If I were in the Senate gallery today for this speech by Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), I’d have stood and applauded. Loudly. It is well worth reading in its entirety, but here’s a piece of it.
The Iraq Study Group has given us some ideas. I don’t know if they are good or not. It does seem to me that it is a recipe for retreat. It is not cut and run, but it is cut and walk. I don’t know that that is any more honorable than cutting and running, because cutting and walking involves greater expenditure of our treasure, greater loss of American lives.
Many things have been attributed to George Bush. I have heard him on this floor blamed for every ill, even the weather. But I do not believe him to be a liar. I do not believe him to be a traitor, nor do I believe all the bravado and the statements and the accusations made against him. I believe him to be a very idealistic man. I believe him to have a stubborn backbone. He is not guilty of perfidy, but I do believe he is guilty of believing bad intelligence and giving us the same.
I can’t tell you how devastated I was to learn that in fact we were not going to find weapons of mass destruction. But remembering the words of the soldier — don’t tell me you support the troops but you don’t support my mission — I felt the duty to continue my support . Yet I believe the President is guilty of trying to win a short war and not understanding fully the nature of the ancient hatreds of the Middle East. Iraq is a European creation. At the Treaty of Versailles, the victorious powers put together Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia tribes that had been killing each other for time immemorial. I would like to think there is an Iraqi identity. I would like to remember the purple fingers raised high. But we can not want democracy for Iraq more than they want it for themselves. And what I find now is that our tactics there have failed.
Again, I am not a soldier, but I do know something about military history. And what that tells me is when you are engaged in a war of insurgency, you can’t clear and leave. With few exceptions, throughout Iraq that is what we have done. To fight an insurgency often takes a decade or more. It takes more troops than we have committed. It takes clearing, holding, and building so that the people there see the value of what we are doing. They become the source of intelligence, and they weed out the insurgents. But we have not cleared and held and built. We have cleared and left, and the insurgents have come back.
I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal . I cannot support that anymore . I believe we need to figure out how to fight the war on terror and to do it right. So either we clear and hold and build, or let’s go home.
There are no good options, as the Iraq Study Group has mentioned in their report. I am not sure cutting and walking is any better. I have little confidence that the Syrians and the Iranians are going to be serious about helping us to build a stable and democratic Iraq. I am at a crossroads as well. I want my constituents to know what is in my heart, what has guided my votes.
What will continue to guide the way I vote is simply this: I do not believe we can retreat from the greater war on terror. Iraq is a battlefield in that larger war. But I do believe we need a presence there on the near horizon at least that allows us to provide intelligence, interdiction, logistics, but mostly a presence to say to the murderers that come across the border: We are here, and we will deal with you. But we have no business being a policeman in someone else’s civil war.
I welcome the Iraq Study Group’s report, but if we are ultimately going to retreat, I would rather do it sooner than later. I am looking for answers, but the current course is unacceptable to this Senator. I suppose if the President is guilty of one other thing, I find it also in the words of Winston Churchill. He said:
After the First World War, let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy or that anyone who embarks on this strange voyage can measure the tides and the hurricanes. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.