Earlier this week, Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) returned from a three-day trip to Iraq. The congressional delegation trip included Democrat U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California and Republican U.S. Jon Porter of Nevada. This was Moran’s third trip to Iraq since the war started in 2003. The purpose of the trip was to gain firsthand knowledge as to how the surge is affecting the situation in Iraq in advance of the Sept. 11 release of the White House’s report on the surge.
<b>Is the surge working?</b>
The surge is effective from a military standpoint, but the end result is not consistent with America’s objectives. What we’ll be left with is a Shiite theocracy aligned with Iran that suppresses women and human rights. How is that worth the sacrifice of our military families and the half a trillion dollars we’ve poured into that country?
<b>Has the surge been effective?</b>
I think the military has been very effective, but to what end? If we are supporting the wrong people, how is that effective? The military does what it’s told, but the government that they are empowering is not embracing the values that we hold dear, such as democracy, human rights and inclusiveness. The Iraqi police forces are engaging in an ethnic cleansing of Baghdad with our money and our arms as the al Mahdi militia are driving out the Sunnis.
<b>What will happen when Gen. David Petraeus gives his report on the surge to the Congress?</b>
The problem we have in the Congress is that [President George W.] Bush will veto any withdrawal attempt, and it’s impossible to override that veto. Petraeus is going to give cover to the Republicans and risk-averse Democrats who are afraid to oppose the president.
<b>When should the United States begin a withdraw of our troops?</b>
<b>Should a residual force be left behind?</b>
No, because they would be more vulnerable than the soldiers that are there today. That’s one of the things I realized from my trip. I used to think we would need to leave a residual force behind to track down al-Qaida, but the Sunnis and the Shia are going to do that for us.
<b>What makes you think that?</b>
When al-Qaida takes over a community, they Talibanize it. For example, they prohibit smoking. And if you smoke, they cut your fingers off. Well, every Iraqi smokes.
<b>What happens after a U.S. withdrawal?</b>
I think we’re going to see some bloodshed, but not nearly as much as the administration suggests. Then we’re going to see the Sunnis and the Shia getting together and figuring out how to make things work like they did when the British left.
<b>What will Iraq look like ten years from now?</b>
It will be a Shiite theocracy aligned with Iran suppressing women’s rights and no respect for human rights.
<b>That’s not a very rosy picture of the future.</b>
Absolutely not, I think this whole thing is a disaster. We’ve lost nearly 4,000 lives to produce a result that we’re going to be ashamed of.
<b>Can any good come out of this?</b>
I don’t think so because the war is going to continue until at least 2009, and by then the damage is done. The Sunni middle class will have left, the Kurds will be independent of the rest of the country and the Shia will be totally dependent upon Iran. So the Kurds are the only bright spot but that’s only because they’re having nothing to do with the rest of Iraq. They won’t even allow an Iraqi flag to be flown in Kurdistan.
<b>Is it possible for the Iraqi Parliament to bring about any kind of reconciliation between these three groups?</b>
It’s possible, but it won’t be done under [Prime Minister Nuri] al-Maliki. It also can’t be done under [former interim Prime Minister Ayad] Allawi, who doesn’t even live in Iraq. Allawi has no constituency but the Bush White House. He’s not a Shia theocrat like Maliki, but he has no Iraqi constituency. So there’s no reason they would elect him to run their country.
<b>What else did you learn from your trip to Iraq?</b>
In the past I had given the government the benefit of the doubt. But now I know that was wrong. The Iraqi government is more corrupt and manipulative than I had estimated. I think they are just using the United States because we are giving them cover to carry out their ethnic cleansing. So much of the money that we have poured into that country is being stolen to provide wealth for the government ministers and parliamentarians. They’ve got a good thing going with the $300 million a day we’re spending there. The Iraqi government has been on an all-expenses paid scholarship for four years and all we’ve got are failing grades. It’s about time we left them on their own.