Cover image for From Vietnam to 9/11: On the Front Lines of National Security, with a New Epilogue on the Iraq War By John P. Murtha and With John Plashal

From Vietnam to 9/11

On the Front Lines of National Security, with a New Epilogue on the Iraq War

John P. Murtha, and With John Plashal


$35.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-02928-3

280 pages
6" × 9"
11 b&w illustrations/5 maps
Second Paperback Edition

From Vietnam to 9/11

On the Front Lines of National Security, with a New Epilogue on the Iraq War

John P. Murtha, and With John Plashal

“Congressman Murtha has written an insightful and powerful account of his life of public service and of the significant events in our nation's recent history that he has witnessed. It is a firsthand account by one of the most respected members of our Congress. This is a must-read if you want to hear it straight from a savvy man of action who was there making history.”


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  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
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In 1974, John P. "Jack" Murtha became the first Vietnam combat veteran elected to Congress. In the nearly three decades since then, Congressman Murtha has been intimately involved with governmental decisions about America's national security and foreign policy, adding his unique perspective to international affairs while faithfully representing Pennsylvania's twelfth district. From Vietnam to 9/11 combines personal memoir with thoughtful analysis to provide a behind-the-scenes account of the formation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy in the last quarter-century. At the same time, it tells the story of a man committed to service and community.

This edition, updated for 2006, contains the Congressman's November 17, 2005, press release concerning the redeployment of U.S. troops, his letter to his congressional colleagues about why he changed his mind on the war, and his letter of February 2, 2006, to President Bush about changing course in the Iraq War.

“Congressman Murtha has written an insightful and powerful account of his life of public service and of the significant events in our nation's recent history that he has witnessed. It is a firsthand account by one of the most respected members of our Congress. This is a must-read if you want to hear it straight from a savvy man of action who was there making history.”
“This uniquely powerful book offers the reader an opportunity for a new voyage of discovery. Congressman Murtha presents you an opportunity to discover the innermost workings of our democracy, our Congress, and the evolving shapes of complex decisions.
“The completion of this voyage will enable the reader to better comprehend the eddies, currents, tides and endless complexities which face our nation in national security and foreign policy. The author, through his personal experiences and efforts vividly detailed in this book, will make every reader a better informed citizen.”
“This is a book that should be included in every history and current events collection.”

John P. Murtha graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in economics and did graduate work in economics and political science at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In 1966, Jack Murtha volunteered to serve in Vietnam, where he was twice wounded; he received the Bronze Star with Combat "V," two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He was elected to Congress in 1974, where he still serves today. He retired from the Marine Corps Reserves in 1990.



List of Acronyms

1. Service in Vietnam: 1966-1967

2. Election to Congress—Return to Vietnam

3. Tragedy in Lebanon

4. Soviet Union’s Defeat in Afghanistan

5. High Drama Election in the Philippines

6. Stolen Election and American Intervention in Panama

7. “Operation Desert Shield” and “Operation Desert Storm”

8. Humanitarian Mission to Manhunt in Somalia

9. War in the Balkans

10. September 11, 2001

11. Reflecting on the Past/Looking to the Future


Update 2006

When I was advised that another printing of From Vietnam to 9/11 was going to take place, I felt that it was appropriate to include an update. Since the last printing, I had become increasingly disillusioned with the administration’s Iraq policy. I decided to offer a resolution in the House of Representatives that called for an immediate redeployment of American forces from Iraq, establishing a strong “over the horizon” military presence in the region, and pursuing security and stability in Iraq through diplomatic efforts. I gave a speech in the House explaining the resolution. I also sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to each member of the House and Senate to elaborate on my views, and in February 2006, I sent a letter to the President of the United States. The speech and both letters follow.

Speech in the House of Representatives, November 15, 2005

The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people, or the Persian Gulf region.

General Casey said in a September 2005 hearing, “The perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.” General Abizaid said, on the same date, “Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.”

For two and a half years I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war, I was in Kuwait—the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line, they will be attacked by the Iraqis with weapons of mass destruction—but the U.S. forces said they were prepared. They had well-trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.

