EPHRATA, PENNSYLVANIA – I’d like to begin by asking you to join me in saluting those who have given their lives in the service of our country, both in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, those who were there and are now home, and those who remain there. As we are here in Pennsylvania today, I ask that you remember, in particular, three American men who died in Iraq last month: Specialist Camy Florexil of Philadelphia, who died in a roadside bombing near Baghdad; Specialist Zachary Clouser of Dover, who died in a roadside bombing in Adhamiya; and Sgt. 1st Class Raymond R. Buchan of Johnstown, who died in small arms fire in Ta’meem.
After World War I, when the British were attempting to create the nation of Iraq, they were cautioned by an American missionary. “You are flying in the face of four millenniums of history if you try to draw a line around Iraq and call it a political entity!” he said. Very quickly, the British figured out what the American missionary meant – when a provisional government attempted to assert its control over the people in the region, full-scale tribal revolts broke out throughout Mesopotamia. British army personnel were murdered, and a holy war against Britain was declared by the Shi’ites in Karbalah. On August 7, 1920, The Times of London asked, “[H]ow much longer are valuable lives to be sacrificed in the vain endeavour to impose upon the Arab population an elaborate and expensive administration which they never asked for and do not want?”
It wasn’t nationalism that caused the tribal revolts then, nor is it a desire to conquer some nation called Iraq that inspires them today. The leaders of the various tribes that make up the Iraqi population, then and now, thrive on anarchy and fanaticism, and are united only in seeing very clearly a big old red, white and blue bull’s eye on the backs of American troops and the “Iraqi nationalists” who support them. The only sense of nationalism that Iraq has ever enjoyed was the punitive nationalism of a totalitarian regime. For almost 40 years, Saddam Hussein was Iraq; and before him, the face of Iraq was either a propped-up monarch or a military strongman. The notion that Americans would be greeted as liberators, and that from the outpouring of affection for America would grow a desire for a unified democratic nation, was a naïve notion from the beginning.
The U.S. must find its way out of Iraq.
The decision to enter Iraq was one driven by ideology, not necessity. Our country was ill-prepared for it, and frankly, and rather embarrassingly, we never got up to speed.
When one of those pathological mainstream presidential candidates has a good idea, my policy is to admit it. Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Tommy Thompson, who just terminated his own candidacy, each have some good ideas on Iraq. Joe Biden calls for a partition of Iraq into a rough confederation of Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds. He says that a centralized federal government of Iraq should remain in charge of border security and the distribution of oil revenues. Tommy Thompson says that oil revenues should be divided “in thirds among the national government, the provincial governments and individual Iraq citizens,” a sort of Alaskan revenue-sharing plan for Iraqi oil. I like what they say – give the three regions of Iraq as much autonomy as possible … tell them to form their own governments and keep us out of it… break the problem down into chewable bites … take the piss out of the ethnic and regional conflicts … give ordinary Iraqis a livelihood outside of the seductive economy of terror …
And like a fat boy getting off the see-saw, let’s stand up and take our leave, allowing al-Qaeda, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Mahdi Army to come crashing down on their collective asses, without a countervailing American ass to buoy their violent activities.
It is not a perfect solution. Certainly there will continue to be bloodshed in Iraq while the borders of the three semi-independent states of Mesopotamia take shape, but at least it needn’t be American blood that is spilled in some vain attempt to impose a government upon them that they haven’t asked for and do not want. Iran is smart enough to realize that it can waste a lot of time and resource trying to manage the remaining conflict – that was the job that its intelligence operatives like Ahmed Chalabi called upon the Americans to do for them, after all. The importance of al-Qaeda in Iraq within a Sunni-dominated sub-state will diminish over time, as will the activities of a Mahdi Army within a Shi-ite-dominated substate; al-Qaeda, in particular, thrives upon opposition to its aims, and its support will begin to shrink, as they have begun to in al-Anbar province already, with the press of day-to-day subsistence after the end of American occupation. Yes, strongmen will fill the voids — strongmen who will need to sell us oil in order to sustain their power — and something like stability will return to the region. Meanwhile, we can focus on U.S. energy independence; the only genuine way of achieving victory over Middle Eastern terrorism is to be strong enough to abandon the policy of U.S. intervention there that riles up the blood of future terrorists.
Iraq was a failed experiment in fighting a war on the cheap, and fighting to impose a democracy on people who are fundamentally disinterested in it. So let’s remember a few other things. War is a tool that we use to protect our nation and its interests. It is not a tool that is effective in the propagation of democracy where democracy has not previously existed. Doing that is like taking a sledgehammer to a hunk of raw granite and hoping that, in the end, it will turn out looking like Michelangelo’s Pieta. We should remember that waging war in order to promote democracy is bound to fail.
We should also remember that waging war without the full commitment of the American economy and the American people, from the very wealthy on down, is bound to fail. If we need to go to war, we need to use every available resource to do so; if our resolve is tested by that standard in any way, then perhaps we shouldn’t be going to war in the first place. As I have said before, if we had courageous leaders in the country, we would be fighting “a real war on terror … [with] a comprehensive strategy that includes a domestic economic plan oriented toward preparedness. They would level with us and actually require real sacrifices from all of us — on a national, equalitarian scale of the kind we witnessed during World War II,” instead of giving tax breaks to the wealthy and telling the rest of us to roll over and go back to sleep.
This has been the message of my campaign all along, and it will continue to be my message: in order for us to succeed at whatever important national objective may exist, we must all participate. We can’t just continue to sit on the couch, cursing at the news. Each of us has to examine our own role in providing moral authority within our communities, and we need to exercise courage in seizing the initiative. In the case of war — a war waged for all the right reasons — we need to seize the initiative to sacrifice all that our country needs in order for us to win. In doing so, we exercise the liberty that our soldiers die for, and we honor their memory.
I thank you for listening, and I’ll be seeing you along the trail.