Jim Dwyer, "Remembering Daniel Berrigan: A Penniless, Powerful Voice for Peace" (New York Times)
John Nichols, "Father Daniel Berrigan Sought to ‘Build a World Uncursed by War, Starvation, and Exploitation’" (The Nation)
Paul Elie, "Postscript: Daniel Berrigan, 1921-2016" (New Yorker)
Nathan Schneider, "When Dan Berrigan Came to 'Occupy'" (America: The National Catholic Review)
The most interesting exchange came at the very end, and it was about Iraq. The money quote—the bit that could come back to haunt McCain—went like this:
Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for fifty years.
McCain: Make it a hundred.
That’s the sound bite. That’s the headline. Now let’s look at the context, which I think is worth considering in full. . . .
"Facing the 'Dark Assessment'" at Firedoglake:
We’ve had an extraordinary week of leaked candor about the catastrophic state of US foreign policy under the Bush/Cheney regime, predictably followed by Presidential denials that al Qaeda is back and blatant propaganda that we’re making "satisfactory" progress on the few Iraq benchmarks that are virtually meaningless. The White House, which has always confused inflexible standards and testing with genuine education and wisdom, has been reduced to giving out report cards on itself that translate to "improvement needed" on everything that really matters.
But the reality based assessments dominated the news. First it was the intelligence community’s pre-denial assessment that al Qaeda has been allowed to regroup along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to become as threatening as ever, both for Europe and possibly the US. The obvious conclusion is that the President’s six year global war on terror is not only an abject failure but a growing threat to our security.
Then there were the pre-spin reports about the virtual absence of any meaningful progress in achieving the objectives of the US troop surge. And Thursday Bob Woodward released his history of intelligence briefings the CIA gave the Iraq Study Group last fall, briefings that revealed what Condi Rice described as “the dark assessment” that security conditions had so deteriorated as to be “irretrievable,” while the al Maliki government was so inherently ineffectual, that there was virtually nothing the US could do to make things turn out right in Iraq. That sobering assessment was reaffirmed this week by Stephen Biddle’s op-ed explaining why the only realistic but unavoidably awful choices had narrowed to "go deep" or "get out," since staying the course had become increasingly untenable and morally dubious.
We are left with the unspoken and unspeakable conclusion that the real rationale for keeping so many U.S. soldiers in harm’s way – in the middle of Iraq's irreconcilable sectarian and civil wars — is that they serve as our national punishment for the inexcusable blunder our government made in invading and occupying Iraq and opening this pandora’s box in the first place.
Bob Woodward in the Washington Post, July 12, 2007:
Early on the morning of Nov. 13, 2006, members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group gathered around a dark wooden conference table in the windowless Roosevelt Room of the White House.
For more than an hour, they listened to President Bush give what one panel member called a "Churchillian" vision of "victory" in Iraq and defend the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. "A constitutional order is emerging," he said.
Later that morning, around the same conference table, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden painted a starkly different picture for members of the study group. Hayden said "the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible," adding that he could not "point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around," according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants.
"The government is unable to govern," Hayden concluded. "We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balanced, and it cannot function."
Later in the interview, he qualified the statement somewhat: "A government that can govern, sustain and defend itself is not achievable," he said, "in the short term."
Hayden's bleak assessment, which came just a week after Republicans had lost control of Congress and Bush had dismissed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was a pivotal moment in the study group's intensive examination of the Iraq war, and it helped shape its conclusion in its final report that the situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating."
In the eight months since the interview, neither Hayden nor any other high-ranking administration official has publicly described the Iraqi government in the uniformly negative terms that the CIA director used in his closed-door briefing.
"White House Debate Rises on Iraq Pullback" -- David Sanger in The New York Times, July 9, 2007:
White House officials fear that the last pillars of political support among Senate Republicans for President Bush’s Iraq strategy are collapsing around them, according to several administration officials and outsiders they are consulting. They say that inside the administration, debate is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.
Mr. Bush and his aides once thought they could wait to begin those discussions until after Sept. 15, when the top field commander and the new American ambassador to Baghdad are scheduled to report on the effectiveness of the troop increase that the president announced in January. But suddenly, some of Mr. Bush’s aides acknowledge, it appears that forces are combining against him just as the Senate prepares this week to begin what promises to be a contentious debate on the war’s future and financing.
“When you count up the votes that we’ve lost and the votes we’re likely to lose over the next few weeks, it looks pretty grim,” said one senior official, who, like others involved in the discussions, would not speak on the record about internal White House deliberations.
That conclusion was echoed in interviews over the past few days by administration officials in the Pentagon, State Department and White House, as well as by outsiders who have been consulted about what the administration should do next. “Sept. 15 now looks like an end point for the debate, not a starting point,” the official said. “Lots of people are concluding that the president has got to get out ahead of this train.”
"The Road Home" -- New York Times banner editorial, July 8, 2007:
It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.
Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.
At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.
While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.
The political leaders Washington has backed are incapable of putting national interests ahead of sectarian score settling. The security forces Washington has trained behave more like partisan militias. Additional military forces poured into the Baghdad region have failed to change anything.
Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.
A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.
That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.
The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise.
