An Open Offer to U.S. Senators

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One of the biggest problems with the Iraq War is that
politics has frequently triumphed over truth.  For instance, we went into Iraq with
shoddy intelligence (at best), no reconstruction plan, and perhaps half as many
troops as were required.  We refused to admit that an insurgency was
growing, until the country collapsed into anarchy and civil war.  Now the
truth is that Iraq
is showing real progress on many fronts:  Al Qaeda is being defeated and
violence is down and continuing to decrease.  As a result, the militias
have lost their reason for existence and are getting beaten back or
co-opted.  Shia, Sunni and Kurds are coming together -- although with
various stresses -- under the national government.  If progress continues
at this rate, it is very possible that before 2008 is out, we can finally say
"the war has ended."  Yes, likely there still will be some
American casualties, but if the violence continues to drop and the Iraqi
government consolidates its gains, we will be able, in good conscience, to
begin bringing more of our people home.  I will be paying very close
attention to the words of Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, who is replacing
General Petraeus as the overall commander in Iraq.


Whatever we do in Iraq
from here forward, we must strive to make better decisions than those made
between 2003 and 2006.  And one way to achieve that is by making certain
that our civilian leaders are fully informed.  All three candidates for
President are extremely intelligent, but that doesn't mean that all three are
tracking the truth on the ground in Iraq.  Anyone who wants to be
President of the United States
needs to see Iraq
without the distorting lenses of the media or partisan politics.  I would
be honored to visit Iraq
with Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, Senator McCain or any of their Senate
colleagues.


I hereby offer to accompany any Senator to Iraq, whether
they are pro-or anti-war, Democrat or Republican.  I will make this offer
personally to a few select Senators as well.  Our conversations during the
visit would be on- or off-record, as they wish.  Touring Iraq with me, as well as briefings by U.S.
officers and meetings with Iraqis, would  provide an accurate and nuanced
account of the progress and challenges ahead, so that the Senators might have a
highly informed perspective on this most critical issue. Our civilian leaders
need to make decisions based on the best information available.  The only
way to learn what is really going on in Iraq is to go there and listen to
our ground commanders, who know what they are doing.  Generals Petraeus and Odierno have years of
experience in Iraq,
and vast knowledge of our efforts there. 
But the young soldiers who have done multiple tours in Iraq also have
unique and invaluable perspectives as well. 
These young soldiers have personally witnessed the trajectory of the war
shift dramatically, and can articulate those changes in concrete and specific
terms.  It doesn’t matter if a soldier is
only twenty-something.  If he or she
spent two or three years in the war, that person is likely to have valuable
insights.   The best way to understand
what is really going on is to listen closely to a wide range of service members
who have done multiple tours in Iraq.  Some will be negative, some will be positive,
but overall I am certain that the vast majority of multi-tour Iraq veterans
will testify that there has been great progress, and now there is hope.  Combat veterans don’t tolerate happy talk or
wishful thinking.  They’ll tell you the raw
truth as they see it.


Whether any Senators take advantage of my offer, I do hope
that the presidential candidates visit Iraq, not just for a photo
opportunity, but to spend time with our commanders and combat veterans, who know
the truth and are not afraid to speak it.


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