Lieberman On Iraq/Middle East: Our Fight Includes Preventing Iranian Domination

No Surrender

No Surrender
By Joseph Puder | May 21, 2007

The Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership Conference attendees meeting in Washington on Wednesday, May 16, 2007, received U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) with tumultuous applause and a standing ovation.  The 160 Republican Jewish leaders who assembled at the Washington DC Chamber of Commerce building, a block away from the White House, were visibly moved by Senator Lieberman’s principled stand on the Iraq war and national security, and delighted in his victory last November over Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessman who was supported by the Democratic party, and his Democratic colleague from Connecticut, Senator Christopher Dodd.

Senator Lieberman expressed his gratitude to many in the audience for having supported his 2006 race for re-election.  Injecting dry humor, he said, “I know there are some who are probably wondering what a nice independent Democrat from Connecticut is doing at a Republican event like this?  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to reelection last year… And as Rabbi Hillel said, the rest is commentary.”

Assuming a more serious demeanor and quoting President Ronald Reagan, Lieberman’s message to the audience was “Now is the time for choosing.”  He continued: “If we stand united through the months ahead, if we stand firm against the terrorists who want to drive us to retreat, the war in Iraq can be won and the lives of millions of people can be saved.”  “But if we surrender to the barbarism of suicide bombers and abandon the heart of the Middle East to fanatics and killers, to Al Qaeda and Iran, then all that our men and women in uniform have fought and died for will be lost, and we will be left a much less secure and free nation.”  He added, “That is the choice we in Washington will make this summer and this fall.  It is a choice not just about our foreign policy, our national security and our interests in the Middle East, it is about what our political leaders in both parties are prepared to stand for.  It is about our very soul as a nation.  It is about who we are, and who we want to be.”

Interrupted by repeated applause, Senator Lieberman went on say that the Iraq war has become a “defining issue” for both Congress and the presidency” and that the consequences of the decisions made in the next few months will have an impact “far beyond the terms of anyone now in office.”  He asserted that part of the disagreement we face over Iraq is a genuine difference of opinion.  Lieberman provided the prevailing views on Iraq and the threat of Islamic extremists:  “There are those who believe as I do, that the struggle against Islamic extremism is the central challenge of our time, and that, as General David Petraeus – our commander in Iraq – recently said, ‘Iraq is now the central front of the war against Islamic extremism.’”  Others (mostly Congressional Democrats, J.P.), Lieberman said, believe that the threat of Islamic extremism is “overstated” and that Iraq is simply a distraction from the “real” war on terror, and that the war in Iraq is either lost or not worth fighting to win.

“It is my deeply held conviction,” Lieberman said, “that these people are not only wrong, they are disastrously wrong – and that the withdrawal they demand would be a moral and security catastrophe for the U.S., for Iraq, and the entire Middle East, including Israel, and our moderate Arab allies.”  An American defeat in Iraq Lieberman said, would be a victory for Al Qaeda and Iran, two of the bitterest enemies the free world is facing.  It would vindicate our enemies’ perception of America as “weak” and as easily driven by the threat of terrorism.  Moreover, it would confirm the fears of our friends – not only in Iraq, but also throughout the world – “that we are unreliable allies who will abandon them in the face of danger.”

Lieberman admonished the politics of partisanship, calling on the Democrats to end their spiteful attitude towards President Bush.  “For many Democrats, if President Bush is for it, they must be against it.  If the war in Iraq is going badly, that is bad for him and good for Democrats.  It is as simple as that, and it is as wrong as that.”

Lieberman then turned to the Republicans saying that the unpopularity of the Iraq war has begun “to shake their will.”  He criticized Congressional Republicans for thinking that they have no choice but to abandon General Petraeus and his strategy because “the American people tell pollsters they want out.”  Lieberman added, “If previous generations of American leaders had allowed their conduct of war to be shaped by partisanship or public opinion polls, we would not be the strong and free nation we are blessed to be today.” 

