General Tells Cambridge Crowd US Has Not Failed In Iraq




 
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November 18th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: General Tells Cambridge Crowd US Has Not Failed In Iraq


Boston Globe
November 18, 2006
Protesters rally outside lecture
By Charles M. Sennott, Globe Staff
CAMBRIDGE -- Speaking over the faint chants of a small group of protesters outside, US Army General John P. Abizaid told an audience at Harvard University yesterday that the war in Iraq was winnable despite the gathering dissent at home.
On a day of distant echoes of the Vietnam War, Abizaid, the senior US commander in the Middle East, and President Bush, who was in Hanoi, faced a quagmire of tough questions about the comparison of that conflict and the Iraq war.
Abizaid, addressing academics, students, and members of the military at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, recognized the reality of souring public opinion in America about the war, but hastened to add, "We have not failed yet."
"I think we can win this fight," he said. "I think we are winning this fight."
Abizaid's military career began at the bitter end of the Vietnam in 1973, arguably the lowest point in American military history, and his star has risen through leadership roles in Grenada, the first Gulf War, Kosovo, and Iraq.
Sarah Sewall, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, which sponsored the talk, introduced the general. She described Abizaid's "uniquely valuable perspective" and cautioned against blaming military leaders for executing decisions made by political leaders.
Referring to the way the Vietnam War polarized the country and crippled the military, she said: "We have been down that road before."
In Hanoi yesterday, Bush, who long resisted any comparison between the two wars, was asked yesterday which lessons the Vietnam War offered for the war in Iraq. Bush's answer echoed Abizaid's resolve to fight on in Iraq and unwillingness to repeat the US decision to leave Vietnam after failing to defeat an insurgency.
"We'll succeed unless we quit," Bush said.
At his address at the Kennedy School forum, Abizaid was asked on several occasions why American public opinion had turned so decidedly against the war, and he consistently said that the despair he felt in Washington was not reflected in the field among American or Iraqi soldiers and officials.
He pointedly blamed the American media for its criticism of the US military in Iraq and said coverage of the war had led to the perception of a failed policy.
"We can't worry about the 24-hour news cycle; we've got to worry about where we come out in history," he said.
"We absolutely are in the stage where we have got to make this work," he said. "We need to start having better effect against the sectarian violence within six months."
Abizaid said the stakes were high in Iraq and in the global struggle against the rise of violent Islamic extremism, which he has dubbed "the long war."
"I believe our failure to address the major problems of extremism can lead to World War III," he said.
The speech was part of a yearlong calendar of events at the Carr Center titled "The Long War Series."
At the end of a grueling week in which he was barraged on Wednesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill with questions and criticism about the war, Abizaid joked with the audience about why he wore camouflage fatigues instead of his green dress uniform for the evening.
"I usually wear my green uniform," he said to a polite round of laughter. "But there was so much blood on it, I had to come in this uniform."
As he spoke, a knot of several dozen protesters gathered outside the gates of the Kennedy School. As Abizaid prepared to exit, the crowd chanted louder: "Abizaid is a liar. No more war for empire."
"Put on the shields, boys," Abizaid quipped to his fellow officers as they bounded into the vehicle and drove through the crowd.
One of the protesters, Nick Giannone, 31, of Quincy, who works for Boilermakers Union Local 906, said: "I am against this war. I came here to remind the world that Abizaid has a lot of blood on his hands."
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
 


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