“As I have affirmed many times since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the Bush Administration policy has forfeited our moral authority in Iraq. On the very day the report was released, another 10 U.S. soldiers lost their lives in Iraq. Attacks against U.S. forces now total more than 180 per day, and this figure doubles with each passing year.
“The report also restates our nation's massive financial commitment, now more than $400 billion dollars, sapping strength from domestic priorities such as health care, education, and energy independence, all much needed here at home.
“Unfortunately, the report begins with the sentence ‘The U.S. has long term relationships and interests at stake,’ but then fails to identify them. Obviously, one of them is oil, and the U.S. again does not commit itself in this report to a strong effort to restore America's energy independence at home.
“In addition, the report is very ‘iffy’ on how the oil bounty of Iraq will be handled in the future. Though it makes suggestions on how to manage it, the prospects of that being accomplished are quite remote. The report makes many recommendations that apply to Iraq, but not to end America's own chief strategic vulnerability—its dependence on imported petroleum, including from the Middle East.
“Importantly, the report places the Iraq situation in a regional context, explaining how what is happening in Iraq is operating to harm America's standing throughout the Middle East.
“It states how tepid international support is for the U.S. engagement in Iraq, despite the President's acclamations that there is a ‘coalition of the willing.’ In addition, though the report acknowledges that for the U.S. to draw down forces, Iraqi units must replace them, it then details that though 138,000 Army troops and 188,000 policy units have some state of ‘readiness,’ half of them are not up to the task, with many functions infiltrated by the opposition.
“The report presents a somewhat confusing picture on the issue of how long the U.S. might need to maintain its presence in Iraq. It recommends unit withdrawal by 2008, but then in a different section states that ‘not all U.S. combat brigades’ would be needed in the future for force protection—i.e., backup of Iraqi units.
“In the end, it fails to address the issue of how many combat units would actually be needed and therefore leaves the door open for an extended U.S. presence.
“Admitting the difficulty it will entail, the report recommends restoring broken diplomatic relations with nations the Administration has publicly ridiculed, such as Syria and Iran, as well as factions within Iraq and throughout the region with which the Administration has no dialogue, such as Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia.
“The report properly identifies the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict as paramount to reaching a regional peace settlement—stating clearly that neither Democrats nor Republicans would ever abandon Israel-and makes strong recommendations about restoring the peace process.
“The report also makes at least one statement that I find implausible. It says that only 5,000 civilian contractors are operating in Iraq--from hired guns to transportation specialists—when in fact that number exceeds 100,000 and represents a serious and worrisome departure from past U.S. military operations.
“If that private presence morphs into a mercenary force that occupies Iraq as the U.S. military withdraws, this would be a first in American history, and a development I would not welcome.
“Finally, I was disappointed to read that at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which will be the largest in the world with 1,000 employees, only 33 Americans speak Arabic. This is shocking and dangerous and another indication of the widespread mismanagement of the U.S. mission in Iraq.”