We spend more money on intelligence than all the countries in the world together, and more on intelligence than most countries’ GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.

I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the war. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats. The future of our military is at risk. Our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment. Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We cannot allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care, to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared. The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls at our bases in the U.S.

Much of our ground equipment is worn out and in need of either serious overhaul or replacement. George Washington said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” We must rebuild our Army. Our deficit is growing out of control. The director of the Congressional Budget Office recently admitted to being “terrified” about the budget deficit in the coming decades. This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry, and without a draft. The burden of this war has not been shared equally; the military and their families are shouldering this burden.

Our military has been fighting a war in Iraq for over two and a half years. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured, and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

I just recently visited Anbar Province, Iraq, in order to assess the conditions on the ground. Last May 2005, as part of the Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill, the House included the Moran Amendment, which was accepted in conference, and which required the Secretary of Defense to submit quarterly reports to Congress in order to more accurately measure stability and security in Iraq. We have now received two reports. I am disturbed by the findings in key indicator areas. Oil production and energy production are below prewar levels. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by the security situation. Only $9 billion of the $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. Unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce. Only $500 million of the $2.2 billion appropriated for water projects has been spent. And most importantly, insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going down over time and with the addition of more troops, attacks have grown dramatically. Since the revelations at Abu Ghraib, American casualties have doubled. An annual State Department report in 2004 indicated a sharp increase in global terrorism.

I said over a year ago, and now the military and the administration agrees, Iraq cannot be won “militarily.” I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize, and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists, and foreign jihadists. I believe with U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80 percent of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45 percent of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.

I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid-December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free—free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a “free” Iraq.

My plan calls:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.

To create a quick reaction force in the region.

To create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines.

To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.

This war needs to be personalized. As I said before, I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.

Our military has done everything that has been asked of them; the U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home.

“Dear Colleague” Letter to House and Senate Members, December 15, 2005

Dear Colleague:

I am writing you this letter because many have asked me to spell out more completely how I arrived at my decision to introduce a resolution calling for the immediate redeployment of our troops in Iraq and their withdrawal at the earliest practicable time and an emphasis on diplomacy.

From a military perspective, our forces have accomplished an important mission. They have deposed an evil dictator and defeated his army.

The war in Iraq is approaching the end of its third year.

It is time for Iraqi leaders to take control of the future of their country.

It is time that the over 200,000 Iraqis who have received military and police training over the past three years take over the hard job of providing domestic security themselves and stop using American forces as a crutch to lean on.

It is time for U.S. forces to redeploy out of the country in an orderly but rapid way, soon after the Iraqi government is elected on December 15.

It is time that our military “footprint” in the area is converted from a pervasive presence inside Iraq to a powerful quick reaction force outside of Iraq.

It is time for a vigorous and engaged debate on the administration’s Iraq policy based on substance and facts, not political hyperbole.

The American people are ahead of the politicians in Washington and are demanding a change of course. They are deeply disturbed by the high level of ongoing violence, the ever changing explanations of why we are in Iraq, the lack of progress in achieving the war’s poorly articulated goals, and the utterly confusing and conflicting messages from the administration telling the American people we plan to “stay the course” while at the same time planning a rapid drawdown of our troops.

In engaging in the debate about how to proceed, let’s stick to the facts. It is a disservice to substitute personal and political attacks for reasoned debate about a deadly serious topic, especially when such prominent Americans as the following have spoken out:

– General Brent Scowcroft (Army Ret.), who served as President George H. W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, has said that the war in Iraq is “feeding” terrorism.

– General George Casey Jr., Commanding General, Multi-National Force Iraq, said in a September 2005 hearing, “The perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.”

– General John Abizaid, Commander, U.S. Central Command, said on the same date, “Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.”

It is also a disservice to our fine young men and women in uniform to argue that leaders in Washington and elsewhere must refrain from debating this issue for fear of hurting the morale of the troops in the field. Our troops know that diversity of opinion and honorable debate over matters of war and peace are integral and essential parts of America’s democratic system. A system they have pledged to defend. A vigorous debate based on facts and not political hyperbole helps to hold our leaders accountable and keeps our country strong. Our troops expect their political leaders to come to these decisions that can affect their lives with much deliberation and a sense of putting the interests of our nation ahead of personal political gain.

