11 February 2007


Retired Lt. General William E. Odom was head of Army
intelligence and director of the National Security Agency
under President Reagan. In yesterday’s Washington Post, he
exposed the big myths that drive our current Iraq policy.

1) We must continue the war to prevent the
terrible aftermath that will occur if our forces
are withdrawn soon.
Reflect on the double-think
of this formulation. We are now fighting to
prevent what our invasion made inevitable!
Undoubtedly we will leave a mess -- the mess
we created, which has become worse each year
we have remained. Lawmakers gravely proclaim
their opposition to the war, but in the next
breath express fear that quitting it will leave a
blood bath, a civil war, a terrorist haven, a
"failed state," or some other horror. But this
"aftermath" is already upon us; a prolonged U.S.
occupation cannot prevent what already exists.

2) We must continue the war to prevent Iran's
influence from growing in Iraq.
This is another
absurd notion. One of the president's initial war
aims, the creation of a democracy in Iraq,
ensured increased Iranian influence, both in Iraq
and the region. Electoral democracy, predictably,
would put Shiite groups in power -- groups
supported by Iran since Saddam Hussein
repressed them in 1991. Why are so many
members of Congress swallowing the claim that
prolonging the war is now supposed to prevent
precisely what starting the war inexorably and
predictably caused? Fear that Congress will
confront this contradiction helps explain the
administration and neocon drumbeat we now
hear for expanding the war to Iran.

Here we see shades of the Nixon-Kissinger
strategy in Vietnam: widen the war into
Cambodia and Laos. Only this time, the adverse
consequences would be far greater. Iran's
ability to hurt U.S. forces in Iraq are not trivial.
And the anti-American backlash in the region
would be larger, and have more lasting

3) We must prevent the emergence of a new
haven for al-Qaeda in Iraq.
But it was the U.S.
invasion that opened Iraq's doors to al-Qaeda.
The longer U.S. forces have remained there, the
stronger al-Qaeda has become. Yet its strength
within the Kurdish and Shiite areas is trivial.
After a U.S. withdrawal, it will probably play a
continuing role in helping the Sunni groups
against the Shiites and the Kurds. Whether such
foreign elements could remain or thrive in Iraq
after the resolution of civil war is open to
question. Meanwhile, continuing the war will not
push al-Qaeda outside Iraq. On the contrary, the
American presence is the glue that holds al-
Qaeda there now.

4) We must continue to fight in order to
"support the troops."
This argument effectively
paralyzes almost all members of Congress.
Lawmakers proclaim in grave tones a litany of
problems in Iraq sufficient to justify a rapid
pullout. Then they reject that logical conclusion,
insisting we cannot do so because we must
support the troops. Has anybody asked the

During their first tours, most may well have
favored "staying the course" -- whatever that
meant to them -- but now in their second, third
and fourth tours, many are changing their minds.
We see evidence of that in the many news
stories about unhappy troops being sent back to
Iraq. Veterans groups are beginning to make
public the case for bringing them home. Soldiers
and officers in Iraq are speaking out critically to
reporters on the ground.

But the strangest aspect of this rationale for
continuing the war is the implication that the
troops are somehow responsible for deciding to
continue the president's course. That political
and moral responsibility belongs to the
president, not the troops. Did not President
Harry S. Truman make it clear that "the buck
stops" in the Oval Office? If the president keeps
dodging it, where does it stop? With Congress?

Embracing the four myths gives Congress
excuses not to exercise its power of the purse to
end the war and open the way for a strategy
that might actually bear fruit.

The entire piece is worth reading. Check it out, here.