Citing the transformation of the Anbar Province in Iraq, deemed by the Washington Post as “lost” five months ago, Lieberman, who recently returned from Iraq and visited Anbar, said, “Thanks to the bravery, ingenuity, and commitment of our men and women in uniform, shops and schools have reopened, Al Qaeda is on the run, thousands of Iraqis have joined the local police, and yes-the New York Times reports that we have turned the corner there.”

Concluding his address, Lieberman stated, “My friends, now is not the time for despair.  Now is the time for resolve.  Now is not the time for reflexive partisanship and pandering to public opinion.  Now is the time for the kind of patriotism and principle America’s voters have always honored.  I ask you to plead with every member of Congress – Do not surrender to hopelessness, do not succumb to defeat, do not give in to fear, rise above the political pressures of the moment to do what is right for America.”

Scott M. Feigelstein, Director of the Pennsylvania/NJ chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition had this to say about Lieberman speech, “I have known Joe Lieberman for a long time and his appearance and remarks were historical, statesmanlike, highly principled and totally in character with who he is as a person and a leader.  Senator Lieberman, like President Bush, recognizes the serious threat facing our nation and the world emanating from radical Islamist forces.  Making tough policy decisions without regard to political polls is a hallmark of leadership and the Senator is one of the few members of his party demonstrating such quality.  It was an honor to see and hear his remarks.”

Philadelphian Lance Silver, founder of the Forum for Middle Eastern Understanding (FFMU) and Board member of the Interfaith Taskforce for America and Israel (ITAI) who also attended the conference added, “It is obvious that the Senator knows the difference between right and wrong in today’s world, and to that I can only say Amen.”

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My request to Sen. Lieberman

My request to Sen. Lieberman

Ray Van Dune
Senator, I thank you for your simple and eloquent words in regard to the actions of Senator Reid in declaring the Iraq war “lost”.

I ask you to be of further service in two ways:
1. Immediately cross the floor and join the Republicans in order to forestall any further attempts by the Democrats to stab our troops in the back.
2. Immediately call for Senator Reid to resign, since he has demonstrated that his allegiance to his political party has assumed the position of primacy that Americans expect to be reserved for his country.
Again I thank you, and I hope that you will consider my request, in that it may help steel the resolve of this nation to meet its moral obligations, and show the positions of Senator Reid and other Democrats for the cynical opportunisms that they are.
Ray Van Dune

Senator Lieberman Comments on Iraq in the Wall Street Journal

Monday, February 26, 2007

Senator Lieberman Comments on Iraq in the Wall Street Journal

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

The Choice on Iraq

“I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to step back and think carefully about what to do next.”

Monday, February 26, 2007 12:01 a.m.

Two months into the 110th Congress, Washington has never been more bitterly divided over our mission in Iraq. The Senate and House of Representatives are bracing for parliamentary trench warfare–trapped in an escalating dynamic of division and confrontation that will neither resolve the tough challenges we face in Iraq nor strengthen our nation against its terrorist enemies around the world.

What is remarkable about this state of affairs in Washington is just how removed it is from what is actually happening in Iraq. There, the battle of Baghdad is now under way. A new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has taken command, having been confirmed by the Senate, 81-0, just a few weeks ago. And a new strategy is being put into action, with thousands of additional American soldiers streaming into the Iraqi capital.

Congress thus faces a choice in the weeks and months ahead. Will we allow our actions to be driven by the changing conditions on the ground in Iraq–or by the unchanging political and ideological positions long ago staked out in Washington? What ultimately matters more to us: the real fight over there, or the political fight over here?

If we stopped the legislative maneuvering and looked to Baghdad, we would see what the new security strategy actually entails and how dramatically it differs from previous efforts. For the first time in the Iraqi capital, the focus of the U.S. military is not just training indigenous forces or chasing down insurgents, but ensuring basic security–meaning an end, at last, to the large-scale sectarian slaughter and ethnic cleansing that has paralyzed Iraq for the past year.

Tamping down this violence is more than a moral imperative. Al Qaeda’s stated strategy in Iraq has been to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war, precisely because they recognize that it is their best chance to radicalize the country’s politics, derail any hope of democracy in the Middle East, and drive the U.S. to despair and retreat. It also takes advantage of what has been the single greatest American weakness in Iraq: the absence of sufficient troops to protect ordinary Iraqis from violence and terrorism.

