by Senator Ernest F. Hollings / Charleston Post and Courier –
SOUTH CAROLINA (November 15, 2003) — The majority leader of the Senate, Mike Mansfield, quietly opposed the war in Vietnam for years. He had a practice of writing memos in opposition to the war to Presidents Johnson and Nixon while publicly supporting the war on the floor of the Senate. But finally, when Cambodia was invaded under President Nixon, he snapped.
Going on television, he said Vietnam was a mistake from the get-go. The next day he received a letter from an admirer who had just lost her son. She said: “I just buried my son to come home and watch you say that the Vietnam War was a mistake from the beginning. Why didn’t you speak out sooner?”
I came to the Senate in 1966, and if Mansfield, an expert on the Far East, had spoken out at that time, we might have saved 50,000 lives. I have reached my “Cambodian moment.”
Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld Misled the Senate
In August and September of 2002, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld all cautioned that Saddam was reconstituting a nuclear program.
On September 8, the vice president said that we “know with absolute certainty” that this was what Saddam was about; then on October 7, President Bush went further, saying, “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
Four days later, I voted for the Iraq resolution. I was misled. Saddam was not reconstituting a nuclear program, and in no way was he connected to 9/11. There were no terrorists in Baghdad, no weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam was no threat to our national security. Iraq was not a part of the war on terrorism.
We Are Faced with New Vietnam
Now we have another Vietnam. Just as President Johnson misled us into Vietnam, President Bush has misled us into Iraq. As in Vietnam, they have not met us in the streets hailing democracy. Thousands of miles away, we are once again “fighting for the hearts and minds.”
Again, we are trying to build and destroy. Again, we are bogged down in a guerrilla war. Again, we are not allowing our troops to fight and win — we do not have enough troops. Again, we can’t get in, can’t get out. Again, instead of Vietnamizing Vietnam, we are trying to Iraqify Iraq. And already, with Rumsfeld’s memo, we have the Pentagon papers.
Once more we are blaming intelligence. It’s not bad intelligence; it’s because we refuse to listen to good intelligence, like that from Gen. Brent Scowcroft. We had plenty of warnings.
Iraq was under sanctions. We were overflying the north and the south; and you can bet your boots Israel knew whether or not Saddam had nuclear systems. Its survival depends on knowing. Iraq was no more a part of the war on terrorism than North Korea.
Save the Troops from Rumsfeld’s ‘Operation Meatgrinder’
If the troops are to fight, there are too few. If they are to die, there are too many. My goal is to stop the killing and injuring of our GI’s. To support the troops, we need more troops — at least 100,000 more. Get in, clean out Baghdad and the Sunni triangle. Get law and order. Then get a constitution and victory. But since Gen. Eric Shinseki said we need “several hundred thousand troops,” Secretary Rumsfeld is determined not to send troops, but to argue structure. “Operation Meatgrinder” continues.
Apparently, the game plan is to give 200,000 hungry Iraqis a uniform, a square meal, and then announce we have security and leave. We’ll end up with exactly what Secretary Rumsfeld said we wouldn’t have — a Shiite democracy or another Iran. And, of course, a lot more terrorism.
For the first time in history, this administration, this Congress, will not pay for the war. And for the Guardsmen we are sending this time, Washington hopes they don’t get killed so that they can hurry back and be given the bill. We are not going to pay for it; we need a tax cut.
We should have listened to former President “Papa” Bush, who wrote in A World Transformed:
“We should not march into Baghdad … turning the whole Arab world against us … assigning young soldiers … to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerrilla war.” ”
Ernest F. Hollings, a Democrat, is the senior US senator from South Carolina.
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