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Q & A on the Iraq Debate

Ten questions and answers for the next round of the Iraq debate.

To: Members of Congress

From: Center for American Progress Action Fund

Re: Ten Questions and Answers for the Next Round
of the Iraq Debate

Date: April 16, 2007

1. Is Congress blocking funding for our troops in Iraq?

  • No, Congress is giving everything our troops need. The supplemental funding legislation passed by both houses of Congress provides taxpayers’ dollars to arm and equip our troops.
  • Congress goes one step further to offer a new strategy that is worthy of our troops’ sacrifices—a strategy that will make Americans safer at home and abroad.
  • The best way to support our troops is to get the policy right—something President Bush has failed to do repeatedly in the four years since we invaded Iraq.
  • Congress is exercising its constitutional authority by providing funds for the troops and carrying out the will of the American people by acting to put an end to President Bush’s quagmire in Iraq.
  • Congress is ripping up the blank check that the Bush administration has offered to Iraq’s leaders and offering a new path to get our troops out of Iraq’s civil war.
  • In order to get our country’s Iraq policy back on track, we need to take back control and bring our combat mission to an end at a time of our choosing, and not when Iraq’s leaders decide to step up and take responsibility for their own affairs.

2. Why isn’t Congress giving General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, a chance for his policy to work?

  • Let’s be clear: President Bush set this strategy and General Petraeus is implementing the policy his commander-in-chief set. President Bush’s strategy isn’t working because it isn’t making the country safer.
  • One key problem with President Bush’s Iraq strategy is that he has consistently ignored the advice of our generals—first by not sending the number of troops needed to win the peace recommended by the Army’s top general at the start of the war. President Bush failed after the fall of Saddam Hussein by failing to boost troop levels to prevent security vacuums from emerging.
  • Then in 2006, more than three years into the war, President Bush ignored advice from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his two top generals on the ground, Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, all of whom advised against sending more U.S. troops to Iraq.
  • Just as General Petraeus is doing his job, Congress is doing its job—holding President Bush accountable and offering changes to the Bush Iraq strategy to make Americans safer and get our troops out of Iraq’s civil war.

3. Shouldn’t Congress give the surge or escalation a chance to work?

  • Nearly two months into President Bush’s military escalation, it is becoming clear that the military action has merely pushed the violence outside of Baghdad to other parts of the country such as the Diyala province northeast of the capital.
  • The “surge” has simply driven Shiite militias underground, with militia leaders signaling that they will simply wait things out until the U.S. troop presence is eventually decreased.
  • Rather than changing Iraq’s political realities, the escalation only temporarily obscures them. For the violence to stop, Iraqis will need to see that it is contrary to their strategic interests to continue to kill other Iraqis.
  • President Bush tried the surge two times before in 2006 with an increase of American and Iraqi troops as part of Operation Together Forward, a similar operation in Baghdad.
  • Five years into the Iraq war, it’s time to accept the reality that U.S. military has done its share and it’s time for Iraqis to step up.

4. Is Congress weakening the readiness of U.S. military forces by attaching strings to the funding?

  • No, Congress wants to restore military readiness and put a stop to President Bush’s reckless misuse of our most precious national security assets: Our men and women in uniform.
  • For the last four years, President Bush has sent troops to Iraq without enough training and without the right weapons and equipment. The president’s latest military escalation in Iraq further strains the Army, National Guard and Reserves, yet his policy fails to address growing equipment shortages in the Army and Marines.
  • Increased Congressional oversight, including efforts to hold President Bush accountable for his policies that have undermined the fighting strength of our military, as well as efforts to change the course in Iraq, are all aimed at giving the country an Iraq policy worthy of our troops’ sacrifices.

5. Is Congress overstepping its constitutional powers and infringing on President Bush’s powers as commander-in-chief?

  • No, Congress is doing its job.
  • As a co-equal branch of government, Congress has the constitutional authority to safeguard our country’s security and shape Iraq policy.
  • Congress has the constitutional and legal powers to change the President’s policy and hold the administration accountable when its mistakes have undermined the country’s national security.
  • As a representative body, Congress is fulfilling its responsibility to offer an alterative approach that reflects the American public’s concerns with the current policy.
  • To put our country’s national security priorities back in order, we need Congress to act and push for President Bush to change his Iraq policy.

