Out of Iraq or More Troops? A Debate on Withdrawal with Fmr. Senator George McGovern, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and AEI's Joshua Muravchik
Wednesday, November 15th, 2006http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/15/1459243
As leading Democrats call on President Bush to soon begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq some Republicans are calling on more troops to be deployed. We host a debate on the issue with former Democratic presidential candidate and South Dakota senator, George McGovern, Ohio Congressmember Dennis Kucinich and the American Enterprise Institute's Joshua Muravchik. [includes rush transcript - partial]
The military's top commander in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, is heading to Capitol Hill today to testify about the war in Iraq. Abizaid's testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services comes a week after the Democrats swept to power. Leading Democrats are now calling for President Bush to soon begin withdrawing troops.
On Sunday, Senator Carl Levin said a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq should begin in four to six months. Levin is set to become the chair of the Committee on Armed Services. However President Bush has dismissed the calls.
On Monday he met with James Baker and other advisers from the Iraq Study Group. Bush has given little indication over what was said at the meeting but he has rejected calls for setting a timetable for withdrawing troops.
- President Bush: "General Pete Pace is leading investigations within the Pentagon as to how to reach our goal, which is success, a government which can sustain, govern, and defend itself, and will serve as an ally in this war on terror. I believe it is very important, though, for people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon the conditions on the ground."
- Sen. John McCain (R - AZ): "The question is, what's the solution. And I believe that a withdrawal, or a date for withdrawal, will lead to chaos in the region. And most military experts think the same thing. I believe that there are a lot of things we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops."
We host a debate on troops on U.S. troops in Iraq with three guests:
- George McGovern, former South Dakota Senator and Democratic presidential candidate. He was a leading opponent of the Vietnam War. McGovern has co-authored a new book titled "Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now."
- Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D - OH), of Ohio. He is a member of the Out of Iraq Congressional Working Group and is set to become the Chair of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations.
- Joshua Muravchik, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His most recent book is "The Future of the United Nations: Understanding the Past to Chart a Way Forward."
AMY GOODMAN: Bush has given little indication over what was said at the meeting, but he has rejected calls for setting a timetable for withdrawing troops.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: General Pete Pace is leading investigations within the Pentagon as to how to reach our goal, which is success, a government which can sustain, govern and defend itself and will serve as an ally in this war on terror. I believe it is very important, though, for people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon the conditions on the ground.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, some Republicans are calling on President Bush to send more troops to Iraq. The leading proponent is Senator John McCain, who will become the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee next year. On Sunday, he spoke with Tim Russert on Meet the Press.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The question is, is what's the solution? And I believe that a withdrawal or a date for withdrawal will lead to chaos in the region. And most military experts think the same thing. I believe that there are a lot of things that we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops.
AMY GOODMAN: The Congressional Progressive Caucus is planning to meet to address the situation in Iraq. Addressing them on Thursday will be former US senator and presidential candidate, George McGovern. He was a leading opponent of the Vietnam War. McGovern has co-authored a new book entitled Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now, and he joins us in the studio now. Welcome to Democracy Now!
GEORGE McGOVERN: Thank you. It's nice to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you lay out what it is that you feel needs to happen right now?
GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, contrary to the President's position, we think it's important to spell out the details of a plan to get us out of this uncontrollable mess in Iraq. We recommend first that our government advise the government of Iraq and advise the American people and the Congress that we’re going to begin a withdrawal next month, December of this year, and we'll have all Americans out of Iraq by June of next year. That's about a six-month span.
We’re not advocating a mad dash to the border, not a stampede or what the critics call “cut and run.” We’re advocating an orderly withdrawal, not the kind of forced withdrawal that took place in Vietnam so many years ago, where we saw the TV pictures of our last survivors there being airlifted off the roof of the embassy.
We also advocate that simultaneously with the American withdrawal, the Iraqi government invite brother Muslim and Arab states to “loan” them, if I can use that word, law enforcement people to try to preserve some degree of order over the next couple of years, and the United States, as the major invader of Iraq, would be expected to pick up some of the cost for maintaining law and order there, but by people in the area, not by American troops.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on Capitol Hill by Democratic Congressmember Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, member of the Out of Iraq Congressional Working Group. He's set to become the chair of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. And on the telephone with us is Joshua Muravchik. He’s a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His most recent book is called The Future of the United Nations: Understanding the Past to Chart a Way Forward.
Congressmember Kucinich, Senator McGovern is coming down to brief the Out of Iraq caucus on Thursday. What are your plans in the new Democratic majority in Congress?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, it's good to be on the show with Senator McGovern, somebody who I’ve admired and worked with through the past decades. I want to say that there's one solution here, and it's not to engage in a debate with the President, who has taken us down a path of disaster in Iraq, but it's for Congress to assume the full power that it has under the Constitution to cut off funds. We don't need to keep indulging in this debate about what to do, because as long as we keep temporizing, the situation gets worse in Iraq.
We have to determine that the time has come to cut off funds. There’s enough money in the pipeline to achieve the orderly withdrawal that Senator McGovern is talking about. But cut off funds, we must. That's the ultimate power of the Congress, the power of the purse. That's how we'll end this war, and that’s the only way we’re going to end this war.
