Donald Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert Gates, will be up for hearings in the lame-duck session of Congress. I propose that together we assemble a list of questions for Mr. Gates that should be asked by the Armed Services Committee, and then try to get Carl Levin to have them asked. Because Gates can dismiss questions of how we got into this mess on the basis of his non-involvement, the issues ought to be focused on the future.
Let me get this started with mine:
1. How do you rate our chances for success in Iraq? 50%? 80%? If it is below 80%, how can you justify the continued loss of life and limb? If you say it is above 80%, on what basis do you say that?
2. To date, more than 2800 US soldiers have died, more than 10,000 have been severely wounded, we are losing a batallion per month to death or injury, and we have spent $350 billion, or a check for $5000 from each American family of four, sent to Baghdad. How many additional deaths, how many additional severely wounded, how much more money are you willing to spend on Iraq?
Please do not try insult us by stating how tragic each casualty is and let it go at that. If our commitment is not unlimited, then what are the limits? Will you accept another 2800 US deaths, another 10,000 severely wounded, and another $350 billion? And please don't answer by telling us that it will not cost that---we have heard those assurances before, and paid dearly for the misleading mistakes. What are the upper limits of our commitment in terms of lives and treasure?
3. The American people have spoken that they want a major change in strategy, and the Iraq Study Group is, supposedly, going to suggest one. Regardless of what that strategy is, what are the measures you will use to determine whether that new strategy is working?
4. John McCain has suggested that the US forces attack the Sunni insurgents first, with the idea that if the Sunnis are stopped, the Mahdi Army, Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, will be persuaded to lay down their arms. Do you agree that this is a credible idea?
5. The women in Sadr City are armed, and intend to shoot anyone who breaks down their doors and enters their domicile, especially westerners. How is the US going to bring peace and stability to Baghdad while these women are armed, and the Mahdi Army protects that section of the city?
6. Do you agree with the NIE that stated that our actions in Iraq create more terrorists worldwide, or do you agree with George Bush that "if you are fighting terrorists, you are not creating more terrorists"?
7. Is there an example you can cite of a western army bringing lasting peace and stability to a middle eastern country? If not, why do you think that the US can accomplish what others have failed to do?
8. If Dick Cheney, or any other Administration official, makes a false statement such as "the insurgency is in its last throes", do you believe you have a responsibility to the American people to correct it, publicly and immediately?
9. Robert Pape has shown that suicide attacks against western targets did not occur before western troops were on Arab soil, e.g., the bombing of the barracks in Lebanon, and then suicide bombings after US troops established a base in Saudi Arabia. Do you agree with his analysis? If so, why do you believe that keeping US troops in Iraq does more good than harm to the worldwide war against terrorism?