Letter to the Editor

Ellsworth: a new direction in Iraq

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

To the editor:

During the 5-year anniversary of the War in Iraq, I had an opportunity to make my third trip to the war torn region.

I wanted to take a minute to share some of my thoughts about the trip and where we go from here.

I had the opportunity to meet with members of Indiana's 76th National Guard Infantry Brigade as they trained in Kuwait. My visit reinforced my pride in the excellence and professionalism of our National Guard and armed forces.

Our men and women in uniform have done everything we have asked of them, performing with distinction and honor. As long as our troops are in harm's way, they and their families will always be at the forefront of my thoughts and prayers.

I also spent time with General David Petraeus in Iraq, and I have confidence in his abilities as a commander. But as we enter the sixth year of this conflict, the situation in most of Iraq remains dismal.

Despite some initial security gains from the surge in Baghdad, the recent increase in attacks on the Green Zone reminds us that the situation there remains fragile.

The Iraqi government is either unwilling or unable to achieve the political reconciliation necessary to stabilize and rebuild their country.

And as the clock ticks, America has forever lost over 4,000 American heroes. How long are we willing to put our men and women in harm's way waiting for the Iraqis to act?

America has also spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this war. How much more money are we willing to pour into Iraqi schools and infrastructure while neglecting ours at home? These are the questions I continue to wrestle with.

It's simply not realistic to think we have the resources or ability to transform Iraq into a peaceful, American-style Democracy through military force. Conservative estimates by two leading economists put the final cost of the Iraq War at over $3 trillion.

And the war is having devastating consequences on the readiness of our military forces, jeopardizing our ability to protect America against future threats around the world.

The bottom line is, we cannot continue down this path with no endgame in Iraq -- with no defined goals or plans for a responsible, phased withdrawal.

In order to prevent future terrorist attacks on our soil, we need the flexibility and strength to track, capture or kill terrorists wherever they may be. We cannot afford to have our resources tied up in Iraq indefinitely.

The President and Congress must come up with a plan for America's future military and diplomatic involvement in the region. Congress should set some monetary limits on reconstruction funds, and insist on defined, enforced benchmarks and a plan from the President for transitioning responsibility for the security of Iraq from American troops to the Iraqis.

It is time for our leaders to pledge to honestly work together, not for political gain, not for one-upmanship, not for "I told you so", but for the good of our troops and our country.

Congressman Brad Ellsworth