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The Hard Truth About Leaving Iraq

By Ed Koch

To those who believe that when America leaves Iraq, Islamic terrorists will be satisfied and stop fighting, I say this: wake up. The hard truth is that if we leave Iraq, the terrorists will continue their attacks on Americans everywhere, including our homeland. And they will use Iraq as the new base of their terrorist regime.

In a May 28th New York Times article, reporters Michael Moss and Souad Mekhennet provided a chilling report on what the future holds. The article begins, "When Muhammad al-Darsi got out of prison in Libya last year after serving time for militant activities, he had one goal: killing Americans in Iraq. A recruiter...told him he was not needed in Iraq. Instead, he was drafted into the war that is seeping out of Iraq. A team of militants from Iraq had traveled to Jordan, where they were preparing attacks on Americans and Jews..."

In other words, the terrorist jihad will continue and many of the terrorists will be those who are now fighting in Iraq. It cannot be stated often enough that the goal of the Islamic terrorists is the destruction of Western civilization and the restoration of the caliphate. The caliphate would unite all Muslims in one theocratic state, running from and including Spain to Indonesia, encompassing nearly 1.4 billion Muslims.

In a Times article on May 27th by Michael Gordon and Alissa Rubin, they report, "'Many militias and terrorist groups are just waiting for the Americans to leave,' said Salim Abdullah, the spokesman for the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni Arab group in the parliament." The article continues, "A bare majority of Iraq's 275-member parliament recently signed a petition promoted by Mr. Sadr that called for a timetable for American troops to depart. Even so, the petition said the Americans should not leave until Iraqi security forces were ready to take over the job...[A Shiite tribal sheik said] 'But leaving, withdrawing completely from Iraq, that means erasing Iraq from the map.'"

The article reported on a poll taken by ABC News in Baghdad which showed, "About 64 percent of Baghdad residents [polled in February and March] said American forces should remain until security was restored...or until Iraqi forces could operate independently."

Everyone, including the president and his advisers, and of course, his Democratic opponents, recognize that the heretofore efforts and tactics of the U.S. have not prevailed and must change. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said recently, "I think that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it." The "surge," an increase of 30,000 American soldiers on the ground, will be over by then. If it works, we can all admit our doubts that it would.

What will the "different direction" that McConnell referred to be? The radical Democratic left inside the Congress led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid and their supporters believe that the U.S. should get out now and certainly no later than early next year. From the administration come vague comments that there may be a reduction of 100,000 troops in the wind sometime in 2008. The Times reports in a May 26th article by David E. Sanger and David S. Cloud, "The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate."

In my judgment, were it possible to remain in Iraq and accomplish the obvious goals of bringing a true peace among the warring parties -- Sunni, Shiite and Kurd -- with a stable central government accepted by all, that would, of course, be ideal. But the Shiite majority does not want to forgive the Sunnis who oppressed them for so many years, and will not share government power or oil revenues with them. The Sunnis, who are 20 percent of the population, appear to be militarily more capable than the Shia and are primarily responsible for the car bombs and the improvised explosive devices that have killed American soldiers and Iraqis, both military personnel and civilians. It is devastating for American soldiers to learn that those serving in the Iraqi army, being trained by and fighting alongside American soldiers, cannot be trusted.

A May 28th Times article by Michael Kamber reported on an incident in February "When [American] soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber's body, they found identification showing him to be a Sergeant in the Iraqi army." Kamber quotes an American soldier, "I thought 'what are we doing here? Why are we still here?...We're helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us."

My own view is that the administration should demand the Iraqi government pass the power and oil sharing changes immediately, and if it doesn't, we should get out immediately. Further, and I have stated it many times, we should give our regional Arab and NATO allies an ultimatum that if they don't come in now with troops, we will leave immediately.

Waiting for the Iraqi army to be battle ready is like waiting for Godot. They seem to know how to kill U.S. soldiers and terrorize each other and innocent civilians, but are unable to keep the peace.

Many Americans refuse to believe the Islamic terrorists are a threat to the free world and those who talk of the danger are thought of as war mongers. They simply refuse to take them at their word as many refused to take Hitler's warnings in Mein Kampf seriously. In the Times article of May 29th, written by Michael Powell, he quotes a woman in Atlanta asking candidate Giuliani, "Why does so much of the world hate us? Haven't we failed to understand Arab grievances? We misinterpret their word 'jihad' which is not necessarily a hostile word." Truly an Alice In Wonderland view.

A terrorist recently convicted in Great Britain was deported to Jamaica after trial. The Times reports in an article of May 26th by Alan Cowell, "Mr. Faisal had been convicted in February 2003 of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred...urging his followers to kill Hindus, Christians, Jews and American citizens...During Mr. Faisal's trial, prosecutors played a videotape showing him telling 150 young followers after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States that the Koran justified attacks on non-Muslims. He was also heard to promise teenage Muslim boys that their reward in paradise would be 72 virgins if they died as religious martyrs."

You can't make this stuff up. Will we and the rest of the Western world wake up in time so that we can survive the 30-year war that will take place after we leave Iraq? They want to kill us, and apparently, many Americans don't believe it.

One more thought. If we stay, we should tell the Iraqi people in each province that if a significant number of them support the insurgents and terrorists against our soldiers, or if a significant number of them do not step forward and assist us by providing information to protect us from the insurgents and terrorists, we will leave that province and not protect them from those who want to kill them in a religious civil war. Perhaps the recognition that U.S. soldiers will no longer be considered expendable may raise thoughts of cooperation, if only for their own self-protection.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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