In October 2005, John Kerry outlined a comprehensive strategy to complete the mission in Iraq and redeploy the vast majority of American troops out of Iraq by the end of 2006. His plan called for the Bush administration to begin with the draw down of 20,000 U.S. troops after successful Iraqi elections in December.
Because there has been no significant progress made in Iraq since John Kerry detailed his plan nearly five months ago, and because the Bush administration continues it’s aimless, dangerous “stay the course” path, in tomorrow’s NY Times, John Kerry has called for a May 15 deadline to be set for Iraq’s elected leaders to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military. Kerry’s clear-eyed assessment acknowledges the simple, plain truth that “If Iraqis aren’t willing to build a unity government in the five months since the election, they’re not willing to build it at all.”
Two Deadlines and an Exit
By JOHN F. KERRY
Published: April 5, 2006, Washington
WE are now in the third war in Iraq in as many years. The first was against Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction. The second was against terrorists whom, the administration said, it was better to fight over there than here. Now we find our troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.
Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America’s leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion. We want democracy in Iraq, but Iraqis must want it as much as we do. Our valiant soldiers can’t bring democracy to Iraq if Iraq’s leaders are unwilling themselves to make the compromises that democracy requires.
As our generals have said, the war cannot be won militarily. It must be won politically. No American soldier should be sacrificed because Iraqi politicians refuse to resolve their ethnic and political differences.
So far, Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines — a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, and a deadline to hold three elections.
Now we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet.
Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military. If Iraqis aren’t willing to build a unity government in the five months since the election, they’re probably not willing to build one at all. The civil war will only get worse, and we will have no choice anyway but to leave.
If Iraq’s leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year’s end. Doing so will empower the new Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country. Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain.
For this transition to work, we must finally begin to engage in genuine diplomacy. We must immediately bring the leaders of the Iraqi factions together at a Dayton Accords-like summit meeting. In a neutral setting, Iraqis, working with our allies, the Arab League and the United Nations, would be compelled to reach a political agreement that includes security guarantees, the dismantling of the militias and shared goals for reconstruction.
To increase the pressure on Iraq’s leaders, we must redeploy American forces to garrisoned status. Troops should be used for security backup, training and emergency response; we should leave routine patrols to Iraqi forces. Special operations against Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists in Iraq should be initiated only on hard intelligence leads.
We will defeat Al Qaeda faster when we stop serving as its best recruitment tool. Iraqis ultimately will not tolerate foreign jihadists on their soil, and the United States will be able to maintain an over-the-horizon troop presence with rapid response capacity. An exit from Iraq will also strengthen our hand in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat and allow us to repair the damage of repeated deployments, which flag officers believe has strained military readiness and morale.
For three years now, the administration has told us that terrible things will happen if we get tough with the Iraqis. In fact, terrible things are happening now because we haven’t gotten tough enough. With two deadlines, we can change all that. We can put the American leadership on the side of our soldiers and push the Iraqi leadership to do what only it can do: build a democracy.
John F. Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004.
As Kerry pointed out in his OP/ED, “Our own generals say we cannot win this war militarily” he’s said before -– “it must be won politically.”
General George Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, told Congress last fall that our large military presence “feeds the notion of occupation” and “extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant.”
John Kerry calls for establishing a May 15 deadline for Iraq’s elected leaders to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military.
In the past Iraqi leaders have responded to deadlines – a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, and to hold three elections. If they are unable to build a unity government, the civil war will only get worse and we will have no choice but to leave.
If a unity government is formed, Kerry says, “we must agree upon a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by the end of this year — 2006.
This will empower the new Iraqi leadership, get Iraqis to run their country, and undermine support for the insurgency among the 80% of Iraqis who want us to leave.
John Kerry’s plan offers a responsible military and diplomatic transition for Iraq.
• U.S. troops critical to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces will remain in the country.
• American Special Operations forces will be redeployed to garrisoned status for security back up, training and emergency response.
• The U.S. will immediately bring the leaders of the Iraqi factions together at a Dayton Accords-like summit that includes our allies, the Arab League and the U.N..
o At this summit, the Iraqis will be made to reach a political agreement that includes security guarantees, disbanding the militias and reconstruction efforts.
Kerry’s plan for Iraq focuses on how to make America more secure at home and around the world.
• We will defeat Al Qaeda faster when we stop serving as their best recruitment tool.
• Iraq will not be the breeding ground for terrorism that Afghanistan was because Iraqis ultimately will not tolerate foreign jihadists on their soil.
• Leaving Iraq will strengthen our hand in addressing the nuclear threat from Iran.
• Leaving Iraq will allow us to repair the damage flag officers fear has been done to our armed forces.
We are in the third war in Iraq in years. The first war was against Saddam Hussein and his alleged weapons of mass destruction. The second war was against Jihadist terrorists. Now American troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.
“Staying the course,” the Bush plan for Iraq, is a foolish and immoral option. “Half the names on the Vietnam wall were added after America’s leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion,” said Kerry in the NY Times. It’s time for Iraq to get it together, it’s time for the Bush administration to get it together. John Kerry is right!
NOTE: See also — John Kerry: A Record of Leadership on Iraq