Hon. Dianne Feinstein / United States Senate – 2006-02-02 08:44:25
Dear Environmentalists Against War
A Letter from Sen. Dianne Feinstein
WASHINGTON (January 31, 2006) — The Senate vote on the resolution to authorize the use of force in Iraq was difficult and consequential based on hours of intelligence briefings from Administration and intelligence officials, as well as the classified and unclassified versions of an important National Intelligence Estimate that comprehensively assessed Iraq’s WMD program. It was based on trust that this intelligence was the best our Nation’s intelligence services could offer, untainted by bias, and fairly presented. In this case it was not.
The bottom line is that Iraq did not possess nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in 2003 when the war began. Saddam Hussein did not have an active nuclear, chemical or biological weapons program.
Considering the statements that were being made by the Administration, and the intelligence that was presented to Congress which said otherwise, this points once again to major failures in the analysis, collection and use of intelligence.
On top of these intelligence failures, the Administration’s war planning was shortsighted and ill-conceived. By failing to provide adequate troop levels to secure Iraq and its borders and ignoring requests from General Shinseki and others to increase troop levels, the Administration placed the entire mission in Iraq in jeopardy.
While the situation in Iraq causes all of us deep and growing concern, I recognize that setting a specific date for withdrawal of all American troops, without completing this mission, carries with it the particular hazard that Iraq would deteriorate into chaos, civil war, and a terrorist state would evolve thereby destabilizing the Middle East. Terrorists would be re-invigorated by America turning tail and running, and would increase their efforts to attack westerners and in particular, Americans.
However, I do believe that once a permanent Iraqi leadership is established as a result of the election held on December 15, 2005, there will be an opportunity to assess the stability and the results of American training of Iraqi police and military. It may well be that there will be a better opportunity to then begin a withdrawal.
To further this effort, on October 6, 2005, I joined a group of 38 Democratic senators and one Independent to urge President Bush to provide the American people with a clear strategy for success in Iraq. Citing the aforementioned concerns about escalating sectarian violence, the risk of an outbreak of outright civil war, and conflicting reports on the status of actual progress in training Iraqi forces, we urged the Administration to immediately provide a strategy for success in Iraq.
Specifically, the letter posed four critical questions about the Administration’s Iraq policy:
• How many Iraqi forces are needed to secure the country without U.S. assistance before U.S. forces can be withdrawn;
• What measures are planned to take place before and after the October 15th constitutional referendum to forge the necessary political consensus in Iraq and reconcile the growing sectarian and religious differences;
• What efforts are being undertaken to attain broader international support; and
• How should the American people assess the progress in reconstructing Iraq? What are the tangible results of the billions of dollars Americans have provided for Iraq’s reconstruction?
I believe the Administration must provide the answers to these basic and fundamental questions about U.S. strategy in Iraq because the American people and our men and women in uniform deserve to hear this vital information. I have attached a copy of my most recent op-ed on Iraq so that you may better understand my views of the current situation there.
Know that I will continue to carefully monitor events in the Middle East, and do my best to ensure that US policy is developed in a manner that allows our men and women to come home as soon as possible. As you know, the Executive branch and both houses are all controlled by Republicans, so they bear a larger responsibility in ensuring a successful outcome in Iraq.
Again, thank you for writing. If you have any further comments, please contact my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841, or visit my website at http://feinstein.senate.gov/. Best regards.
A War Worth Fighting?
Not If We Keep Placing Our Troops
In The Bull’s-Eye Of An Insurgency That
Shows No Signs Of Going Away
By Dianne Feinstein
WASHINGTON (October 27, 2005) — The approval of a new constitution by the Iraqi people is welcome news. But it contrasts dramatically with the fact that US troop fatalities have now surpassed 2,000.
We pay homage to the courage, sacrifice, and honor of over 2,000 American soldiers lost but not forgotten in our hearts. Their families grieve and suffer. Increasingly, they and other Americans demand answers about how we will disentangle ourselves from a situation that will undoubtedly take more American lives — if we don’t reconsider America’s current mission and prospects in Iraq.
As we look forward, I believe the parliamentary election on Dec. 15 represents a significant turning point. For the first time in history, the Iraqi people will have democratically elected their permanent leaders to serve full four-year terms. Their constitution, problematic as it may be, has been adopted, and it is time for Iraqis to take greater control.
But the stark reality is that the violent insurgency will most likely continue unabated. This new constitution will not diminish the pervasive fear that exists today walking the streets in Baghdad, conducting business in Mosul, and driving the highway to Tikrit.
The fact is that a disaffected Sunni minority is the driving force behind an insurgency that kills innocent civilians daily for absolutely no good reason. This is not an insurgency single-mindedly propelling itself against U.S. forces, rather, at its core it is driven by visceral Sunni fear and objections to Shiite rule over the near and long term.
A growing perception is that U.S. military forces buttress the Shiites. As a result, we pay a high cost, in lives lost and casualties. We need to change course to remove ourselves from being the literal and figurative target of Sunni enmity.
These elections, once completed, should signal a major re-evaluation of U.S. policy and the American mission in Iraq.
We are in the middle of two factions, Shiite and Sunni, attempting to settle their differences by mostly violent means. Sunni extremists have killed over 8,000 Iraqis so far this year and estimates indicate 25,000 to 30,000 Iraqis have lost their lives since the war began.
I believe this is a matter for Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to address through political negotiation. This battle cannot be won militarily.
Drawing down our troop strength will not only take our service men and women out of harm’s way, but it will also force Iraq’s religious and political leaders to confront the insurgency and find a balance of power acceptable to Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. The alternative — a continuation of this slaughter of innocents — will only continue to grow with the inevitable result: a drift into a civil war.
It has become increasingly clear that the continued American presence in Iraq is a lightning rod for violence. It does nothing to diminish the Shiite- Sunni hatred. Rather, it makes reconciliation less likely. It gives the insurgents an enemy to rally against — they are waging jihad against an occupying force when they are in fact waging war against their fellow Muslims.
Ultimately, the Iraqis will have to defend themselves and confront the insurgency, both militarily and politically. The question is when.
As long as the United States is perceived as the bulwark for the Shiite majority, this coming to terms is hindered, not helped.
Training Iraqi Forces
In the interim period ahead, US forces will have a significant role to play, especially in the areas of training and rebuilding infrastructure.
The Pentagon estimates that an additional 125,000 Iraqi security personnel will be needed to bring total strength to 325,000. The United States must do everything it can to continue to train soldiers and prepare them to assume the security obligations of the nation. For starters, we need to increase the number of U.S. military personnel providing initial training to the Iraqi forces from the current 1,200.
This does not necessarily mean that all Iraqi forces will be trained to the level of U.S. forces — that is unlikely — but the real benchmark is for Iraqi units to have a basic level of training and equipment to safeguard their towns, cities and communities.
If Shiites and Sunni can reconcile, Iraq can be a place of peace and prosperity where Iraqis can walk the street and engage in business, and democracy can thrive.
America needs to change course, reassess its mission in light of this escalating insurgency, place more responsibility on Iraq for a negotiated settlement, and begin a structured drawdown of American forces.
Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the Nation are available at my website http://feinstein.senate.gov.