Our military forces today are one of the finest in our history. They are loyally and faithfully fulfilling their duty and carrying out their orders. What is demoralizing to them is not a debate in Washington, but the many missteps by the civilian leadership that have led to a situation where the vast majority of the Iraqi people now view them as occupiers, not as liberators.

My own views have evolved and taken shape after making a number of inspection trips to Iraq, participating in numerous Congressional hearings on the war, holding untold numbers of private conversations with members of the military and Middle East specialists, and visiting hundreds of the wounded at our military hospitals around the world.

Ultimately, my decision to recommend an immediate redeployment of our troops came down to the answers to three basic questions:

(1) Are the Bush administration’s stated goals of the war achievable and are they worth the cost in lives and treasure?

(2) To what extent, if any, is the war in Iraq contributing toward winning the War Against Terrorism?

(3) Would the security of the United States of America be strengthened or weakened by a continued open-ended military presence in Iraq?

Iraqi War Goals Are a Moving Target

It is next to impossible to say America’s war goals for Iraq are achievable because they shift and change so often. I believe this is one of the main reasons why the American people are turning against this war. They have not been given a clear and convincing set of reasons as to why the continued sacrifice of brave young Americans is vital to our national security interest.

The administration is currently on its sixth different explanation as to why this war is necessary. The rationale for conducting the war began with emphatic and unequivocal claims that Saddam Hussein and his regime constituted an imminent threat to America. Over time the rationale morphed to the assertion that the war was necessary to remove a vile dictator and free the Iraqi people. It changed again to “if we don’t fight them in the streets and back alleys of Baghdad and Tikrit, they’ll be here in America wreaking havoc and destruction.” It then shifted to the need to spread democracy in the Middle East, followed by the need to prevent a civil war. We are now told that Iraq is the central front of the War on Terror and we can’t depart until Iraqi forces are fully and completely trained to take over our mission and not until “complete victory” is achieved.

At the time of our invasion, it was portrayed that Saddam Hussein was a clear and present danger and an “imminent threat” to America and must be removed before a “mushroom cloud” appeared over American soil. It was also implied that Hussein was somehow linked to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Of course, as we now know, Saddam had no nuclear weapons and there was no proven link to al-Qaeda.

After no nuclear weapons or biological weapons of mass destruction were found, the justification for the war changed to the argument that we have removed a despicable dictator and freed the Iraqi people from oppression and suffering. While this in itself was a significant achievement, the reality is that there are many evil, dictatorial regimes around the world. The American people rarely have been supportive of a policy of using the American military for regime change simply because we could potentially better the lives of the oppressed in other countries. There also must be an overriding national security interest.

The Iraq war rationale then morphed once again into an argument that it was better to fight the terrorists in Iraq than on the streets of Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles. At first glance, this may seem to be a logical argument. A closer look reveals this argument to be based more on emotion and domestic political concerns than on analysis and reason. Every credible analyst believes that the majority of Iraqi insurgents are not al-Qaeda members, but disaffected Sunni Baathists left over from the Saddam regime who perceive no real hope for their future. They are fighting because they lost power and privilege and need to gain a seat at the bargaining table when the future government is put together. They have little need to export their violence to other lands. They want to share power in Iraq.

When it became apparent that the American public was accepting none of these justifications, the administration turned to a policy rationale that involved a sort of Wilsonian construct, saying our goal really has been to make Iraq the centerpiece of our efforts to spread democracy across the Middle East.

I agree with the administration that the upcoming Iraqi election on December 15th is a very important step toward establishing a democratic style of governance. I commend the Iraqi people for the courage they have shown by participating in past elections and no doubt will show again in the upcoming election. It is gratifying to see the citizens of Iraq go to the voting booths, defy the insurgents, dip their fingers in indelible ink, and vote. The “birth throes” of democracy are taking place. American soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen who have served in Iraq should feel especially proud of this achievement.

