerized" by Ariel Sharon and his unilateralist policy undermining relations with U.S. allies three weeks before the 2004 presidential election. Skowcroft was a strong advocate for the Gulf War to remove Saddam from Kuwait, during that war he opposed invading Iraq and removing Saddam saying: "At the minimum, we'd be an occupier in a hostile land. Our forces would be sniped at by guerrillas, and, once we were there, how would we get out? What would be the rationale for leaving? I don't like the term ‘exit strategy'—but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?" Recently, The New Yorker reported: "This is exactly where we are now," he said of Iraq, with no apparent satisfaction. "We own it. And we can't let go."
General William Odom, a Retired General, Former Head of NSA Under President Reagan recently wrote an article "What's Wrong with Cutting and Running?" in which he persuasively argued that the war is serving the interests of Osama bin Laden, the Iranians, and extremists in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. All that we fear could go wrong if we "cut and run" is actually made more likely by our staying in Iraq. He argues the first step is to admit that entering Iraq was a mistake.
John Deutch, headed the Central Intelligence Agency from 1995 and 1996 and was deputy defense secretary 1994-1995 called for U.S. troops to immediately leave Iraq in June 2005. He says: "Those who argue that we should 'stay the course' because an early withdrawal... would hurt America's global credibility must consider the possibility that we will fail in our objectives in Iraq and suffer an even worse loss of credibility down the road." He sees no progress in U.S. objectives: "I do not believe that we are making progress on any of our key objectives in Iraq," adding that even when the Iraqi government appears to be functioning, "the underlying destabilizing effect of the insurgency is undiminished." In a speech at Harvard he identified five steps to disengagement in Iraq: letting Iraqis make their own political decisions, adopting a clear exit strategy and timetable, beginning the military withdrawal, establishing regional diplomacy to discourage external intervention in Iraq, and continued training of Iraqi forces. He concludes:
"Our best strategy now is a prompt withdrawal plan consisting of clearly defined political, military and economic elements,' including urging Iraq and its neighbors to recognize that it will be in everyone's interest to allow Iraq to 'evolve peacefully and without external intervention."
Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, describes President George W. Bush's foreign policy as "suicidal statecraft" in a Los Angeles Times commentary. He sees the Iraq War causing a host of problems concluding: "America is likely to become isolated in a hostile world, increasingly vulnerable to terrorist acts and less and less able to exercise constructive global influence. Flailing away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming 'I will stay the course' is an exercise in catastrophic leadership." He urges the Bush administration to seek a bi-partisan solution saying in such a setting "it would be easier not only to scale down the definition of success in Iraq but actually to get out — perhaps even as early as next year. And the sooner the U.S. leaves, the sooner the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis will either reach a political arrangement on their own or some combination of them will forcibly prevail."
Melvin Laird, the Secretary of Defense for President Richard Nixon, calls for an exit strategy from Iraq saying the Bush administration is repeating mistakes in Iraq made by Richard Nixon during the Vietnam war. He writes in a lengthy article in the November/December edition of "Foreign Affairs," about the "Vietnamization" program in which American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam with the current war in Iraq. "We need to put our resources and unwavering public support behind a program of ‘Iraqization' so that we can get out of Iraq and leave the Iraqis in a position to protect themselves." He concludes: "Our presence is what feeds the (Iraqi) insurgency, and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency."
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and a retired Army colonel in a speech to the New America Foundation accused Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld of leading a "cabal" that circumvented the formal policy-making and intelligence processes in order to take the country to war in Iraq. In a Los Angeles Times commentary he described this cabal leading to disaster:
"Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces (no surprise to ignored dissenters such as former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki or former Army Secretary Thomas White).
"It's a disaster. Given the choice, I'd choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time."
Wilkerson, while not calling for immediate withdrawal, is also critical of Capitol Hill saying: "furthermore that the people's representatives over on the Hill in that other branch of government have truly abandoned their oversight responsibilities in this regard and have let things atrophy to the point that if we don't do something about it, it's going to get - it's going to get even more dangerous than it already is."
Gen. Joseph P. Hoar a retired four-star general, was Commander in Chief of the U.S. Central Command (1991-94) and commanded the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf after the 1991 war. In testimony before the U.S. Senate in May 2004 he said "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss. We cannot start soon enough to begin the turnaround." Before the Center for American Progress on September 13, 2005 he described the Iraq War as "wrong from the beginning, and so as is often the case, it's very hard to make it right once you start down the wrong road. I'm not at all optimistic about the outcome. I think part of the reason is that our leadership - civilian leadership has got it wrong." General Hoard sees the potential for expansion of the conflict, therefore "the Defense Department not only needs to think about disengaging in Iraq, but to develop the contingency plans if you wind up with a full-scale insurgency in, say, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or if these people redouble the efforts of Hezbollah and Hamas in Israel."
Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan (ret.) has described Iraq as "the wrong war at the wrong time" and "As a result, terrorists are free to act at will on a worldwide basis while the U.S. searches for a way out of the Iraqi morass and while most of the rest of the world watches from the sidelines." One lesson we should take from Iraq, he says, is that "military power does not automatically translate into political and economic stability."
Vice Admiral Shanahan and General Hoar were part of a group of 29 military leaders who criticized the conduct of the Iraq War when they wrote Senator John McCain on October 3, 2005 urging a clear policy forbidding torture of detainees. They said: "The abuse of prisoners hurts America's cause in the war on terror, endangers U.S. service members who might be captured by the enemy, and is anathema to the values Americans have held dear for generations."
Edward Peck, the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Deputy Director of President Reagan's terrorist task force who served in World War II and Korea and then for 32 years as a diplomat describes the Iraq War as "unnecessary, poorly conceived and badly planned." He is critical of the U.S. for "installing" a democracy because such a democracy is doomed to fail "You cannot impose democracy. That's a dictatorship. Whatever you come up with is not a democracy because they have been coerced."
The views of these elite of military, intelligence and foreign service is buttressed by soldiers and commanders on the ground in Iraq. The Wall Street Journal on October 5 reported that while "President Bush worries that withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq too quickly will embolden the insurgents there. A growing number of military commanders and civilian policy makers are voicing the opposite concern: They fear the large U.S. troop presence is actually helping feed the insurgency and stunting Iraq's political growth." Other returning soldiers have described atrocities, hypocrisy in how Iraqi's are treated and others have refused to return to Iraq - even when threatened with incarceration.
The opposition to the Iraq War is broad and deep among those with expertise in foreign, military and intelligence matters. Indeed, their broad opposition reflects the views of most Americans where a growing majority opposes the Iraq War and occupation. Will the political leadership of either Party represent the views of the American public and end this debacle?