Volume 75, Number 44 | March 22 -28 2006

Talking Point

Bush didn’t lie, but if NATO balks we must pull out

By Ed Koch  

On March 12, The New York Times published the first of two articles on “Saddam’s Secret Strategy.” The Times reported that “the Iraqi dictator was so secretive and kept information so compartmentalized that his top military leaders were stunned when he told them [in December 2002] three months before the war that he had no weapons of mass destruction and they were demoralized because they had counted on hidden stocks of poison gas or germ weapons for the nation’s defense.”

This information was provided to a C.I.A. task force called the Iraq Survey Group by Tariq Aziz, who had been deputy prime minister of Iraq. The survey group was established by the C.I.A. after the Second Gulf War ended to investigate what happened to Iraq’s weapons programs. The Times article continues, “To ensure that Iraq would pass scrutiny by United Nations arms inspectors, Mr. Hussein ordered that they be given the access that they wanted. And he ordered a crash effort to scrub the country so the inspectors would not discover any vestiges of old unconventional weapons, no small concern in a nation that had once amassed an arsenal of chemical weapons, biological agents and Scud missiles, the Iraq Survey Group said.”

If the Iraqi generals believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction up until they were informed by Saddam Hussein three months before the war started, and the U.N. was unaware of how and where the W.M.D. had been dispersed or destroyed, it is not surprising that the C.I.A., with few, if any, agents in Iraq before the war, also believed that Iraq still had W.M.D.

Will The New York Times editorial board and the radicals on the left like MoveOn and the American Civil Liberties Union, all having for years accused the Bush administration of lying to the American people on Iraq’s possession of W.M.D., now admit error? Will the A.C.L.U. run another full-page ad in The Times admitting that it was wrong when it accused the president of lying about Iraq’s possessing W.M.D., thereby committing high crimes and misdemeanors worthy of impeachment?

The self-appointed watchmen of our society, including those I mentioned, and the many media commentators and politically active citizens, e.g. Cindy Sheehan, Harry Belafonte, Michael Moore, Times columnist Bob Herbert and so many others who have made wild charges against the president, will undoubtedly continue to do so. They have injured the country in the eyes of the world. I do not expect them to admit error in their wild charges and apologize, no matter what the facts show.

Congress recently held hearings on what the role of the U.S. armed forces will be in Iraq in the event of a civil war. The Bush administration, using Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, in media interviews, takes the position that to date there is no civil war taking place. They say the Iraqi people on all sides looked into the abyss and pulled back.

I don’t believe that. The bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a venerated Shiite religious site — apparently perpetrated by the Sunnis — and the destruction of 100 Sunni mosques in retaliation, along with the execution of hundreds on all sides since the Golden Mosque bombing surely signifies a civil war. Two weeks ago, The Times reported, “Six car bombs exploded at dusk on Sunday in four crowded markets in a Shiite area of eastern Baghdad, and an Interior Ministry official and witnesses said the bombs killed at least 46 people, wounded more than 200 others and spurred Shiite militiamen to take to the streets.” Both Shiites and Sunnis believe the American armed forces will help and protect the other side, their enemies in the fratricide taking place. The U.S. position will undoubtedly be to remain neutral and work with and protect both sides. There must be an Islamic verse somewhere that states, “The friend of my enemy is also my enemy.” I fear our troops will be targeted by both sides.

What is the solution? I have proposed that we issue an ultimatum to our NATO and regional allies informing them that unless they join us by providing their military forces now and funding for the future, we will leave Iraq before the end of June. If they don’t join us, the Iraq civil war will spread and endanger some of those countries physically and others economically.

The closer Iraq has come to a civil war, which many people believe as I do is already here, the more reasonable and doable my proposal becomes. American casualties now total 2,309 dead and 17,004 injured. American expenditures since the Iraq War was declared total $350 billion with $120 billion more currently being requested by the administration from Congress. The voices in the land in both Congress and in the cities demanding immediate withdrawal are rising.

If the offer to stay — provided our allies join us — is not made by our government soon, it will not be available because an overwhelming number of our citizens will demand immediate unconditional withdrawal. The Congressional election of November 2006 will soon be upon us, making it more difficult for those supporting our remaining in Iraq — until the Iraqis are able to defend themselves — to convince a majority in Congress running for re-election to continue to support funding the war.

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