AMY GOODMAN: Senator Harry Reid, who was just elected the new Senate Majority Leader, Congressmember Kucinich, said one of the Democrats' first priorities is to increase the US military budget by $75 billion. Your response?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, we must have a total review of spending. I mean, we’re seeing the amount of money that’s being wasted right now by this government in Iraq, the waste, fraud and abuse that takes place. We see the same thing throughout the Pentagon budget. We stand strong for those who serve our country. But let’s face it, the system is being gamed by people who are in the defense contracting industry who create newer generations of weapons, when we haven’t even seen the utility of the first generation.
We have to take a whole new approach. We’re spending over $400 billion a year, money that's also needed for healthcare, for education, for job creation, for seniors. We have to take a new look at this. We need to be a strong country, but strength isn't only military. Strength is also the economic strength of the people, their chance to have good neighborhoods. We spend more money than all the countries of the world put together for the military.
It's time for us to start to shift our vision about who we are as a nation, because if we don't do that -- we’re borrowing money right now to wage the war in Iraq. We’re borrowing money from China. We’re not looking at our trade deficit. We’re not looking at conditions, where people are going bankrupt trying to pay their hospital bills. We need to shift our direction, and the direction has to be away from the continued militarization of the United States society.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Joshua Muravchik into this conversation. What do you feel is the key approach that should be taken to Iraq right now?
JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Listening to Congressman Kucinich sounds like listening to a broken record from the ’60s or the people who wanted America to follow Senator McGovern’s advice and give up and surrender in the Cold War. And we would be in a totally different and horrible world today, if anyone had listened to the policies that were advocated by Senator McGovern and are echoed today by Congressman Kucinich. These people were catastrophically wrong about the Cold War, and we managed to win the Cold War precisely because the United States did the very opposite of what Senator McGovern recommended and what Congressman Kucinich is echoing today.
As for Iraq, Senator McGovern said what he wants is an orderly withdrawal. But the problem isn't whether the withdrawal will be orderly. The problem is what in the world will happen after we withdraw. And the kind of withdrawal that these two gentlemen are advocating, which is to just get out orderly or not and let heaven take the hindmost, is going to lead to complete chaos and mass warfare and killing, not only in Iraq, but surrounding it.
And on top of that, it's going to lead to disaster here at home. And the reason for that is that this will be taken throughout the Middle East as a monumental victory on the part of radical Islam over the West. They feel that they defeated Israel in Lebanon and Gaza. They feel that they defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, even though they ignored the large role we played in that. And now, they will feel they drove the great Satan out of the Middle East and that they are on the rise and we are on the run. And it's going to make for infinitely more numbers of people joining the ranks of the terrorists and finding new ways -- they'll be like sharks smelling blood in the water -- new ways to attack us in our cities, in our airplanes, in our trains, and every way they can. And Congressman Kucinich will be going on with this silly rhetoric about how strength isn’t -- we need jobs and schools and things at home, and forget the military, and cut the military budget, and there’s lots of waste, and all that stuff. And meanwhile, America will be besieged by extremist terrorists.
AMY GOODMAN: Alright. Let’s take these points one by one. Senator George McGovern?
GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, let me say, first of all, I resent the implication of what has just been said about me not supporting American national security during the Cold War period. I have always been for a strong defense. I was a bomber pilot in World War II. A lot of these so-called hawks, who sound so belligerent vocally, never have been near a battle scene. They know nothing about war from firsthand experience. What I know, as a bomber pilot that flew in World War II, is that war is a bloody business. As General Sherman said, “it's hell.” And that's true. And we want to avoid unnecessary wars that weaken the country rather than strengthening us.
You know, Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attack of 9/11. The administration tried to leave the implication that somehow we went into Iraq to fight terrorism. There was no terrorist problem in Iraq until we put our army in the middle of the country. Now, some of the highest-ranking American military officers in Iraq will tell you, face to face, that we’re turning Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists. The whole Middle East is against the United States having an army there year after year.
Even Richard Perle, one of the chief brain trusters of the war in Iraq and of this present administration, says that we probably should have left after we overturned Saddam Hussein three years ago, instead of occupying that country. It's the American occupation. This is not a criticism of the Army, but putting an army of 145,000 men into somebody else’s country and leaving them there year after year after year is bound to set off the kind of guerrilla activity we’re seeing there now. So if you’re interested in preserving America and protecting our stature in the world and our influence in the world, the quicker we can get out of Iraq, the better.
Dennis Kucinich was rapped by this gentleman from the Enterprise Institute. Dennis Kucinich made a lot of sense in 2004, and he makes a lot of sense now. It's hard for some Americans to admit that we made a mistake. We made a tragic mistake in going into Vietnam, which was no threat to us and became our friends once we took our army out of their country. We made another tragic mistake in going into Iraq.
I’ve always thought that I live in the greatest country on earth. We have to be great, because we make these dreadful blunders from time to time, along with all the good things that we do, that nullify some of the constructive, positive things that the United States has done. I supported World War II all the way. That was a war that had to be fought to save Western civilization. But there's nothing in Iraq that requires the long-term occupation of that country by an American army.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, and then I want to talk about plans, what are each of your positions on what should concretely happen. Senator George McGovern is our guest in studio. He has written a new book with William Polk called Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now. We’re also joined by Congressmember Kucinich in Washington, D.C. And we’re joined by Joshua Muravchik. He’s with the American Enterprise Institute. His book is called The Future of the United Nations. Stay with us.