Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Kerry Calls for Iraq Troop Phase-Out

The United States can safely withdraw 20,000 troops from Iraq by the end of the year, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Wednesday in a speech in Gaston Hall.

Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, said that the U.S. should not withdraw all of its troops from Iraq immediately, as some members of Congress have demanded. He said most U.S. military personnel could leave in the next 15 months if withdrawal is linked to a timetable of “specific, responsible benchmarks.”

“A precipitous withdrawal would invite civil and regional chaos and endanger our own security,” Kerry said.

Kerry identified as the first benchmark the elections in Iraq planned for this December. Carrying out those elections successfully would allow the U.S. to withdraw 20,000 troops over the holiday season, he said.

Kerry said that the current presence of more than 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding the military’s ability to quell the insurgency in the country.

“We must move aggressively to reduce popular support for the insurgency fed by the perception of American occupation,” he said.

Before introducing his timetable for withdrawal, Kerry repeated his criticism of the Bush administration for the way it approached the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“The country and the Congress were misled into war,” said Kerry, who voted for the resolution authorizing the invasion in 2002. “I regret that we were not given the truth,” he added, referring to flawed estimations of Saddam Hussein’s weapons stockpiles that the Bush administration used to justify the invasion.

“If the Bush administration had come to the United States Senate and acknowledged there was no `slam dunk case’ that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction . there never would have even been a vote to authorize use of force,” he said, referring to the now-infamous intelligence assessment submitted to the president by George Tenet, former director of central intelligence and a professor in the School of Foreign Service.

Kerry admitted that his vote in favor of the war was a mistake.

“There is, as Robert Kennedy once said, `enough blame to go around,’ and I accept my share of the responsibility,” he said.

He also criticized the Bush administration for mistakes that it made after the initial invasion. The administration, he said, failed to build a global coalition in Iraq, impose order in Baghdad after Hussein’s fall and keep a structure of civil services available to Iraq.

“This difficult road traveled demands the unvarnished truth about the road ahead,” Kerry said.

He added, however, that the timetable for withdrawal would need to be implemented together with a political solution to the problems that have beset the U.S. mission to establish a new government in Iraq.

That solution, he said, would resolve some of the political differences between the three main Iraqi factions, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, and draw other countries into the peace process. He said that opposition of two-thirds of Sunnis to the proposed Iraqi constitution has emboldened the insurgency, which is dominated by Sunnis.

Kerry called on the Bush administration to reach out to Sunni countries in the region, as well as U.S. allies in NATO and Russia.

“All of these countries have influence and ties to various parties in Iraq,” Kerry said.

He added that the military needs to share its responsibilities in the reconstruction of Iraq with other groups, including civilian personnel and Iraqi security forces.

Following the speech, which drew a standing ovation from the audience, Kerry answered questions from students.

One student asked if the Bush administration’s claim that the Iraq War had forced Moammar Qaddafi of Libya to abandon his nuclear program.

Kerry dismissed that argument as the refuge of those “looking for the 25th rationale for the war,” and said that a proposed deal to limit Libya’s weapons was in place during the Clinton administration.

Also during the question-and-answer period, Kerry called for the Bush administration to allow camera crews to televise the return of caskets of fallen service members so that the U.S. can properly recognize casualties.

The speech was sponsored by the Lecture Fund.

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