David Swanson / Raw Story.org – 2006-10-09 00:24:04
(September 27, 2006) — Present (whole time or briefly, in order of arrival): Representatives Lee, Woolsey, Jackson-Lee, Rothman, Kilpatrick, Conyers, Hinchey, Owens, Kaptor, Hoyer (who left quickly and did not get a chance to speak), Tierney, Farr, Watson, Delahunt, Shakowsky.
Corporate media present: apparently none.
Panel 1: Witnesses: Lt. Gen. William Odom, Dr. Paul Pillar.
Pillar spoke first. He addressed the question of whether the disaster in Iraq is the result of poor execution or of the initial decision to go in at all. “Most of what we are seeing,” he said, “and in particular the communal violence, is an almost inevitable result of having ousted the dictator Saddam Hussein.”
Odom spoke second and addressed points of argumentation that he hears too often and is tired of hearing, including being told to ignore the past and focus on the future, to ignore how we got into Iraq and only talk about what to do from here on. Unless, Odom said, we discuss whose interests this war served, we cannot decide what to do. It served no US interests. It served the interests of al Qaeda and Iran.
Al Qaeda recruiting declined in 2002, Odom said, but spiked after the US invaded — rose in Asia as well as in the Middle East. And Iraq is a great training ground for terrorists now. In addition, Odom said, a wedge is being driven between the United States and its European allies. “Osama understands that; we seem not to.” The invasion of Iraq, Odom said, probably saved al Qaeda from ceasing to exist.
“Iran’s clerics,” Odom added, “must have been equally surprised and delighted.” Terrorists can now train in Iraq and engage in violence in Israel.
The longer the war goes on, Odom stressed, the more it benefits al Qaeda and Iran.
During questions and answers Odom addressed the notion that US troops need to do a better job of training Iraqi troops. If we do that, he said, the military will take over and install a dictatorship. The problem is not one of soldiers’ skills, he said, but of political loyalties.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee said that the House is voting today on more money for the war, and that she will vote against it, but that she is glad to have successfully included in the bill a stipulation that no money can be spent on permanent US bases in Iraq during 2007.
Odom again spoke about what would happen when/if the United States pulls out. The aftermath is going to be great, he said. It was going to be great the day you went in, but the longer you wait the greater it will be. And, Odom added to noticable effect, this will be the greatest strategic defeat in American history.
Congressman Rothman said that he had voted for the war because he had believed Bush and Rumsfeld, and that he now understood they had been lying. He said he saw the same approach now underway with Iran, and that he thought it was aimed at the coming US elections.
Odom again spoke of leaving Iraq and said “It takes a very high level of ignorance to believe America can leave behind in Iraq any government that will not be anti-American.”
But Odom argued that staying longer in Iraq would make things worse, whereas getting out would dramatically improve America’s standing in the world. Our standing went up as soon as we got out of Vietnam, he said.
“Beating the war drums on Iran,” Odom said, “is a disaster that will make this one look small.”
Odom did not hesitate to criticise the Congress Members in the room. He recalled the day on which Republicans in Congress, in response to Rep. John Murtha’s bill, proposed a bill to simply withdraw from Iraq. The Democrats scattered in fear, Odom said. He recommended that they should have introduced a bill to send 600,000 more troops to Iraq.
Congressman Conyers replied that the Republican bill did not allow amendments, so the Democrats could not have done that.
Odom said that the most important thing for the United States to do now is to talk to Iran, a nation with which we have many common interests. Both nations, Odom said, oppose al Qaeda. One wants to sell oil, the other wants to buy. Iran’s government hated Saddam Hussein and should appreciate what the US did. “We have two issues,” Odom said, “Hezbollah and nukes, and they’re going to get nuclear weapons – there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Conyers thanked Odom and Pillar but said that he and his colleagues who agree with him cannot convince other Congress Members. “There’s one thing that gets to members, and that’s constituents….” In the end, conyers said, the question is how do we get more of our people to tell their representatives that the Progressive Caucus members are right?
Pillar drew a comparison between Iraq and Afghanistan. The jihad in Afghanistan for 10 years against the Soviet Union served to train terrorists, he said, and we are still experiencing the results. Iraq is now that training ground, and we may see results for many years, he said.
Rep. Hinchey asked Odom “How do we get out?”
Odom’s reply came without a pause: “Well, the Constitution gives the House the right to impeach.”