Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the United States is losing what he described as a "civil war" in Iraq and that he is not persuaded that an increase in U.S. troops there would reverse the situation. Instead, he called for a new strategy that would relinquish responsibility for Iraqi security to the government in Baghdad sooner rather than later, with a U.S. drawdown to begin by the middle of next year.But the Whitehouse is talking about some kind of "surge" that will be necessary to restore order that really never was attained:
Q You said today that a troop surge in Iraq was something that's being explored. Is the idea of a troop cutback something that's also being explored?But if you ask Colin Powel what he thinks, he would suggest the following:
MR. SNOW: What the President is asking people to explore are ways to victory in Iraq, which would mean an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself, where the Iraqis, themselves eventually assume full control for the responsibilities of government: security, political, economic, diplomatic and so on. Anything that fits into that description the President will consider. And, therefore, there are a number of ideas that are being discussed and the President is leaving all options open.
Q Well, you confirmed the surge -- how about the cutback?
MR. SNOW: No, I confirmed that there are ideas and I have given you the proper metric. So if people think that that will contribute to the long term goal of victory, it would be reasonable to assume that it would be something under consideration.
Before any decision to increase troops, he said, "I'd want to have a clear understanding of what it is they're going for, how long they're going for. And let's be clear about something else. . . . There really are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops."I see. Whom shall we believe is right when it comes time to decide if we indeed are going to surge?
He added: "That's how you surge. And that surge cannot be sustained."
The "active Army is about broken," Powell said. Even beyond Iraq, the Army and Marines have to "grow in size, in my military judgment," he said, adding that Congress must provide significant additional funding to sustain them.
Let's see if Helen Thomas can get a bit more clarification out of Tony the Snow job. fans of Helen will love this cast iron frying pan slap around that she gives him:
Q Can I follow on that? The President had said in the past that he doesn't set the troop levels, that the commanders in the field -- has that changed?Well, perhaps the most important line in this exchange is the following: "you cannot win the war without public support." If what we are experiencing today constitutes support, I would hate to see what lack of support looks like. Is it me, or do the folks of the W, Rove and Co have their heads some place where reality is absent?
MR. SNOW: What the President does -- let me put it this way: What the President does is he sets the mission. And then combatant commanders figure out how to conduct the mission. And when they ask for resources, he provides them. And that's how it works.
Q And so the President would go with their -- would still go with their advice on troop levels?
MR. SNOW: Yes. But, again, keep in mind the President sets the mission. So you define the mission, then you figure out what resources are adequate. This, I think, again, mirrors comments that General Conway has made and also Colin Powell has made, which is you -- when people were talking about surges, the answer is, if it fits into a military plan and you have a good plan for it, then maybe it would be appropriate. I am not commenting on surge; I'm just telling you that regardless of what happens in terms of troop posture or equipping forces or deploying forces or moving or redeploying -- any military decision obviously is going to have to be made in concert with the goal, which is to win in Iraq.
Q Does public opinion enter into his review at all, in terms of the election and --
MR. SNOW: The President -- in this sense, Helen, the President understands that you cannot win the war without public support. And it is important to continue -- because it's going to be a long war and it is going to need the determination of the American people --
Q Why is it going to be a long war?
MR. SNOW: Because as far as we can tell, terrorists don't have any desire to stop entertaining thoughts of terror any time soon. And that the global war on terror, which is not confined to Iraq or Afghanistan, but instead has people who are still committed to committing acts of violence on our shores. The President outlined some of those this fall when he was talking about particular operations that had been intercepted as a result of intelligence that we had gleaned from planners of attacks, that they have no desire to back away, that there's an ideology of hatred that involves not only destroying the United States of America, but also the notion of personal freedom.
So that being the case, it is going to require a commitment over a long period of time to make sure that we deal with the problem effectively. And that's not just militarily -- it means diplomatically, it means economically, it means by example, so that if you have a democracy that demonstrates to people in the Middle East you can practice your faith, you can pursue your future, you can vote for the people who are going to govern you, you can have control over your destiny -- these are things that have not been -- that people in the Middle East have not been able to take for granted. And when they see that they have those options, that in and of itself will probably be the most powerful discouragement to terror imaginable.
Q Why can you identify all the Iraqi resistance as terror?
MR. SNOW: I didn't.
Q We are the occupiers, do you realize that? And do you realize what an occupation is?
MR. SNOW: Do you also realize -- I do -- I think people not only understand occupation, people in Iraq also understand --
Q Your broad brush everything.
MR. SNOW: And that was a precise characterization you just gave me?
Q I am saying that you --
MR. SNOW: No, you just used a broad brush on responding. If you wish to get into colloquialism, I'll be happy to go along.
Q Do you think that people are resisting our occupation?
MR. SNOW: I think that there are some people -- as a matter of fact, if you take a look at Saddam rejectionists, they're absolutely resisting the occupation. As a matter of fact, their avowed goal -- it's right here in the 90/10 report -- that says that their avowed goal is to push Americans out. Why? Because they want to reestablish the kind of supremacy they enjoyed during the days of Saddam.
There are many people who want to end the occupation and, in many cases, they want to end the occupation because they, themselves, want to restore or to create their own tyranny over the Iraqi people. They do not want to support the goal of a democracy in which the human rights of all are protected and --
Q What gives you the right to impose anything on them?
MR. SNOW: I think what we're -- you know, what's interesting is the government of Iraq and people of Iraq look upon us not as imposing. I don't know how you impose liberty. I think what you do is you -- you impose tyranny and you relieve tyranny by creating the possibility for freedom.