Senator: Iraq Assumptions 'Flawed'

Richard Lugar headshot, as US Senator of Indiana
AP
Flawed assumptions by President Bush's advisers about postwar Iraq are contributing to Iraqis' resentment of the U.S. occupation and undermining its legitimacy, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.

Even the war itself has yet to be won, said Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.

"Having said that," Lugar said, "I reiterate we're there now. Whether they made a good choice or not in terms of tactics is irrelevant."

Friday was the 100th day since Bush declared an end to major combat. In his radio address Saturday, he said the administration was "keeping our word to the Iraqi people by helping them to make their country an example of democracy and prosperity throughout the region."

But Lugar and former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, once chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, looked back at the Iraq war in less rosy terms.

"Clearly this is a war that still has to be won. By that, I mean, militarily, we have to finally find the rest of the malefactors. We have to try to make sure other forces don't intrude -- that is, terrorists in the country. You're going to need the lights on in Baghdad," Lugar said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"In other words, we really have to get conditions in the country such that the Iraqis know what we are doing, we communicate that to them, while we fight off those who are trying to disrupt the whole business."

Lugar recently wrote a newspaper opinion piece that said the administration's postwar planning was so poor that Americans are contending in Iraq "with ethnic and religious rivalries; a long-repressed people; a war-damaged infrastructure already decayed from years of neglect and corruption; a lack of Iraqi democratic experience; and a host of extreme clerics, looters, gangsters and warlords-in-waiting."

Asked Sunday how the planning was lacking, Lugar replied:

"I think a thorough misunderstanding of how complex the politics of Iraq are and continue to be; an inability to understand the decapitation theory — that is, getting rid of the top types while the workers continue — wasn't going to work," he said.

"In other words, the basic assumptions, whoever was making them, at State, at NSC, at Defense, simply were inadequate to begin with." NSC is the National Security Council.

He said the facts in Iraq show "that if we are theorists before the fact, we better all talk about it a great deal more."

His committee's consultations with administration officials, Lugar said, "showed that the administration really was not prepared on those grounds."

A major step the administration needs to take, Lugar said, is to come up with a five-year budget for the reconstruction of Iraq to include sources of the money.

"It could come from other countries," he said. "We must be vigorous in trying to get that and a U.N. resolution to give us more legitimacy" as the lead occupying power.

"It is regrettable that some countries still believe that this is our mission entirely. And the U.N. legitimacy and the reaching-out to these other countries is of the essence, not only in the short term but in the intermediate term," Lugar said.

Nunn agreed that a new resolution is singularly important, but no matter what, "We have got to see it through now. Whether you were for the war or against the war, America has a huge stake there now, and our allies have to understand it's in their best interest to really help us."