However, this unfolding milestone must be kept in perspective. Holding a free election is not equivalent to having a functioning democracy. Without the robust institutions of a free press, an effective police force, a fair judicial system, and an impartial system of laws and regulations that guarantee equal rights and privileges for all, a nation can’t truly function as a vibrant democracy.

Unfortunately, this administration has been seen as inconsistent when it comes to setting a good example for the establishment of these democratic institutions, which has set back our objective immensely. We are widely seen around the world as hypocritical, pursuing a policy in Iraq of “do as I say, not as I do.” The disaster at Abu Ghraib, sending incoherent messages from the very top of the American government regarding the use of torture, paying for favorable Iraqi news stories, running secret prisons, instituting inconsistent practices on giving prisoners due process rights, and running what many people are beginning to see as a circus trial of Saddam Hussein all hurt U.S. credibility around the world, making it more difficult to achieve this worthy goal.

I agree that our foreign policy should support the opening up of Arab societies—culturally, economically, and politically. This is very important for the long-term peace and stability of the Middle East. But our policy must be guided by an achievable plan that has a realistic timetable and a full appreciation of the limitations of encouraging radical change for nations with cultures and traditions far different from ours.

The administration simply has run out of both time and American soldiers to install a democracy in Iraq in the way it had planned. Instead, the next steps toward achieving this difficult transition rest with the Iraqis themselves, with the role of America reverting to the traditional approach of providing strong and consistent leadership through steady statesmanship, economic aid, and technical assistance. Keeping our troops in Iraq will be a hindrance toward reaching this goal, not a benefit.

We are also hearing yet another new justification for “staying the course”—i.e., if we leave, a civil war will ensue. I would make three brief observations. First, this position is the ultimate in circular logic. The proponents of this view are saying, in effect, “Our invasion and pervasive military presence have created a highly unstable environment in which a civil war may occur in Iraq, and therefore we can’t leave Iraq because a civil war may occur.”

Second, the ethnic and religious strife in the area of what is now the country of Iraq can be measured not in decades or centuries but in millennia. Those potentially explosive hatreds and tensions will be there if our troops leave in six months, six years, or six decades. The answer to stability in Iraq is not based in military power; it is based in a new political structure that gives all people an effective voice and hope for a brighter economic future.

Third, let’s face it: a civil war is already going on, at least to some extent, in the central portion of Iraq—in the four provinces where 50 percent of the Iraqis reside. Would it expand if American troops withdrew in a relatively short time frame?

Probably so if the Iraqis establish a governmental system in the coming months that excludes meaningful participation from major portions of the population (such as the Sunnis).

Probably not if all major stakeholders are given a voice and have a sense of participation in the new government.

The War in Iraq and the War on Terror

The Bush administration’s most recent rationale for the war is that Iraq has become the “central front” in the War on Terror, and American troops cannot depart until an Iraqi army and police force is fully trained and equipped to provide stability and contain or eradicate these terrorists.

If the war in Iraq and our continued large military presence was actually succeeding in driving a stake into the heart of al-Qaeda, the terrible loss of life and limb and the quarter of a trillion dollars we have spent in Iraq to date would be worth it. But I believe that President George H. W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, General Brent Scowcroft, was right when he observed that the way we are handling the war in Iraq is “feeding” terrorism, not eliminating it. Our heavy military presence in Iraq is the single most important reason our radical enemies have been able to recruit fresh new suicide bombers and terrorists and garner a measure of support from the Iraqi people. Even by the administration’s own numbers, our current policy is creating as many or more terrorists than it is eliminating. It is simply not working.

Recent polls now show that 80 percent of the Iraqi people view us as occupiers and want us to leave. In a recent conference in Cairo, Iraqi leaders who are friendly to U.S. interests and are under the constant threat of death from radical terrorists called for a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces. They know what our administration refuses to acknowledge, that our military presence is adding to instability in Iraq, not contributing to peace.

I also have to question the way we have decided to fight this war from a military strategy perspective. From the beginning of the invasion, our civilian war planners in the Pentagon and the White House have badly miscalculated and made gross errors. They have no effective political strategy to this day to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis.

