Fallujahby Senator Lindsey Graham
Posted on 2014-01-09
GRAHAM. I would be glad to respond to the Senator's comments.
No. 1, I understand the average American thinks of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as having been long and difficult wars costing a lot of money and a lot of American lives. But the point of the war is to make sure that radical Islam is contained and eventually defeated, and that is going to take an effort on our part.
Does it matter that the Al Qaeda flag flies over Fallujah and Ramadi? I think it does. I think when Al Qaeda occupies a city anywhere in the world, it potentially affects every city throughout the world. Imagine the Nazis having come back in Germany and occupying part of Germany. We didn't let that happen. We had a following force in Japan and Germany to make sure the transition from totalitarian and dictatorial states to functioning democracies would occur. We are still in Japan and Germany. We are not taking casualties.
To go into the Mideast and replace dictatorships and think you can do it in a matter of months or even a decade is probably not going to hold water, quite frankly. The good news is we were in a position in Iraq in 2010 where if we had left behind a residual force not to be in combat but to provide the logistical, air support, training, intelligence capabilities missing in the Iraqi Army, this would have been a very different outcome.
And it does matter to my fellow citizens here in the United States. If Al Qaeda is on the rise anywhere, it does affect us. Remember Afghanistan? Remember when the Russians left and the Taliban took over and they invited Al Qaeda and bin Laden in to be their honored guests? The rest is history. The reason 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 and not 3 million is the terrorists, the radical Islamists, Al Qaeda and their affiliates can't get the weapons to kill 3 million of us. If they could, they would.
So the goal is to create stability and marginalize Al Qaeda throughout the region. Unfortunately, as Senator McCain has predicted for a very long time, the absence of a following force allows security to break down and the vacuum was filled by the emergence of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
I would like to go over some testimony from June of 2010, when General Austin was about to take over from General Odierno the command of our operations in Iraq. General Austin told me during my questioning that we were inside the 10-yard line when it came to being successful in Iraq. In other words, the surge had worked. The surge Senator McCain supported during his Presidential campaign worked.
President Bush made his fair share of mistakes in Iraq, but to his undying credit he adjusted policies. We were all in. He gave General Petraeus all the troops we had to give and he stood behind General Petraeus, and over a 2- or 3-year period there was a phenomenal turnaround in the security situation in Iraq. The surge started in late 2007, early 2008.
Here is what had existed in 2010 in June. Basically, we were inside the 10-yard line, and General Odierno said: I think the next 18 months will determine whether we get to the goal line or give the Iraqis an opportunity to hit the goal line beyond 2011.
So we were in a good spot. The surge had worked, and we needed to close this thing out. I asked this question back in 2010: What would happen if Iraq had become a failed state? Let's say we are inside the 10-yard line but we are not smart enough to get in the end zone. What would happen? Here is what General Odierno said: . . . if we had a failed state in Iraq, it would create uncertainty and significant instability probably within the region. Because of the criticality of Iraq, its relationship to Iran, its relationship to the other Arab states in the region, if it became unstable, it could create an environment that could continue to increase the instability.
I don't believe we are close to that. I believe we are very far away from that happening. I think we are definitely on the right path. But those are the kinds of things which would happen if we had a complete breakdown inside Iraq. Here was a quote: [[Page S199]] The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, has said repeatedly that Iraq is not yet fully capable of defending its own air space or land borders, and that it needs help in other areas such as intelligence and logistics.
Our military commanders were telling us that the surge had worked, but we were not there yet.
Here is what I would like to say to the administration: If you believe Iraq was the wrong war to fight and we shouldn't be there, own your decision. Don't blame the Iraqis.
The truth is the administration, led by President Obama, had absolutely no desire to leave one person behind in Iraq because this was Bush's war and America was tired, and he ran on the idea of ending the war in Iraq. When it came time to make that fateful decision about a small 10,000 or 12,000, whatever the number was, residual force to maintain the gains we fought so hard and to keep Iraq stable, he now wants to tell the world it was the Iraqis. I know differently.
I know, and so does Senator McCain, that this administration made it impossible for the Iraqis to say yes because this administration would never give the Iraqi Government a troop number from the White House as to the size of the force.
I remember General Austin saying publicly we needed 18,000. The bottom line from the Pentagon was somewhere slightly north of 10,000. I remember the discussions in the White House got down to 3,500 and it was cascading down.
I remember General Dempsey answering my question as to how the numbers were reduced: Was it as a result of the Iraqis saying, no, that is too many troops to leave behind in Iraq or were the numbers reduced because the White House did not want to have that many people left behind? He said the cascading down from 18,000 all the way to 3,500 had nothing to do with the Iraqis. It was the uncertainty and unwillingness of the White House to commit to a number.
So what happened? We left the country with 200 U.S. troops advising and assisting, no capability. Everything they talked about happening if we do not get Iraq right and get into the end zone from the 10-yard line in 2010 is happening on steroids. Everything our generals told us about what would await Iraq if we didn't get this right is coming true at an accelerated pace.
So I turn it back over to Senator McCain.