Alexandria Rotarians were told on Tuesday, "When sovereignty is turned back to the Iraqis at 12:01 on July 1, we don't know what form of government will happen."
Those words of warning came from Virginia Senator John W. Warner (R), the featured speaker during the Rotary's regular monthly luncheon at the Radisson Old Town. "I think we've done the best that we can," he said.
Introduced by his wife Jeanne, to the overflow crowd, Warner also cautioned that when the Iraqis regain power, "We don't know if or where weapons of mass destruction might be. There could be canisters of biological and chemical weapons just in the normal stockpile of munitions."
Warner also had ominous words for the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan. "Nobody has ever brought that country under control. Great Britain and the Soviets both packed up and went home," he reminded the audience.
Warner noted, "The largest contributor to the Afghan GNP is illegal drugs. Poppies grow everywhere and they are masters at getting the drugs out of the country through mountain passes."
DRAWING ON HIS four information gathering trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, Warner praised those serving in the military today, particularly those deployed to the war zone of Iraq and Afghanistan. "You can take pride in those serving today and those who will serve tomorrow. They are all volunteers," he said.
Drawing on his own military background during World War II and the Korean Conflict, he insisted, "This generation is just as great as the World War II generation. They are serving their country and not questioning the authority that sent them to Iraq. When I look into the faces of these men and women today they are willing to go."
But, he noted, "Today's Army is made up of family. The decision to stay in the military is made around the family dining table."
The other primary difference between today's military demands in the war on terrorism and World War II according to Warner is, "In World War II we knew exactly who the enemy was. In today's war on terrorism there is little if any identification of the enemy."
Warner insisted, "We must be prepared to protect ourselves from any future challenges from terrorists. We [Senators] get regular briefings on emergency preparations for this entire region. As an example, we don't know if private aircraft will be permitted to use National Airport ever again."
During the question and answer period, Warner made two additional points:
*North Korea is probably the most difficult situation in that region of the world facing both us and other nations. They have the ability to create nuclear weapons and yet, the quality of life for their people is extremely poor.
*Communications within our government prior to 9/11 was "far from adequate." The tradition of having the FBI responsible for security at home and the military and CIA responsible for foreign security caused an information gap, according to Warner.