Instead they have adopted a strategy of military attrition in which they assume the terrorists (or “dead enders,” as they were first called) had no base of support, only limited numbers, and no recruiting capability for new fighters. Therefore our policy has been to kill or capture them with U.S. troops (and eventually Iraqi troops) until they are effectively wiped out or neutralized. But we have found this to be a much tougher fight that requires a far more sophisticated approach.

The war in Iraq is the ultimate case of “asymmetrical warfare”—i.e., one side has overwhelming superiority in weapon systems, tactics, and training, and the other has a very limited conventional military capability but uses other strengths such as knowledge of the local neighborhoods, language, and culture, a strong nationalistic sense of resistance to any foreign intervention among the population, religious zealotry, and an abundance of weapons left over from Saddam Hussein (that we have been unable to secure) that will supply them for years to come.

Does the United States have the staying power to fight this type of war of attrition as designed by the civilian Pentagon planners? We have proved we can do amazing things when our nation is committed to doing so. But it is a different question when our leaders have not convinced the country of the need for an all-out commitment. That is certainly the case for Iraq even though the American people overwhelmingly support a true War on Terrorism.

Let us compare, for a moment, the staying power of the two sides in terms of sustainability of their logistics base and their ability to provide sufficient manpower. We have an 8,000-mile supply chain to sustain our forces costing about $1.5 billion dollars a week. The total cost thus far has been a quarter of a trillion dollars. The complexity of this logistics “tail” is as enormous as its length. As just one example, we must supply fourteen different grades of gasoline for our various vehicles and aircraft in the region. At a bare minimum, to sustain our forces, there must be two long truck convoys coming out of Kuwait every day to distribution points near Baghdad, each consisting of roughly one hundred Army trucks the size of eighteen-wheelers that must travel a gauntlet of 700 miles round trip, or the distance between Washington, D.C., and Canton, Ohio. The routes of these long convoys are known by many Iraqis, as are the general schedules. They are regularly attacked. On the personnel side, we have an Army and Guard and Reserves stretched so thin that many soldiers are preparing for their fourth tour in Iraq. This has caused grave concern about our ability to recruit quality men and women into the Army, the Marine Corps, and our Guard and Reserve units, which has grave consequences for our armed forces for many years to come.

For the insurgents to maintain their battle, they need only to hire from what seems to be an inexhaustible supply of apolitical locals for a nominal fee to imbed cheap explosive devices in the roadbed, or to convince young religious zealots to drive an old car filled with explosives into an American convoy.

Without the resolve of the American people, our current strategy for Iraq is bound to fail over time and we must change course.

On the other hand, the American people know we need to be fully engaged in the War on Terror. The administration has tried to make the case that the war in Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror. I simply do not concur that these are one and the same. I believe the American people have reached the same conclusion.

There should be two “central fronts” in the War on Terror. For military purposes, it should be focused on where the leadership and main strength of al-Qaeda and related organizations exist. To me, that is clearly in the area of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, not Iraq. We do not have unlimited intelligence and military assets to cover both theaters, and unfortunately the priority of Iraq has hurt our ability in the true fight, which is currently in Afghanistan and surrounding areas.

The second and perhaps more important “front” in the War on Terror is the long-term battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. This is not a battle for the Department of Defense, but for the Department of State. It is a battle we should be able to win resoundingly because we share so many values with common Muslims and stand for the principles of freedom and equality. Yet by any measure, our efforts have been a dismal failure so far. We simply have not put the emphasis on articulating our common purpose, values, and intentions with the general Muslim population that we should. This is the area that deserves the most attention in the coming years.

America Needs a National Strategy to Win the War Against Terrorism

In setting a national security strategy, communicating that strategy to the public, and analyzing alternative proposals, America’s leaders must, first and foremost, view matters through the lens of the threat. What is the primary threat to America’s national security? How do we best protect ourselves from that threat? What resources should we allocate to which programs in order to counter the threat in the most cost-effective manner? This administration has become so deeply engrossed and invested in the politics of the Iraqi war that they have lost this bigger and more important perspective.

