Congress Must Clarify US Policy Toward Iraq

February 1st, 2005 - by admin

Friends Committee on National Legislation – 2005-02-01 23:13:23

The elections in Iraq may help set that country along a path toward a long term political transition, but no one in Iraq or in the US government believes they will end the violent insurgency or stabilize the situation in the short term.

Some observers, such as former Republican White House aide Brent Scowcroft, argue the elections could make things worse.

But Congress could help this process immensely by addressing the lack of clarity in US policy.

The political process in Iraq is being undermined by the perception in that country and in the rest of the world that the US has a long term plan to stay in Iraq. The US government has refused to make a clear, unequivocal statement that it has no long term interest in maintaining military troops or bases in that country.

Whether you or your senators believe the US should withdraw from Iraq immediately or remain until enough stability has been achieved to guarantee a successful transition, most people can agree that ultimately US policy should be to withdraw completely from that country. It’s time to say so.

The Iraqi elections, rather than turning out to be a promising turning point, have the great potential for deepening the conflict.
— Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser for President George H.W. Bush

There is a stunning lack of clarity in current US policy toward Iraq. The continuing presence of US troops and military bases in Iraq without any clear indication that they will ever leave is the single most important factor contributing to the growing insurgency and instability in Iraq.

President George W. Bush and his senior aides have repeatedly refused to state clearly that the US has no long term imperial ambitions in Iraq and that all US military troops and bases will be withdrawn from that country. The Iraqi public is well aware that the US has built 14 military bases in that country, many of which look like permanent structures.

When asked about US intentions in Iraq during her confirmation hearings in the Senate in mid-January, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice again declared: “I am really reluctant to try to put a timetable on that, because I think the goal is to get the mission accomplished.” Pressed to say the US will ultimately withdraw, administration officials have waffled. The people of Iraq were watching these answers closely.

The United States remains divided about the appropriate course in Iraq. But most people agree that the US should ultimately withdraw all military troops and bases. Now is the time to state that goal clearly. There will still be time to accomplish that goal in the future.

Government officials and others argue that any statement talking about withdrawal right now will undermine the process in Iraq. But many people, including retired US General William Odom, now believe the longer US troops remain in Iraq, the greater the instability and the greater the possibility that the country will disintegrate into civil war. Iraqi anger at the US troop presence and the photos of US soldiers torturing Iraqi detainees have unified many historically adversarial communities behind the goal of expelling the US forces.

After two years of failure, those advocating that the US troops should remain in Iraq need to demonstrate that a continuing US military presence is contributing to ending the violence and achieving stability. So far they have been failed to do so.

The reality is now that, as bad as the consequences of withdrawal are, the consequences of staying are and will be worse. Thus, the US has a responsibility to withdraw.

Discussion of Iraq will intensify in the period leading up to the elections and in the immediate aftermath.

• If you haven’t already written to Congress on this issue, write your Senators, urging them to help end the violence in Iraq by clarifying US policy with a simple resolution stating “It is the policy of the United States to withdraw all military troops and bases from Iraq.”

• Use FCNL’s Web Site to Send Your Letter: To view a sample letter, click on this link, then enter your zip code and click “Go” in the “Take Action Now” box.

• If you have already written to Congress on this issue, please share this email with five friends urging them to take similar action.

• Try to think of friends or people you know who might have special influence with your Senators – religious leaders, members of the local school board, city council or heads of organizations.

• Contact Congress and the Administration,

Friends Committee on National Legislation, 245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795 *
(202)547-6000. (800)630-1330