Timetable for withdrawal would risk Iraq's collapse
Senator Akaka and Rep. Ed Case disagree about when U.S. troops should be withdrawn.
IRAQ looms as a major issue in the primary race between Senator Akaka and Rep. Ed Case, his Democratic challenger. Far from being whether the candidate is or has been for or against the invasion of Iraq
, the debate should be focused on what U.S. policy should be now. A withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq based on an announced timetable could be disastrous, allowing insurgents and terrorists to strategize accordingly.
Akaka was among only 13 senators who voted last week for a measure calling for all U.S. troops to be withdrawn within a year. Akaka voted in October 2002 against the resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq; it passed the Senate 77-23. Spokesman Andy Winer said his boss "got it right the first time," while Case "got it wrong" in supporting the resolution during his campaign for the House seat.
Actually, nearly everyone got it wrong when they were convinced by the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq had cooperated with the 9/11 terrorists. Both assessments were based on faulty intelligence.
"I agree that we must neutralize Iraq's WMD threat," Akaka said before voting against the resolution. "The question is how to do that most effectively while minimizing the loss in American lives." He agreed with this newspaper that the best approach would be to gain United Nations approval and await completion of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq.
Bush added to the confusion, indicating that the resolution would be used as leverage on the U.N. Security Council. "I hope this will not require military action, but it may," he said at the time. If so, he added, "we will act with allies at our side."
Case, who opposes a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, said he would not have supported the 2002 resolution if he had known that Iraq lacked weapons of mass destruction. Had that fact been publicly known, the resolution would not even have been presented.
That does not lessen American responsibility to help the Iraqis build a secure and democratic society. Three elections last year resulted in a ratified constitution and an inclusive political system.
Meanwhile, four of Iraq's 18 provinces are ready for transfer of security from coalition forces to Iraqi police, and nine other provinces are nearly ready, according to Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser. Iraq's goal is to have full control of the country by the end of 2008, al-Rubaie wrote in a column last week in the Washington Post.
The Iraq government envisages U.S. troops to be reduced from the current 127,000 to less than 100,000 by the end of this year and most of the remaining troops to return home by the end of 2007. "The road map," al-Rubaie wrote, "is based not just on a series of dates but, more important, on the achievement of set objectives for restoring security in Iraq."