The $1.5 billion-a-week cost of the war in Iraq is astronomical. Funds appropriated for the war and related nation building are quickly approaching $300 billion. In constant dollars, that total is almost three-quarters of the cost of the Korean War and one-half of the cost of the Vietnam War.

The annual expenditures for the war on Iraq dwarf those of the combined budgets of all other programs in place to fight terrorism. That is a gross misallocation of resources and has important consequences for making our population safer from terrorist attack. The dollars used to pay for an 8,000-mile logistical pipeline to Iraq could be reapplied to fixing our many vulnerabilities at home in the transportation sector, or at chemical plants, river levees, or nuclear power plants.

Just in the last two weeks the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, chaired by Gov. Thomas Kean, issued a failing report card on the administration’s leadership to improve our counter-terrorist defenses. Of the forty-one commission recommendations made seventeen months ago, progress was judged to be “unacceptable,” with many more grades of Fs than As being issued by the commission (5 Fs, 12 Ds, and 1 A-). Basic recommendations, such as the coordination of fire and police communication lines, still have not been accomplished.


The administration has spelled out its “Strategy for Victory in Iraq.” Instead, I believe we must have a “Strategy for Victory Against Global Terrorism.”

We should be conducting a war against the terrorists in which America’s borders are effectively guarded to keep out terrorists, and programs are in place to ensure that none of the millions of cargo containers that enter American ports contain explosives that could render one or more of our great ports inoperable and debilitate our economy, not a “War on Terror” where our finest young people are sacrificing their lives and limbs to implement the visions of “intellectual geopolitical strategists” who fantasize about Jeffersonian democracies being installed in Middle East cultures that have had authoritarian regimes during their entire two millennia of existence.

A “War on Terror” should be waged in which respect for America’s policies and America’s principles enables our country to count heavily on the cooperation and action of the intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies of countries around the world to achieve ultimate victory against the terrorists.

Ever since the invasion of Iraq, each major event has been described by the administration as an important turning point toward achieving its goals in Iraq. Those events include Saddam Hussein’s sons being killed in a firefight, the agreement to transfer power to an interim government, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Council signing an interim constitution, replacement of the Iraqi Governing Council with a caretaker government, Ayad Allawi being designated Prime Minister of the Iraqi interim government, and October 15th elections to approve a Constitution.

Yet the violence is as widespread as ever. The killed in action and wounded soldiers, those who have lost limbs, have been maimed and disfigured, those with traumatic head injuries, those whose bodies are embedded with shrapnel and the thousands who are suffering from battle fatigue are returning home every day.

As I noted earlier, if the war in Iraq was actually driving a stake through the heart of al-Qaeda, the cost of the war and loss of life and limb could be justified. But I believe the opposite is true—the war in Iraq is not enhancing the War Against Terrorism, it is hurting the prospects for winning it.

It is time to “change the course” of our Iraqi policy. It is time to wage an effective war against international terrorism. The American people know it. It is time for the administration and the Congress to catch up with them.


Member of Congress

Letter to President George W. Bush, February 1, 2006

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush

President of the United States of America

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

This March will mark the beginning of the fourth year of the war in Iraq. In contrast, U.S. involvement in WWI came to an end after nineteen months. Victory in Europe was declared in WWII after three years, five months. In the Korean War, a cease-fire was signed after three years and one month. But after more than three and a half years into the war in Iraq, your administration finally produced what is called a “Plan for Victory” in Iraq.

Iraq is not the center for the global war on terrorism. I believe Iraq has diverted our attention away from the fight against global terrorism and has depleted the required resources needed to wage an effective war. It is estimated that there are only about 750 to 1,000 al-Qaeda in Iraq. I believe the Iraqis will force them out or kill them after U.S. troops are gone. In fact, there is now evidence that Iraqi insurgent groups are increasingly turning against al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists.

Our country needs a vigorous and comprehensive strategy for victory against global terrorism. The architect of 9/11 is still out there but now has an international microphone. We must get back to the real issue at hand—we have to root out and destroy al-Qaeda’s worldwide network.

