During Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) trip to Iraq two weeks ago, McClatchy published an article highlighting how several soldiers who met with Lieberman had wanted to ask him, “When are we going to get out of here?” Others told McClatchy, “We’re waiting to get blown up,” and “We’re not making any progress,” but said they didn’t feel comfortable telling Lieberman their true feelings. One said he thought he would be demoted if he spoke openly.
This morning on CNN, Lieberman was asked about the article and appeared to blame the soldiers for not being honest with him. “I was really upset about it,” he said, because “I sat at a table with a bunch of our soldiers there” and “was asking them to speak to me from their heart.” Watch it:
Lieberman, who has called for a “truce in the political war” over Bush’s course in Iraq, has indicated he’s not interested in having an open debate. Moreover, Lieberman fails to understand that by stubbornly claiming “our troops must stay” in Iraq, he is communicating that he’s not interested in listening to soldiers who believe it’s time to leave.
Also on CNN, Lieberman claimed the “surge strategy…has worked” because it has “reduced sectarian deaths, particularly in Baghdad where we’re focused.” But sectarian deaths in Baghdad spiked 70 percent in May, beyond pre-escalation levels. Lieberman said this was a sign of success. “[O]ur enemies, the insurgents and Al Qaida — insurgents particularly supported by Iran — see us winning, and they’re doing desperate things,” he said.
ROBERTS: But, Senator Lieberman, how do you square your claim of significant progress with the fact that May was the deadliest month in at least a couple of years — 26 U.S. servicemembers have died so far this month, just the month of June alone — and the fact that sectarian deaths are apparently on the increase again?
LIEBERMAN: Well, two parts. Here’s the point: We’re in a war. The surge strategy, which is just beginning to be fully implemented, has worked. It has reduced sectarian deaths, particularly in Baghdad where we’re focused.
They ticked back up in the last month. Why did they do that? Because our enemies, the insurgents and Al Qaida — insurgents particularly supported by Iran — see us winning, and they’re doing desperate things. More of them are prepared to blow themselves up to kill Iraqis or American soldiers.
Second, the heartbreaking tragedy for all of us as Americans is that the number of American casualties in Iraq has gone up in the last month. Part of that is because of the enemy desperately striking out. Part of it is because our soldiers courageously are now living and working side by side with the Iraqis in cities like Baghdad. You cannot do that without increasing the peril.
Is it worth it? I say yes, because the alternative which many are arguing for is to pull out, and to me that means a tremendous victory for Al Qaida, which is our number one enemy there now, and Iran, our second enemy there.
And if they win there, watch out throughout the rest of the Middle East and right here at home in the USA.
ROBERTS: As part of your trip, you met with some soldiers and Marines. One of the people you met with was Specialist Will Heden. Leila Fedel of McClatchy News Service spoke with Heden just before he talked to you and she wrote this in a recent article. She says: ‘We’re not making any progress,’ according to Heden, as he recalled a comrade who was shot by a sniper last week. ‘It just seems like we drive around and wait to get shot at.’ But as he waited two chairs down from where Lieberman would sit, Heden said he would never voice his true feelings to the senator.
Senator Lieberman, are you getting the real picture there?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, I tell you, I saw that article, John, and I was really upset about it. Because I sat at a table with a bunch of our soldiers there. I did it four or five times during the week. And I was asking them to speak to me from their heart.
A matter of fact, one of them spoke very directly about the fact that he wondered whether we were succeeding there. He said, nonetheless, that he believed — he actually wondered whether we should have gone into Iraq, but nonetheless, he told me how much he was committed to service in the Army and he wanted to re-enlist and stay there for the rest of his career.
I also spoke to a couple of soldiers at that table. These were folks from — soldiers from Connecticut. And one of them said to me when they hear the criticism and the calls for us to withdraw it says to them that what they’re doing is not worth it. And they believe it is worth it.
Another one says, If we pull out of here, the Iraqi police that I’m working side by side with every day are going to get killed, and so are their families. And who would ever trust the United States again in the world? Certainly not in the Middle East.
LIEBERMAN: I’m sorry he didn’t say that to me directly and I certainly would have respected that. It’s a tough, tough haul for our soldiers there.