6. Why doesn’t Congress just cut off funding for the war and force an immediate withdrawal of troops?

  • An immediate withdrawal from Iraq would make Americans less safe by destabilizing the Middle East.
  • A strategic redeployment of U.S. forces aims to strike the right balance and put Iraqis in control of their own destiny without taking our eye off some real threats that exist for the United States in the Middle East.
  • Iraq was not a central front in the fight against global terror networks before the war, but the numbers of foreign fighters present in Iraq has increased during the last four years. Our troops need to stop serving as referees in Iraq’s civil war and focus on eliminating global terrorist networks operating in Iraq.
  • As the United States implements a phased redeployment of our armed forces, we can dedicate more military and intelligence assets to taking out the real threats posed by foreign terrorists inside of Iraq. It can address this threat within a reasonable timeframe and eliminate the U.S. troop presence inside of Iraq within 18 months.
  • Furthermore, a strategic redeployment will enable the United States to safeguard against the spread of Iraq’s conflict across its borders to neighboring countries.

7. Won’t redeployment allow Iraq to become a safe haven for Al Qaeda and other terrorists and allow the terrorists to “follow us home?”

  • Having our troops serve as referees in Iraq’s civil war and traffic cops in Iraq’s cities drains our ability to take out the terrorist networks that still threaten our nation.
  • In 2006, the United States eliminated Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, with air strikes, not with a massive presence of U.S. ground troops in Iraq.
  • With smaller and more nimble special operations units in Iraq, we will be in a better position to attack terrorist enemies in Iraq. With troops remaining in the region, we will be able to strike at any terrorist camps that might emerge in Iraq.
  • With more forces meeting the terrorist threats in Afghanistan, Asia and Africa, we will be taking a threat-based approach that sets our country’s policy back on the right path—before the Iraq war diverted attention and resources away from that critical fight.
  • The United States continues to face a serious threat from the terrorist networks that attacked us on 9/11. A strategic redeployment plan puts the focus back on this threat.

8. Will a redeployment of our troops embolden global terrorist networks and amount to nothing more than a “surrender date”?

  • No, a strategic redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq will strengthen our country’s ability to fight terrorist extremists around the world.
  • A pragmatic redeployment will put our country in a position to pull itself out of a growing civil war among Iraqis and focus our power on defeating the key threats to U.S. strategic interests around the Middle East and the world.

9. Won’t a redeployment of troops just open the door to an escalation of Iraq’s civil war and a wider regional war?

  • This question is based on the faulty assumptions that the current U.S. troop presence is stopping the civil war.
  • Even with more than 100,000 troops on the ground for the past several years, Iraq’s conflict has increased.
  • The main conflict in Iraq is a violent struggle for power. Until Iraqis stop killing Iraqis and settle their disputes peacefully, there is not much the United States and others can do militarily.
  • This is why the United States needs to combine a phased redeployment with intensified political and diplomatic efforts aimed at getting Iraqis to settle their differences.
  • In addition, as it redeploys its forces, the United States can work with countries in the region and other global powers to help the growing numbers of Iraqis displaced from their homes by the conflict.
  • Iraq’s neighbors have little interest in seeing the conflict spread. The United States needs to put Iraq’s leaders on notice and signal to countries in the region that they need to advance their own interests in stabilizing Iraq.
  • Staying the course with an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops fosters a culture of dependency in Iraq and the Middle East, and it’s time for the United States to put an end to this by redeploying its troops from Iraq and implementing a diplomatic surge aimed at getting countries in the region to do their share.

10. Won’t a military redeployment embolden the regime in Iran?

  • As long as the United States is bogged down in Iraq, it will not have the moral, political, and military power to deal effectively with Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons and undermine security in the region by support to terrorist groups like Hezbollah.