Now Playing: Joe Colgan in Seattle PI
Topic: Members Speak Out
I write as a veteran who has a special love for our troops and their families, and as the father of Lt. Benjamin Colgan, who was killed in action in Baghdad on Nov. 1, 2003. I also write on behalf of those who joined me in meeting with Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell last December about this senseless war in Iraq.
How many more Americans and Iraqis must perish or be maimed until the "stay-the-course" approach is discredited?
In October, Cantwell signed a letter stating "simply staying the current course is not a strategy for success." Yet when I met with Cantwell, she failed to distinguish her position from that of President Bush.
She also touted the importance of the Warner/Frist Amendment, which does nothing more than offer advice to the president and require that he report to Congress. After almost three years of unnecessary war, is this the best our highest deliberative body can do: make suggestions that will be ignored and beg to be kept informed? At this point in her re-election campaign, Cantwell must clarify her position on the Iraq war and hold public forums to discuss realistic options for ending this ever-deepening disaster.
It is time to acknowledge that the United States has now hit a dead-end on both the political and military fronts in Iraq, with current U.S. involvement in both areas only inflaming civil war. Last December's election in Iraq -- an event heralded as promising stability -- is itself undermined by the continuation of this occupation.
The United States is caught in the middle of a sectarian divide, and it will only get worse. Over the past five months, it has been widely reported that the United States has been trying to engage the Sunnis in political dialogue. Experts say that failing to do so can only deepen the insurgency. Yet showing Sunnis diplomatic respect inspires mistrust and anger from the rival Shiites.
Militarily, we've created the armed basis for a civil war. Iraqi armies in the north now consist of more than 10,000 Kurdish Peshmerga militia members who "wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades," according to a Knight Ridder new story in December. In southern Iraq the army consists of pro-Iranian Shiite fundamentalists. We have created military forces that, as they increase in "operational readiness," actually add to the instability of Iraq. Yet we continue a policy that conditions U.S. military disengagement on such operational readiness.
More Iraqi civilians are dying as a result of U.S. military actions. U.S. air strikes in Iraq have jumped from 25 per month last August to around 150 in December. The results of this strategy are predictable and horrifying. On Jan. 2, as many as 14 Iraqis, mostly women and children, were killed in a U.S. air strike. On Dec. 24, 2005, The Washington Post reported that U.S. air strikes killed many dozens of civilians throughout Iraq's Western Anbar province during the November offensive. In a 2005 report, Human Rights Watch deplored the U.S. strategy of resorting to indiscriminate aerial strikes resulting in civilian deaths.
A "reduction" of U.S. troops during 2006, in concert with an increasing air war, is not morally defensible or a way out.
The city of Fallujah represents a microcosm of the larger nightmare. We destroyed this town in order to save it. More than half its residents remain as refugees in their own country, and Americans are again dying in Fallujah at an increasing rate (12 in the past two months). The Pentagon's policy of "clear, hold and build" in reality does nothing more than "destroy, banish and build resentment."
We must go beyond the administration's false choice of staying the course or cutting and running. It is time for Cantwell to help move the debate beyond pointless rhetoric by taking a clear position and holding public forums to promote a better understanding of the costs of this war and how to end it. The only victory to be gleaned from this war is one for the American soul: Let's stop the killing.