Former secretary of state, Colin Powell, broke his long silence on the situation in Iraq and put himself at odds with the Bush administration once again. Powell went as far as to say that the U.S. is “losing what he described as a “civil war” in Iraq” and that “he is not persuaded that an increase in U.S. troops there would reverse the situation.” He also called for “a new strategy that would relinquish responsibility for Iraqi security to the government in Baghdad sooner rather than later, with a U.S. drawdown to begin by the middle of next year.”
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the United States is losing what he described as a “civil war” in Iraq and that he is not persuaded that an increase in U.S. troops there would reverse the situation. Instead, he called for a new strategy that would relinquish responsibility for Iraqi security to the government in Baghdad sooner rather than later, with a U.S. drawdown to begin by the middle of next year.
Powell’s comments broke his long public silence on the issue and placed him at odds with the administration. President Bush is considering options for a new military strategy — among them a “surge” of 15,000 to 30,000 troops added to the current 140,000 in Iraq, to secure Baghdad and to accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others have proposed; or a redirection of the U.S. military away from the insurgency to focus mainly on hunting al-Qaeda terrorists, as the nation’s top military leaders proposed last week in a meeting with the president.
Considering that Bush and friends have “insisted that the violence in Iraq is not a civil war,” this speaks volumes. Bush has not only denied that a civil war exists there now, but goes as far as to reject the dire conclusions of the Iraq Study Group. Not to be outdone in the dunce department, Senator John McCain, proposes a “surge” of 15,000 to 30,000 more troops to be added to the 140.000 already in Iraq.
“The American people are disappointed and frustrated with the Iraq war, but they want us to succeed if there is any way to do that,” Mr. McCain told a news conference. Unlike some American military commanders who have said any troop increase should be temporary, he said any increase should last “until we can get the situation under control, or until it becomes clear that we can’t.”
That is a far cry from the words spoken by the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State.
Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Powell seemed to draw as much from his 35-year Army career, including four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as from his more recent and difficult tenure as Bush’s chief diplomat.
The summer’s surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad failed, he said, and any new attempt is unlikely to succeed. “If somebody proposes that additional troops be sent, if I was still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question . . . is what mission is it these troops are supposed to accomplish? . . . Is it something that is really accomplishable? . . . Do we have enough troops to accomplish it?”
Powell goes on to speak the one thing on the minds of anyone with common sense. After all, word is out on Dissent In The Ranks.
Before any decision to increase troops, he said, “I’d want to have a clear understanding of what it is they’re going for, how long they’re going for. And let’s be clear about something else. . . . There really are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops.”
He added: “That’s how you surge. And that surge cannot be sustained.”
The “active Army is about broken,” Powell said. Even beyond Iraq, the Army and Marines have to “grow in size, in my military judgment,” he said, adding that Congress must provide significant additional funding to sustain them.
Oh and one more thing! About those open talks:
Powell also agreed with the study group’s recommendation that the administration open talks with Syria and Iran as it seeks a solution to the Iraq problem. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have explicitly rejected talks until Syria ends its destabilizing influence in Lebanon and its support for anti-Israel militants, and until Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment program. The administration has charged both countries with aiding the Iraqi insurgency.