The new strategy at last begins to tackle these problems. Where previously there weren’t enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias, now more U.S. and Iraqi forces are either in place or on the way. Where previously American forces were based on the outskirts of Baghdad, unable to help secure the city, now they are living and working side-by-side with their Iraqi counterparts on small bases being set up throughout the capital.

At least four of these new joint bases have already been established in the Sunni neighborhoods in west Baghdad–the same neighborhoods where, just a few weeks ago, jihadists and death squads held sway. In the Shiite neighborhoods of east Baghdad, American troops are also moving in–and Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army are moving out.

We of course will not know whether this new strategy in Iraq will succeed for some time. Even under the most optimistic of scenarios, there will be more attacks and casualties in the months ahead, especially as our fanatical enemies react and attempt to thwart any perception of progress.

But the fact is that we are in a different place in Iraq today from even just a month ago–with a new strategy, a new commander, and more troops on the ground. We are now in a stronger position to ensure basic security–and with that, we are in a stronger position to marginalize the extremists and strengthen the moderates; a stronger position to foster the economic activity that will drain the insurgency and militias of public support; and a stronger position to press the Iraqi government to make the tough decisions that everyone acknowledges are necessary for progress.

Unfortunately, for many congressional opponents of the war, none of this seems to matter. As the battle of Baghdad just gets underway, they have already made up their minds about America’s cause in Iraq, declaring their intention to put an end to the mission before we have had the time to see whether our new plan will work.

There is of course a direct and straightforward way that Congress could end the war, consistent with its authority under the Constitution: by cutting off funds. Yet this option is not being proposed. Critics of the war instead are planning to constrain and squeeze the current strategy and troops by a thousand cuts and conditions.

Among the specific ideas under consideration are to tangle up the deployment of requested reinforcements by imposing certain “readiness” standards, and to redraft the congressional authorization for the war, apparently in such a way that Congress will assume the role of commander in chief and dictate when, where and against whom U.S. troops can fight.
I understand the frustration, anger and exhaustion so many Americans feel about Iraq, the desire to throw up our hands and simply say, “Enough.” And I am painfully aware of the enormous toll of this war in human life, and of the infuriating mistakes that have been made in the war’s conduct.

But we must not make another terrible mistake now. Many of the worst errors in Iraq arose precisely because the Bush administration best-cased what would happen after Saddam was overthrown. Now many opponents of the war are making the very same best-case mistake–assuming we can pull back in the midst of a critical battle with impunity, even arguing that our retreat will reduce the terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq.

In fact, halting the current security operation at midpoint, as virtually all of the congressional proposals seek to do, would have devastating consequences. It would put thousands of American troops already deployed in the heart of Baghdad in even greater danger–forced to choose between trying to hold their position without the required reinforcements or, more likely, abandoning them outright. A precipitous pullout would leave a gaping security vacuum in its wake, which terrorists, insurgents, militias and Iran would rush to fill–probably resulting in a spiral of ethnic cleansing and slaughter on a scale as yet unseen in Iraq.

I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to step back and think carefully about what to do next. Instead of undermining Gen. Petraeus before he has been in Iraq for even a month, let us give him and his troops the time and support they need to succeed.

Gen. Petraeus says he will be able to see whether progress is occurring by the end of the summer, so let us declare a truce in the Washington political war over Iraq until then. Let us come together around a constructive legislative agenda for our security: authorizing an increase in the size of the Army and Marines, funding the equipment and protection our troops need, monitoring progress on the ground in Iraq with oversight hearings, investigating contract procedures, and guaranteeing Iraq war veterans the first-class treatment and care they deserve when they come home.

We are at a critical moment in Iraq–at the beginning of a key battle, in the midst of a war that is irretrievably bound up in an even bigger, global struggle against the totalitarian ideology of radical Islamism. However tired, however frustrated, however angry we may feel, we must remember that our forces in Iraq carry America’s cause–the cause of freedom–which we abandon at our peril.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent senator from Connecticut.

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