There are four key elements that I recommend to reinvigorate our global anti-terrorism effort: Redeploy, Replace, Reallocate, and Reconstitute.


The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it. Our continued military presence feeds the strong anti-foreigner fervor that has existed in this part of the world for centuries. A vast majority of the Iraqi people now view American troops as occupiers, not liberators. Over 80 percent of Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave Iraq, and 47 percent think it is justified to attack Americans. Seventy percent of Iraqis favor a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces, with half favoring a withdrawal in the next six months. In fact, 67 percent of Iraqis expect day-to-day security for Iraqi citizens will improve if U.S. forces withdraw in six months and over 60 percent believe violent attacks, including those that are ethnically motivated, will decrease. Our military presence is the single most important reason why the Iraqis have tolerated the foreign terrorists, who account for less than 7 percent of the insurgency. Ninety-three percent of the insurgency is made up of Iraqis. Once our troops are redeployed, the Iraqis will reject the terrorists and deny them a safe haven in Iraq. The Iraqis are against a foreign presence in Iraq of any kind.

The steadfast and valiant efforts of the United States military and coalition partners have provided the Iraqi people with the framework needed to self-govern. The Iraqis held elections that have been touted as highly successful, based primarily on the accounts of Iraqis who went to the polls. But our continued military presence in Iraq, regardless of the motives behind it, is seen by Iraqis as interfering in Iraq’s democratic process and undercuts the chances for the newly elected government to be successful. Recently, Iraq’s National Security Adviser accused U.S. negotiators of going behind the back of the Iraqi government on talks with insurgents, saying the process could encourage more violence. He said, “Americans are making a huge and fatal mistake in their policy for appeasement and they should not do this. They should leave the Iraqi government to deal with it. . . . The United States should allow the new Iraqi government to decide on how to quell the insurgency.”

In December 2005, an ABC News poll in Iraq produced some noteworthy results. Fifty-seven percent of Iraqis identified national security as the country’s top priority. When asked to rate the confidence in public institutions, they gave Iraqi police a 68 percent confidence level, the Iraqi army 67 percent, religious leaders 67 percent. But the U.S./U.K. forces scored the lowest, a mere 18 percent.

The longer our military stays in Iraq, the more unwelcome we will be. We will be increasingly entangled in an open-ended nation-building mission, one that our military cannot accomplish amidst a civil war. Our troops will continue to be the targets of Iraqis who see them as interfering occupiers.

Redeploying our forces from Iraq and stationing a mobile force outside of the country removes a major antagonizing factor. I believe we will see a swift demise of foreign terrorist groups in Iraq if we redeploy outside of the country. Further, our troops will no longer be the targets of bloody attacks.


The ever-changing justifications of the war in Iraq, combined with tragic missteps, have resulted in a worldwide collapse of support for U.S. policies in Iraq.

The credibility of the United States of America will not be restored if we continue down the path of saying one thing and doing another. We must not lower our standards and tactics to those of the terrorists. In order to keep our homeland secure, we must hold true to the values that molded our American democracy, even in the face of adversity. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said it best during a speech in March 2004 to the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies: “America knows we cannot seek a double standard. And America knows we get what we give. And so we must and will always be careful to respect people’s privacy, civil liberties and reputations. To suggest that there is a tradeoff between security and individual freedoms—that we must discard one protection for the other—is a false choice. You do not defend liberty to forsake it.”

Restoring the world’s confidence in America as a competent and morally superior world leader is essential to winning the war on global terrorism.

A recent pubic opinion poll, conducted jointly with Zogby International and taken in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, found that 81 percent said the war in Iraq had brought less peace to the Middle East. A majority of the respondents said they view the United States as the biggest threat to their nations.

Mr. President, I believe in order to restore our credibility, you must hold accountable those responsible for so many missteps and install a fresh team that demonstrates true diplomatic skill, knowledge of cultural differences, and a willingness to earnestly engage other leaders in a respectful and constructive way. This would do much to reinvigorate international participation in a truly effective war on global terrorism.


