Declaring Victory

One of the cool things about achieving some small level of blog notoriety is that suddenly all sorts of people start sending you stuff. I met former New York mayor Ed Koch at the Republican National Convention this past August, and he’s been sending me his commentary pieces ever since.

This weeks commentary is particularly interesting as a conversation starter on the way ahead in Iraq. Koch, a strong supporter of the re-election effort for President Bush even though he’s best known a Democrat, argues that it’s time for a bold move in Iraq. His commentary is reprinted below (with permission) in the extended section of this article.

I’m curious what Wizbang readers think of his idea…

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Ed Koch Commentary
January 17, 2005

The time has come for the United States to declare victory in Iraq and bring our troops home.

The war against Iraq was initiated because our security forces, particularly the CIA, advised President Bush that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the countries in its region and a foreseeable threat to the U.S. Almost every major government in the world, including those of allies Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia, had also been advised by their security agencies that Iraq had WMD. Whether those agencies and our CIA were correct in that assessment or were duped by Saddam Hussein remains a mystery.

After a thorough search by U.S. ground forces, those weapons have not been found. In all probability, we will never know whether they were destroyed, transported out of the country, or are still hidden somewhere in Iraq. We do know, however, that Iraq is no longer able to wage war with WMD or conventional weapons and is no longer an imminent or foreseeable threat to anyone except its own citizens.

During the actual war itself from March 13 to May 1, 2003, the U.S. suffered a relatively small number of casualties: 139 dead and 542 wounded. In the ensuing occupation that continues today, however, we have suffered an additional 1,226 deaths and 9,830 casualties.

Germany, France and most of the NATO nations did not stand with us and never participated in the war or the occupation. Some of those who joined us, albeit with a minuscule number of troops, e.g., Spain, Poland and the Ukraine, have since left or have announced their intention to depart.

Great Britain has been our only true friend on Iraq. It has devoted substantial troops to the war effort, and stands shoulder to shoulder with us in the occupation effort, despite suffering significant military casualties and deaths. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been pilloried for his extraordinary leadership and savagely attacked by members of his own party. If his Labor Party colleagues did not think he was absolutely necessary to assure their victories in upcoming elections, they would have jettisoned him by now, and they still may do so after he leads them to victory in those elections. Blair has extraordinary oratorical skills, and he has often brilliantly stated why it was right to undertake the war in Iraq and why it is right to stay in Iraq until a democratic government is assured.

To his enormous credit, President Bush has stood strong on this issue. During the last election, he convinced the American public that we were right to take the action he ordered as President, and he was reelected, increasing his support in almost every sector of our society. I was and continue to be proud of my support for his decision to go to war and of my participation as a volunteer in his campaign for reelection.

Regrettably, the country remains divided on the issue. In my opinion, what underlies America’s great concern over the war is the fact that the U.S. and Great Britain alone are suffering the military casualties and deaths. Our traditional allies, France, Germany and Canada, continue to criticize us while benefiting from the heroic sacrifices made by the U.S. and Great Britain.

We expected the people of Iraq, particularly the Shia in the south who have been terrorized for years by Saddam Hussein, and the swamp Arabs whose living area was deliberately destroyed by Hussein, to welcome our armies as liberators. But they did not. To the contrary, the Shia, albeit to a lesser extent than the Sunnis, have sought to kill our troops. In addition, vast numbers of Iraqis continue to suffer near daily, brutal attacks by Hussein loyalists, most of whom are Sunnis. They continue to support him even while he awaits trial in prison for the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, including ethnic minorities such as the Kurds and the Shia majority.

The Iraqi terrorists have been more successful than anyone expected in sowing terror in an effort to prevent the election scheduled for January 30. Nevertheless, that election will take place, notwithstanding the successes the terrorists have had in inflicting severe casualties, and despite the lack of aid from the regional powers such as Turkey, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia, which have the most to gain by a democratically governed Iraq. In light of the current conditions in Iraq, I suggest the following:

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair should inform the present interim Iraqi government that within 60 days after the January 30 election, we will begin the removal of our combined forces and the withdrawal will be completed within 90 days thereafter. The Iraqi army, now about 150,000 strong, will have to control the country and its porous borders.

Iraq’s neighbors may lament and complain bitterly that the vacuum created by the absence of our troops will lead to civil war. To prevent that from happening, neighboring countries might conclude that it is necessary to commit their troops to prevent such a war. Other Muslim countries, either Sunni or Shia in tradition, might similarly conclude that they too should commit troops to protect their coreligionists. NATO countries for either humanitarian reasons or as a result of dependency on Iraqi oil or for other economic concerns, might feel compelled to get involved and be willing to shed the blood of their young men and women to defend the peace.

I suspect that if George Bush and Tony Blair advanced this proposal, we would be implored to remain in Iraq by the Sunni, Shia, NATO allies, the countries in the region, and by Muslim states around the world. For the first time in a long while, we would be in the catbird seat directing those nations as to what their share of boots on the ground would be and what their reimbursement and fair share would be of the 200 billion or more that we have spent to date. It would then be our option to stay or leave.

In the event we leave, the Kurds should be given the arms they need to protect themselves and a commitment that the U.S. and Great Britain will continue to enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq which our NATO allies of France and Germany had never supported.

I concur with the recent advice of Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, but go even further. According to The New York Times on January 10, 2005:

Mr. Scowcroft said the situation in Iraq raised the fundamental question of ‘whether we get out now.’ He urged Mr. Bush to tell the Europeans on a trip to Europe next month: ‘I can’t keep the American people doing this alone. And what do you think would happen if we pulled American troops out right now?’ In short, he was suggesting that Mr. Bush raise the specter that Iraq could collapse without a major foreign presence – exactly the rationale the administration has used for its current policy.

I would go even further. I would tell the Europeans that the U.S. will not consider remaining in Iraq unless the Europeans commit their troops and join us. They should know that the days of America and Britain bearing the deaths and casualties alone are over.

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