The Mechanics of Withdrawal
The United States has about 160,000 troops and millions of tons of military gear inside Iraq. Getting that force out safely will be a formidable challenge. The main road south to Kuwait is notoriously vulnerable to roadside bomb attacks. Soldiers, weapons and vehicles will need to be deployed to secure bases while airlift and sealift operations are organized. Withdrawal routes will have to be guarded. The exit must be everything the invasion was not: based on reality and backed by adequate resources.
The United States should explore using Kurdish territory in the north of Iraq as a secure staging area. Being able to use bases and ports in Turkey would also make withdrawal faster and safer. Turkey has been an inconsistent ally in this war, but like other nations, it should realize that shouldering part of the burden of the aftermath is in its own interest.
Accomplishing all of this in less than six months is probably unrealistic. The political decision should be made, and the target date set, now.
The Fight Against Terrorists
Despite President Bush’s repeated claims, Al Qaeda had no significant foothold in Iraq before the invasion, which gave it new base camps, new recruits and new prestige.
This war diverted Pentagon resources from Afghanistan, where the military had a real chance to hunt down Al Qaeda’s leaders. It alienated essential allies in the war against terrorism. It drained the strength and readiness of American troops.
And it created a new front where the United States will have to continue to battle terrorist forces and enlist local allies who reject the idea of an Iraq hijacked by international terrorists. The military will need resources and bases to stanch this self- inflicted wound for the foreseeable future.
The Question of Bases
The United States could strike an agreement with the Kurds to create those bases in northeastern Iraq. Or, the Pentagon could use its bases in countries like Kuwait and Qatar, and its large naval presence in the Persian Gulf, as staging points.
There are arguments for, and against, both options. Leaving troops in Iraq might make it too easy — and too tempting — to get drawn back into the civil war and confirm suspicions that Washington’s real goal was to secure permanent bases in Iraq. Mounting attacks from other countries could endanger those nations’ governments.
The White House should make this choice after consultation with Congress and the other countries in the region, whose opinions the Bush administration has essentially ignored. The bottom line: the Pentagon needs enough force to stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq, but not enough to resume large-scale combat.
The Civil War
One of Mr. Bush’s arguments against withdrawal is that it would lead to civil war. That war is raging, right now, and it may take years to burn out. Iraq may fragment into separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics, and American troops are not going to stop that from happening.
It is possible, we suppose, that announcing a firm withdrawal date might finally focus Iraq’s political leaders and neighboring governments on reality. Ideally, it could spur Iraqi politicians to take the steps toward national reconciliation that they have endlessly discussed but refused to act on.
But it is foolish to count on that, as some Democratic proponents of withdrawal have done. The administration should use whatever leverage it gains from withdrawing to press its allies and Iraq’s neighbors to help achieve a negotiated solution.
Iraq’s leaders — knowing that they can no longer rely on the Americans to guarantee their survival — might be more open to compromise, perhaps to a Bosnian-style partition, with economic resources fairly shared but with millions of Iraqis forced to relocate. That would be better than the slow-motion ethnic and religious cleansing that has contributed to driving one in seven Iraqis from their homes.
The United States military cannot solve the problem. Congress and the White House must lead an international attempt at a negotiated outcome. To start, Washington must turn to the United Nations, which Mr. Bush spurned and ridiculed as a preface to war.
The Human Crisis
There are already nearly two million Iraqi refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan, and nearly two million more Iraqis who have been displaced within their country. Without the active cooperation of all six countries bordering Iraq — Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — and the help of other nations, this disaster could get worse. Beyond the suffering, massive flows of refugees — some with ethnic and political resentments — could spread Iraq’s conflict far beyond Iraq’s borders.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia must share the burden of hosting refugees. Jordan and Syria, now nearly overwhelmed with refugees, need more international help. That, of course, means money. The nations of Europe and Asia have a stake and should contribute. The United States will have to pay a large share of the costs, but should also lead international efforts, perhaps a donors’ conference, to raise money for the refugee crisis.
Washington also has to mend fences with allies. There are new governments in Britain, France and Germany that did not participate in the fight over starting this war and are eager to get beyond it. But that will still require a measure of humility and a commitment to multilateral action that this administration has never shown. And, however angry they were with President Bush for creating this mess, those nations should see that they cannot walk away from the consequences. To put it baldly, terrorism and oil make it impossible to ignore.
The United States has the greatest responsibilities, including the admission of many more refugees for permanent resettlement. The most compelling obligation is to the tens of thousands of Iraqis of courage and good will — translators, embassy employees, reconstruction workers — whose lives will be in danger because they believed the promises and cooperated with the Americans.
One of the trickiest tasks will be avoiding excessive meddling in Iraq by its neighbors — America’s friends as well as its adversaries.
Just as Iran should come under international pressure to allow Shiites in southern Iraq to develop their own independent future, Washington must help persuade Sunni powers like Syria not to intervene on behalf of Sunni Iraqis. Turkey must be kept from sending troops into Kurdish territories.
For this effort to have any remote chance, Mr. Bush must drop his resistance to talking with both Iran and Syria. Britain, France, Russia, China and other nations with influence have a responsibility to help. Civil war in Iraq is a threat to everyone, especially if it spills across Iraq’s borders.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened — the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.
This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.