November 9, 2005
Senate Closed Session and The French Insurrection
By Ed Koch
Last week, without
first notifying Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), the Democratic
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invoked Senate Rule 21, which
allows two senators to force the Senate into a closed session.
session, Senator Reid asked why the Senate Intelligence Committee
had failed to complete a report on how the Bush Administration
handled the prewar intelligence it received on Iraq. The Chairman
of the Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts (R-KS), had promised
the Senate back in February 2004 that his committee would prepare
such a report.
denounced Reid’s maneuver saying, “This is an affront
to me personally. It’s an affront to our leadership. It’s
an affront to the United States of America. And it is wrong.”
My initial reaction was to be critical of Reid, because you don’t
play fast and loose with the country’s governmental institutions
during a time of war when men and women are dying in Iraq.
To its credit,
when the Senate came out of the special closed session, it reported
that it had agreed to name, according to The New York Times,
“three members from each party to assess the state of the
Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into prewar intelligence
and report back by November 14.” It became clear that a
coalition of Democrats, supported by a significant number of Republicans,
had forced the hand of the Republican leadership which did not
want this inquiry to be pursued.
firm in my belief that we were right to wage war against Iraq
when it refused to account, as required under UN Resolution 1441,
for the weapons of mass destruction that it acknowledged it had
after Gulf War I in 1991. However, I also believe that our intelligence
agencies, with the CIA in the lead, failed the nation, and the
public should be provided with the details. Those in charge, e.g.
George Tenet, et. al., should be named and suffer public disgrace.
with the Bush Administration’s plan to remain in Iraq until
the Iraqi military is able to put down the ongoing insurgency
without the assistance of the U.S. military. My resolve was reinforced
when The Times reported this Sunday, “In recent
months, American officers have been saying it will be years before
the Iraqi Army is able to operate on its own; in September, Gen.
George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, told
the Untied States Senate that only one Iraqi battalion at that
time was able to fight fully independent of American forces.”
word is “years,” and I do not believe the American
public will accept many more American casualties, now totaling
more than 2,000 deaths and more than 25,000 wounded. Furthermore,
we are clearly becoming less able to deal with other clear and
present dangers to our security posed by North Korea and Iran.
North Korea has the ability to launch nuclear bombs that may reach
Alaska and Hawaii, and it is working on extending the range of
its rockets. Iran is on the cusp of manufacturing nuclear bombs
thanks to rogue Pakistani scientist A.Q. Kahn who developed his
country’s so-called “Muslim bomb.”
allies, Germany and France, continue to abstain from doing their
part in Iraq. While they are assisting us in non-combat policing
activities in Afghanistan, they are not helping at all in Iraq,
even though they have as much or more to fear from that country
which has become a training center for terrorists worldwide.
* * *
taking place in the suburbs of Paris, which has now reached the
central city, reminds many of us of the book title from World
War II: “Is Paris Burning?” It also brings to France
a new Intifada rivaling or possibly surpassing anything that has
occurred in Israel. Over the last week, the world watched news
reports of more than 3,300 cars and several buildings being torched,
and French citizens and residents, of Arab and North African origin,
firing bullets at French police, 14 of whom were injured - two
from bullet wounds. At least one innocent civilian has been killed.
last presidential election, the French government looked away
and failed to take appropriate action to stop the repeated assaults
by Islamic fanatics against Jewish children on their way to school.
The Chief Rabbi of Paris warned Jewish children not to wear skull
caps which would identify them as Jews.
sowed the wind and now they are reaping the whirlwind. Some French
leaders would cave to whatever demands are made by the insurrectionists.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is assailed for having described
the rioters as “scum” and “thugs.” Those
who seek to understand the rioting, describing it as a response
to discrimination and the economic condition of Arab and North
African primarily Muslim citizens and residents, make a grave
mistake. The actions of the rioters are criminal, and those who
are rewarded for engaging in violence to achieve their ends will
use that weapon again and again.
I have little
sympathy for the French government which deserted the U.S. when
we needed their support in Iraq. That government’s refusal
to pitch in is especially unforgivable now that Iraq has elected
a democratic government and has asked the U.S. to stay on and
fight the insurrectionists. France has forgotten that we saved
it three times - in World War I, World War II and the Cold War.
Some of us must acknowledge that we take some comfort in the discomfort
of the haughty French government led by President Jacques Chirac
and his Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin.
dictates that while putting down violence should be its top priority,
France should reach out to law-abiding Muslims, listen to their
complaints and where their grievances are legitimate as many will
be, seek to end the discrimination and economic imbalances that
exist. Common sense also tells us that the troubles in France
may have less to do with social injustice than with an ongoing
"clash of civilizations" that will shake the world for
many years to come. Which values will prevail - those of the liberal,
democratic West or those of fundamentalist Islam which seeks to
impose its values on others through terror and violence? France
and the rest of the Western World must realize the enormity of
the threat and act with the resolve necessary to defeat it.
Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.