"Dangerously off track" in Iraq


Geraldine Sealey
April 8, 2004 11:28PM (UTC)

When 9/11 commissioner Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator, got his turn to question Condoleezza Rice this morning, he couldn't pass up giving her a stark warning on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, saying the collapse of our mission there may rile terrorists and provide recruitment fodder for al Qaida. Since part of the 9/11 commission's charter is to advise on preventing future terrorist attacks -- indeed the panel's official title is "The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States" -- perhaps he considered his remarks right on topic.

From the full transcript of the Rice hearing, Kerrey said: "I believe, first of all, that we underestimate that this war on terrorism is really a war against radical Islam. Terrorism is a tactic. It's not a war itself. Secondly, let me say that I don't think we understand how the Muslim world views us, and I'm terribly worried that the military tactics in Iraq are going to do a number of things, and they're all bad. ... I think we're going to end up with civil war if we continue down the military operation strategies that we have in place. I say that sincerely as someone that supported the war in the first place."

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"Let me say, secondly, that I don't know how it could be otherwise, given the way that we're able to see these military operations, even the restrictions that are imposed upon the press, that this doesn't provide an opportunity for Al Qaida to have increasing success at recruiting people to attack the United States. It worries me. And I wanted to make that declaration. You needn't comment on it, but as I said, I'm not going to have an opportunity to talk to you this closely. And I wanted to tell you that I think the military operations are dangerously off track. And it's largely a U.S. Army -- 125,000 out of 145,000 -- largely a Christian army in a Muslim nation. So I take that on board for what it's worth."

A few months ago, Kerrey's apparent enthusiasm for how the U.S. efforts in Iraq were progressing earned him a special "They Said It!" page on the Republican National Committee Web site. Kerrey's strong remarks today show how the White House is losing early supporters of the Iraq war as the situation continues to go awry. The RNC probably won't advertise Kerrey's latest statement on the war, but he had quite a platform today as all the networks and cable channels aired his concerns.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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