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Hey Congress, Heed the Baker-Hamilton Report


The straightforward and sensible appeal of the Baker-Hamilton report to President Bush and Congress four years since our military troops toppled Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein was to please stop squabbling, put aside petty partisan differences about the Iraq quagmire, and help bring our country together to spread freedom and democracy.

Amen.

The country wants this. Our people showed with their votes that they are sick of the juvenile bickering. We want to win the struggle against terrorist thugs, wherever they are. We admire our troops and are grateful for their valiance and perseverance - and the sacrifice of their families while they are in harm's way. But we resent the political climate that prevents our country moving forward, strong and unified.

Do you politicians get it?

The Baker-Hamilton report gives us a good roadmap and some hope that we can rise above career politicians and bureaucrats in their crusty straightjackets, hopefully to get moving forward positively and unified. We'll see. The devil's in the details.

And with so many politicians of both parties already running for president in 2008, talking out of all sides of their mouths, it's tough to know who's really behind the freedom agenda and who is not.

At least we know where President Bush and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair stand - two good men. Pity they are lame ducks, and the mass media factotems don't credit these leaders for tremendous gains they have scored for freedom and a better life for people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and our own two countries. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have served their countries well, and we should be grateful.

The Baker-Hamilton report had 79 concrete recommendations to further efforts for freedom and democracy in Iraq.

William Kristol, founder and editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine and chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle during the administration of President Bush the elder, promptly called the report "disguised surrender." He complained the report was "not serious" because it did not include the words "war" and "victory" with respect to Iraq, and that it called for phased pullout of American troops before full military victory was attained.

Well, here's the rub - which Baker-Hamilton commission members from both parties and all sides of the political spectrum spoke to December 6 during their nationally televised press conference as the report was released:

o We are not winning the military situation that has followed painfully for four years since dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in superb fashion by our American military. We face intransigent sectarian and cultural obstacles against a democratic solution that have existed since before the birth of Christ and Muhammad.

o There is no indication that we can achieve a military or political victory in Iraq, amid continued vicious sectarian turmoil après Saddam, in any conventional sense, without suffering unnecessary American casualties ad infinitum.

o We need to get out of Iraq with dignity, saving our gains for human liberty and global security from worldwide madmen, as soon as possible.

The 10-member Baker-Hamilton group unanimously came together with solid recommendations how to save what we have achieved to date amid seemingly hopeless Iraq sectarian violence and power struggle among the country's various factions, and insurgent terrorism against innocent Iraqi people themselves and our own military men and women who are seen as unwanted military occupiers.

They are 10 splendid former high officeholders -- five Democrats, five Republicans -- including co-chairmen James A. Baker III, President Reagan's White House chief of staff and President Bush I's Secretary of State, and Lee Hamilton, longtime Democratic chairman of the House International Relations Committee. Also, President Reagan's Attorney General Edwin Meese III; Leon Panetta, White House Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton; retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; and William J. Perry, Defense Secretary for President Clinton.

The report made three very sensible basic major recommendations:

o Quite quickly strengthen the Iraq military at all levels by embedding U.S. military troops with Iraq military troops, right down to the company level - which has not been done to this point - and train Iraqi troops to take over from U.S. military forces in all jobs and in all regions of Iraq, at all possible speed.

This is a proper exit strategy.

Iraq's military should take over from U.S. military troops in all national security and anti-terrorist functions ASAP and save the victory our valiant military forces have achieved so far, while still quelling the sectarian violence that is perhaps exacerbated by the reality that most of the Iraqi populace does not like the presence of U.S. troops as military occupiers of their country.

o Talk to government leaders of Iran and Syria in order to stabilize the region and isolate the terrorists. Keeping channels open and talking is not giving in to our adversaries, but keeping open avenues to counter the worldwide terrorist menace that threatens them as well as us. We must always keep open diplomatic channels with all countries in the world, friendly or not. As our parents taught us, don't spite your nose to hurt your face.

Our country was never afraid to talk to the Soviet Union's or China's leaders - Nikita Khrushchev during administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson; Mikhail Gorbachev during the tenure of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; Mao Tse-tung.

Soviet leaders in the 1980s and '90s knew what cards we held, and our country beat them - economically, diplomatically, and the militarily -- thanks to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) option that critics called "Star Wars."

Gorbachev blinked at the Reykjavik summit in October 1986, and the Berlin Wall soon came tumbling down thanks to Reagan's muscular diplomacy, the SDI threat, and a parallel strategy within the worldwide Catholic community by Pope John Paul II to topple Soviet-dominated communist totalitarianism in then-puppet states of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and other Soviet states.

This is what the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Commission, in its wisdom, recognized. We won the war in Iraq by toppling Saddam Hussein, but the aftermath of taking over and stabilizing a defeated country -- as General Douglas McArthur did when he took over Japan after its surrender at the end of World War II - is very difficult and longtime heavy-lifting,

There is no denying that we are now bogged down in Iraq as military occupiers of a country torn by sectarian Muslim divisions, power-struggles, and insane terrorism. Why stay in the middle of this idiocy and continue to lose American lives?

It's time, now, for the Iraq government to step up to the plate firmly and succeed American military troops with their own trained forces. They must quickly and expertly be trained, and the Baker-Hamilton report said this is a main priority. This requires deployment of much more carefully selected American troops to Iraq and the region with needed technical, vocational, and professional skills across the board.

Diplomatically, the United States must tell leaders of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt that we want stability in their region, and will use all military power necessary to achieve that result. We want to work together with them towards peace, but the terrorist enemy will not win because we will not allow them to get the upper hand.

We have a big stick. There will be no cut-and-run from Iraq, or anywhere in the world where terrorism rears its ugly head,

Perhaps the Baker-Hamilton report's most important recommendation was to our own politicians and leaders:

o Help unify our country.

At the press conference releasing the Baker-Hamilton report, Leon Panetta, President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, said he made this plea to President Bush when the 10 commission members met with him at the White House to present their conclusions:

"As I told the president this morning, this war has badly divided this country. This country cannot be at war and be as divided as we are today," Panetta, a former congressman from California, said he told Bush. "You've got to unify this country."

President Bush agreed at a White House meeting with members of the Baker-Hamilton commission:

"The country, in my judgment, is tired of pure political bickering that happens in Washington, and they understand that on this important issue of war and peace, it is best for our country to work together," the president said.

We'll just have to wait and see whether the new Democratic majority in Congress wants that to happen, or if it will be continued political bickering and stand-off as usual.