He joined Wolfie on The Situation Room today and explained his new stance on Iraq.
Sen. Smith: I simply hit the end of the rope if you will. I felt I had to speak up because if these sacrifices are being made in pursuit of policy that cannot succeed then we need to admit it and readjust in a way that the American people and our soldiers find worth the sacrifice and this is not.---I find examples like the British generals day after day in the first world war would send thousands of their men running into machine guns and not make adjustments. I find that criminal.
And when we send our young folks out in vehicles that cannot take out, er, er accept these kind of blasts to them without taking their lives I don;t find that smart. I find that derelict in duty...
Blitzer: Who should be held accountable--I'll just use a word "fiasco" or disaster or some word along those lines?
Sen. Smith: Well, I think all of us with positions of responsibility are accountable. but clearly I can't be quiet any more.
At least he didn't ask for a few more Biden shots...(h/t Joe)
CNN's full transcipt below the fold:
SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: Wolf, if you have the privilege of
representing one of the United States and you have a voice and a vote,
now is the time to speak up. And I felt duty bound to say what was on
my heart, and to describe how this war had mutated from one thing to
another, from taking out a tyrant and a terrorist and ridding him of
weapons of mass destruction and establishing democracy, to now being
street cops in a sectarian civil war. That's not what I voted for.
That is not what the American people are for.
BLITZER: So you've concluded this is now a civil war in Iraq?
SMITH: I have concluded that. You know, this is a fight, when you get
right down to the root of it, because Sunnis and Shias that goes back a
millennia of time over who is the rightful successor to the Prophet
Mohammed. That is not our fault. That is not our fight and that's not
something we can fix.
BLITZER: Was there one issue, one thing that happened that pushed you
over to delivery this remarkable address on the Senate floor?
SMITH: Well, I've read a number of books recently that got me thinking
and stirred up, and then I woke up Wednesday, I believe it was, to the
news that 10 more of our fighting men and maybe a women -- I don't know
-- but they were killed again in another roadside bomb, and I just
simply hit the end of the rope, if you will.
And I felt I had to speak out, because if these sacrifices are being
made in pursuit of a policy that cannot succeed, then we need to admit
it and readjust in a way that the American people and our soldiers find
worth the sacrifice. And this is not.
BLITZER: You used the word "criminal" in that statement, a very sharp,
pointed word. If, in fact, some of the actions committed by the U.S.
were criminal, who should be held accountable?
SMITH: Well, if you'll read my remarks in context, I was clearly
speaking rhetorically, not in a legal sense. But I find examples like
when the British generals day after day in the first World War would
send thousands of their men running into machine guns and not make
adjustments, I find that criminal. And when we send our young folks out
in vehicles that cannot take out these -- or rather, accept these kinds
of blasts to them without taking their lives, I don't find that smart
and I find that very derelict in duty.
Moreover, if you think we should be going out and fighting them, you
have to answer the question whether the insurgency that this has become
is worth doing. If you say, yes, it is, then you have to adapt your
tactics. What we are doing -- and I have seen this with my own eyes in
Iraq. What we're doing is sending them out from the Green Zone,
clearing, and then retreating back to the Green Zone.
Now, I've got to tell you, that doesn't make any sense if you're
fighting an insurgency. History will tell you, to fight and win
insurgencies, you have to clear, hold, and then build, so you build
confidence in the people there so that they become the foot soldiers,
they root out the terrorists, and they ultimately fight for their
freedom. It's not our country. It's theirs.
BLITZER: So let me repeat the question. Who should be held
accountable for what you believe has now become -- and I'll just use the
word fiasco or disaster or some word along those lines?
SMITH: Well, I think all of us with positions of responsibility are
accountable. But, clearly, I can't be quiet anymore. I'm leveling this
charge at no one man or woman, but I am clearly saying that the American
people will and should hold us accountable. So if you've got something
to say, now is the time to say it. Either let's fight the war
intelligently for an objective that is obtainable, or let's admit it and
figure out how to preserve the lives of our soldiers.
BLITZER: Because morally speaking, if you do conclude it's futile
right now and that a year from now it's not going to make any difference
what the U.S. does, that the situation is still going to be sectarian
civil war -- your words -- is it moral to keep U.S. men and women in
harm's way, let another thousand or so Americans die over the next year
if it's simply going to wind up exactly, if not worse, than it is right
SMITH: It is not right to do that. Let me also add, though, that we
have an ongoing interest in prosecuting the war on terror, a fight from
which we can retreat only at the peril of our own nation. There are
ways to reposition on the borders of Iraq to take on terrorist jihadists
from Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia. And these are the people that we want
to fight. That is our fight, and ultimately, that is a very important
fight for our country for our sake, not just for Iraq.
BLITZER: Knowing what you know now -- and obviously with hindsight
we're all a lot smarter -- if you had to do it over again knowing that
no WMD in Iraq, no al Qaeda connection, knowing 3,000 Americans were
going to be killed, $400 billion spent, $2 billion a week, would you
have voted for that resolution...
BLITZER: ... to support this war?
SMITH: As I said in my floor statement, had I known there were no WMD
there, I would not have voted for it. But I do want to add that I
believe it's a good thing that we removed Saddam Hussein. I think there
would have been other ways to do that without the cost in life and
treasure that our current approach has led us to.
BLITZER: One final question, Senator. Do you think President Bush is,
as his critics charge, still in a state of denial?
SMITH: Oh, you know, what I say I say in sorrow, not in anger.
President Bush is my friend, and I know he agonizes day and night over
this issue. But he has a very determined streak in him, and yet I have
to believe he knows, with the Iraq Study Group and what others are
saying, that the time is now to rethink this and reposition the American
war against terrorism.
BLITZER: Senator Gordon Smith, thanks very much for coming in.
SMITH: Thank you.
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