The Department of Defense has been allocated $238 billion for the war in Iraq, with average monthly costs growing significantly since the beginning of the war. In 2003 the average monthly war cost was $4.4 billion; by 2005 the average monthly cost had reached $6.1 billion.

Despite the urgent homeland security needs of our country, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission issued a dismal report card on the efforts to improve our counterterrorist defenses. Even the most basic of recommendations, such as the coordination of fire and police communication lines, still have not been accomplished.

In the face of threats from international terrorists, we need to reallocate funds from the war in Iraq to protecting the United States against attack. A safe and swift redeployment from Iraq will allow us to do just that.


The U.S. army is the smallest it’s been since 1941. It is highly capable. But this drawn-out conflict has put tremendous stress on our military, particularly on our Army and Marine Corps, whose operations tempo has increased substantially since 9/11.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report in November 2005 addressing the challenges of military personnel recruitment and retention and noted that the Department of Defense had been unable to fill over 112,000 positions in critical occupational specialties. This shortfall includes intelligence analysts, special forces, interpreters, and demolition experts—those on whom we rely so heavily in today’s asymmetric battlefield.

Some of our troops have been deployed four times over the last three years. Enlistment for the regular forces as well as the Guard and Reserves are well below recruitment goals. In 2005, the Army missed its recruitment goal for the first time since 1999, even after offering enlistment bonuses and incentives, lowering its monthly goals, and lowering its recruitment standards. As retired Army officer Andrew Krepinevich recently warned in a report to the Pentagon, the Army is “in a race against time” to adjust to the demands of war “or risk ‘breaking’ the force in the form of a catastrophic decline” in recruitment and reenlistment.

The harsh environment in which we are operating our equipment in Iraq, combined with the equipment usage rate (ten times greater than peacetime levels), is taking a heavy toll on our ground equipment. It is currently estimated that $50 billion will be required to refurbish this equipment.

Further, in its response to Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard realized that it had over $1.3 billion in equipment shortfalls. This has created a tremendous burden on nondeployed Guard units on whom this country depends so heavily to respond to domestic disasters and possible terrorist attacks. Without relief, Army Guard units will face growing equipment shortages and challenges in regaining operational readiness for future missions at home and overseas.

Since 9/11, Congress has appropriated about $334 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the insurgents have spent hundreds of thousands. We have seen reports estimating that the total cost of the wars may reach as high as $1 trillion. These estimates are said to include such costs as providing long-term disability benefits and care for injured service members. It is estimated today that over 16,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq, 10,481 of whom have been wounded by “weaponry explosive devices.”

But while war costs continue to climb, cuts are being made to the defense budget. As soon as the war is over, there will be pressure to cut even more. This year, even while we are at war, 8 billion dollars were cut from the base defense spending bill. You ordered another $32 billion in cuts to the defense budget over the next five years, with $11.6 billion coming from the Army. The Pentagon told Congress only last year that it needed seventy-seven combat brigades to fulfill its missions, but now insists it only needs seventy. In fact, six of the seven combat brigades will be cut from the National Guard, reducing its combat units from thirty-four to twenty-eight. Even though all of the National Guard combat brigades have been deployed overseas since 9/11, your administration has determined that because of funding shortfalls, our combat ground forces can be reduced. Not only will these cuts diminish our combat power, but our ability to respond to natural disasters and terrorist threats to our homeland will be adversely affected. It is obvious that the cost of the war, in conjunction with the Army’s inability to meet recruitment goals, has impacted this estimate. My concern is that instead of our force structure being based on the future threat, it is now being based on the number of troops and level of funding available.

I am concerned that costly program cuts will lead to costly mistakes and we will be unable to sustain another deployment even if there is a real threat. The future of our military and the future of our country could very well be at stake. The high dollar forecasts of our future military weapons systems and military health care add pressure to cut costs on the backs of these programs. As our weapons systems age, the concern becomes even greater.

During a time of war, we are cutting our combat force, we have not mobilized industry, and have never fully mobilized our military. On our current path, I believe that we are not only in danger of breaking our military, but that we are increasing the chances of a major miscalculation by our future enemies, who may perceive us as vulnerable.



Member of Congress

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