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November 22, 2006
Hardball on MSNBC
General Batiste, thank you, sir, for joining us.
Where do you think the Democrats are on the issue of Iraq? Have you been able to read their leadership yet?
John Batiste: You know, Chris, no. I mean they're all over the map right now, and it would be nice if they would coalesce into a single position.
CM: Let's talk about--rather I'm going to ask you to talk about--this proposal for a withdrawal, a beginning of a withdrawal within four to six months--what would that be in terms of policy? Would that make any difference to anything, or is that just a political move?
JB: I think it's a political move. You know, Chris, I think we're fighting a protracted war against the Jihadists. And these people mean business. They have as a stated objective the destruction of our way of life. We got off to a terrible start in Iraq--a strategy that was just fundamentally flawed, that opened up Pandora's Box, that unleashed Hell.
Now we gotta get this thing under control quickly.
CM: Well, are we fighting Jihadists in Iraq?
CM: Are we?
JB: This is important, Chris. These--this group, this movement is after us big-time.
JB: And we need--we need to stop this.
CM: No t-- Are we f-- We have the Shi'a milita. We have the Sunni insurgents, and we have the al-Qaeda terrorists in that country.
Which group is associated or is part of this Jihad?
JB: Well clearly the al-Qaeda--that foreign influence that's in Iraq, that has as their stated objective the destruction of our way of life.
And my point is we need to take this very, very seriously. To simply leave Iraq, to set timelines without conditions--set us up to fail big-time in the future.
CM: Well, the troops we have over there--140,000 of them--what percent of our troops, what chunk of them are fighting Jihadists? And what percent are fighting militia on the side of the government we're putting in there, and what percent are we fighting of Sunnis who are simply upset because they are losing out on the loss of power since Saddam fell?
JB: To the troops on the ground, it really doesn't matter--they're all the same. Whether you're talking al-Qaeda, or a Shi'a militia group, or a criminal gang--it's all the same, they look alike, they carry the same weapons.
CM: But what are w-- Well you s-- I'm confused here. Are we fighting the Jihad, or are we fighting an Iraqi civil war right now?
JB: I'll tell you what. What's going on in Iraq is the first phase of a long-term struggle that this nation needs to come to grips with pretty quickly.
CM: Well help us. What what are we f-- What should we do in Iraq? Who should we be shooting at and fighting at, and who should be defending? What side should we be on in Iraq? Tell us how to-- What's going on over there, and what should we be doing?
JB: Chris, the first thing we have to do, like I said, is recognize that we're fighting a long-term struggle. Iraq is but phase one in this whole effort. This could go on for decades.
We need to mobilize this country--in multiple areas. We've been fighting this war on the cheap. We've inconvenienced the American people as little as possible. And that's not how we're going to eventually win this struggle.
We need to properly resource the Army and the Marine Corps. These great organizations--we've never fielded better military forces in our history--are too small for our national strategy.
We need to get serious about funding this war. We need to think about some kind of a war tax, so we're not funding this war at the expense of our domestic budget. It goes on and on--
CM: I would think you'd be more successful with that argument, General, if you would tell me who we're fighting in Iraq right now. And why should we be fighting them, and who are we fighting for in Iraq?
JB: Chris, here's the end state that we're after in Iraq, I think. We're looking for the rule of law to take root in Iraq that's enforced by a competent Iraqi security force, army, police, border patrol--in support of a Iraqi government, probably not democratic, but representative, taking into account the tribal, ethnic and religious complexity of that country.
The problem is we're fighting an insurgency that has many faces--al-Qaeda, Shi'a militia, other militia, criminal elements, gangs, thugs. It doesn't matter what it is, the fact is we gotta get it under control.
And here's what I suggest:
One is we've got to get the Iraqi security forces stood up, fighting the enemy on an even playing field. This needs to be America's main effort very quickly. It has not been for the last three years.
General Marty Dempsey is the best we got. If anybody can figure it out, he can--but he needs the resources.
We need our very best officers and non-commissioned officers embedded in to the Iraqi battallions, embedded in to the Iraqi police departments with all the resources that they need which, oh by the way, may require mobilizing a piece of our economy to support that.
The next thing is we've got to stop the flow of the insurgency from Iran and Syria. Those borders are porous now, they were porous when I was there. We need to bring to a full stop the flow of that insurgency, and that may involve involving countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan--with large numbers of troops to get control of this. It's in their interest to do so.
We count on our government to build coalitions of the willing for something this important.
We need to stop the militias. That includes Sadr and his militia that is probably tied to the government in Iraq. But these militias need to be incentivized to stop being part of the problem--rather being part of the solution. And if they can't be incentivized, we need to crush them. It's that simple.
Until the Iraqi security forces can do it by themselves--to establish and enforce the rule of law--it's my belief that we need to reinforce the coalition with more troops. That's not necessarily American troops, but it's allies and friends that need to take this thing very seriously.
I go back to my first statement: We're fighting a war against the Jihadists. This effort in Iraq is yet-- is but the first step in a very long protracted struggle. But until the Iraqis security forces can stand up and do it themselves, they need help to secure that country.
It may be tens of thousands more required--I don't know. But I do know that we can't just leave Iraq. It's got to be conditions-based.
To leave Iraq will send that region, I believe, into unbelieveable turmoil--pitting Sunni on Shi'a, nation on nation, Kurds, ultimately, on any numbers of nations in the region.
And at the end of the day, our country is affected enormously. We'll be back there later, if we don't get it right, now. And the cost in blood and dollars will eclipse what we need to spend now to fix what we broke.