October 11, 2005
A New Proposal For Iraq
By Ed Koch

On October 6th, President Bush delivered a superb speech on international terrorism. It is because our President has been willing to stand up to international terrorism and so many leaders in the Democratic Party have not been willing to do so, that caused me and millions of others to cross party lines and support him in the last presidential election and cheer his victory; notwithstanding that I did not then, nor do I now, agree with him on a single domestic issue, ranging from his proposals to reform Social Security and to changing our tax structure. For me, the single most important issue the world faced in 2001 and now, trumping all other issues, is international terrorism. President Bush’s willingness in the face of all the attacks, so many unfair and ad hominen, to continue to stand up and exhort the world to continue the ongoing battle against international terrorism is why I admire and respect him so much. Would that my party produced such a leader that I could similarly follow. I know that will happen someday.

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The President’s recent speech on international terrorism was magnificent. The text of the President’s entire speech, delivered at the National Endowment for Democracy on October 6th, can be obtained from the White House.

The New York Times in two foolish editorials published on the next day, October 7, 2005, sought to denigrate the President instead of trying to add to our security by strengthening him in his leadership when he has taken on the ferocious, often insane, Islamic terrorists who believe they have the right to kill every infidel -- Christians, Jews, Hindus, et.al. The terrorists want to reestablish the Caliphate from Spain to Indonesia and impose militant aggressive Islam on the world. Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, wrote a 6,000 word letter, not intended for public consumption, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Queda’s leader in Iraq, the latter having earlier called for the killing of civilian Shiittes in Iraq and the killing of Christians and Jews worldwide.

Shouldn’t the Times editorials have referred to those terrorist dangers and, in particular, the grand plan of bin Laden which the letter describes. The Times news article quoting the official who provided the briefing to the Times, reports the letter was a “comprehensive and chilling strategic vision for Qaeda.”

The editorials, instead of highlighting the terrorist’s letter, chose to criticize the President. The lead editorial hectored, “The president’s inability to grow beyond his big moment in 2001 is unnerving. But the fact that his handlers continue to encourage him to milk 9/11 is infuriating.” The second editorial denounced him for “talk[ing] so menacingly about Syria and Iran. It was also maddening to listen to him describe the perils that Iraq poses while denying that his policies set them in motion.”

In his letter, according to the Times news story, Zawahiri wrote that “Iraq had become ‘the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era,’” but that it was “only a stepping stone toward a broader victory for militant Islam across the Middle East.” The letter “includes a four-state battle plan, beginning with the American military’s expulsion, followed by the establishment of a militant Islamic caliphate across Iraq before moving to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. The final step would be a battle against Israel.”

Both the President’s speech and the letter from Zawahiri telling the world what is in store for it if the terrorists win were available on the same day, October 6th. The Times’ two editorials chose to attack President Bush, remaining silent on bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi. The President’s speech should have been praised by the Times, not denigrated. I believe that if Tony Blair had made it, The Times would have at the very least praised its eloquence.

The President honestly and directly described what is at stake in the war on terrorism, stating:

“Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence -- the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of the killers -- and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.”

“ we're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes. State sponsors like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror. The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account.”

I disagree with the President’s decision to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan while our allies overwhelmingly decline to provide combat troops and pay their fair share of the costs of a war which threatens them even more than it threatens us in the immediate future. But my disagreement relates to tactics, not the strategic outcome.

In Afghanistan, we, with other countries, are present under a UN mandate, yet we are the only country performing military operations against the Taliban and enemies of the Afghan government chosen in an election monitored by the UN. Other countries provide military assistance to the Afghan government, but do not participate in combat. This is unfair and unacceptable. In Iraq, the situation is even worse. These countries participating, albeit in a limited fashion in Afghanistan, e.g., France and Germany, do not participate at all in Iraq, leaving the dying and suffering primarily to us and the British. This too is manifestly unfair.

The Wall Street Journal reported on October 7th that terrorist attacks against Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia are on the rise, placing those countries in jeopardy.

I propose that we put the UN Security Council on notice that we will leave Iraq by the end of this year. My belief is that the UN, particularly France, Germany and Russia, knowing we will leave, will have a greater interest in maintaining peace in Iraq than we have, either a regional interest, e.g., Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan; or a commercial interest -- oil and vendor contracts with Iraq -- e.g., Germany and France. They will then understand that it is in their interest to have us remain with them proportionately providing troops and sharing the costs of war. We should provide them with these choices. Indeed, whether they come in or not as a result of our threat of withdrawal, we will be strengthened on another front. As a result of our being in Iraq to the extent that the largest number of our worldwide forces -- 149,000 American soldiers -- are tied down, we are unable to be a vital threat to North Korea, Iran and Syria. Those countries believe that, because we are in Iraq and bereft of allies, we are a paper tiger whose demands and threats can be ignored with impunity.

The president in his speech stated, “today, there are more than 80 Iraqi Army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces.” That may be true. But according to The New York Times of September 30th, “In Washington on Thursday, the senior American military commander in Iraq told Congress that only one Iraqi Army battalion was capable of fighting without help from Untied States armed forces. But the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., was joined by the Pentagon’s senior civilian and military leaders in stressing that growing numbers of Iraqi police and Army forces are increasingly able to provide security in their country.”

Clearly, it will be a long time before the Iraqi Army can stand up on its own, so as to permit the U.S. Army, in the words of the President in an earlier speech, to “stand down.” It is simply unacceptable that the Iraqi Army under the direction of the Iraqi government two years after the end of hostilities is still not able to fight the insurgents on their own. Indeed, the insurgents appear to be growing in capability. They are suspected by the British, as stated by Tony Blair, of receiving improved explosives from Iran which permit them to kill larger numbers of British troops.

The same arguments apply to our being required to assume a heavier burden in Afghanistan than is fair. If the American public believes we are not being helped by our allies in our efforts to prevent a victory for the Islamist terrorists threatening the whole world, the numbers of those tiring of the war will increase. I urge the President to consider my proposal. But he should also know that I stand with him and extol his courage and willingness to stand up for the U.S. and all peaceful nations.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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