Congressman Dent: "It's a reasonable question. As we all know, the war began before I arrived in Congress. I was briefed recently in the situation room on the Status of Forces Agreement. The Status of Forces Agreement is something that I urged well over a year ago. There are over 70 Status of Forces Agreements around the world. We have them in Germany, Korea, Iceland. They state the terms and conditions under which our troops maintain a presence. We have one in the Philippines. They don't want us to be there so we're gone. The same thing is happening in Iraq. We are very close to initialling a Status of Forces Agreement.
"I believe you will see a significant drawdown of our troops, based on conditions on the ground, and that is a good thing. The Iraqi government has talked about time horizons and that is being discussed as part of a Status of Forces Agreement that will be flexible. The good thing about that is that the Iraqi government now feels that they have enough control of the security situation and political situation to basically encourage a lessening of our combatant presence. That is a good thing. That is a very good thing.
"Remember, if the state of Iraq fails, the people who are negotiating this Agreement will be the first ones who will be lined up against a wall and shot. And they know that.
"The problem with Congress on Iraq is we've always talked about congressionally legislated timelines. If we had adopted the timelines that Siobhan Bennett had advocated, she would have in effect have legislated defeat."
LVRamblings: And possibly genocide?
Congressman Dent: "And possibly genocide and unspeakable atrocities. Had we done what we wanted to do, we would be having a very different conversation today about a Status of Forces agreement and a time horizon agreed to by both governments. This is being driven by the Iraqis and that's a good thing. it means the security situation has improved as has the political situation. That is encouraging.
"The problem in Congress is that the debate has always been very narrow. We've been debating very narrow aspects. Pro-surge or anti-surge. Timelines. Mandatory rest periods. By the way, if we had done what Bennett wanted to do on the rest period, she would have in effect extended the deployment of troops currently serving in Iraq and treated people serving in Iraq differently than people serving in Afghanistan. That's what she wanted to do. She would have extended their deployments because if you couldn't move people in, you wouldn't be able to move people out. She would have extended them."
LVRamblings: You mean, my daughter would have stayed there a little longer?
Congressman Dent: "Yes, that is correct. If we had done it the way Bennett wanted to do it, your daughter would be staying there longer. She would have had a much longer deployment than she would have liked.
"The goal is to go to one year rest for one year deployment, but the way she proposed it . . .
LVRamblings: It would have been inequitable . . .
Congressman Dent: "It would have been inequitable and it would have extended deployment of our men and women serving in Iraq. It would have been a fiasco.
"By the way, I was one of the guys - there were a handful of us on both sides of the aisle - who always, when these Iraq votes came up, said we have this bi-partisan document, the Iraq Study Group. We wanted to present it as a comprehensive policy. The truth is, the Bush administration wasn't thrilled about it, Speaker Pelosi didn't like it, Speaker Pelosi refused to allow it to be considered. I went to the Rules Committee on two separate occasions, trying to present this to the whole House for a vote. They said No. I think that was in February of 2007. I went back again three months later - I think it was in the summer of 2007 - and they told me I should have brought it up months ago. I said, well I did, but you said no then. Remember? They said No."
LVRamblings: I think I remember blogging about that . . .
Congressman Dent: "But that';s the way i tried to work. Sestak was there . . ."
LVRamblings: Sestak is a Democratic Congressman . . .
Congressman Dent: "He was there. He sat in the Rules meeting with me . . ."
LVRamblings: He is the first one to announce candidly that "immediate withdrawal" means 18 to 24 months . . . that there's no way you can withdraw troops any quicker without exposing them to danger . . .
Congressman Dent: "And Joe Sestak, who served in the Clinton administration, said it took six months to move 10,000 people out of Somalia. You can't move 160,000 people out of Iraq in six months. It's just impossible."
"That's the problem with Siobhan Bennett's timelines. They would have legislated defeat, would have led to enormous safety problems for our troops, many of whom would have died in that kind of ignominious retreat. That's really what she would have prescribed. I think that's the reality.
"I've always voted to fund our troops. I believe Senator McCain always has, and Senator Obama has on most occasions. There's one occasion when he did not. But Siobham does not support funding our troops. She has been in opposition to any funds going to our troops, who are in harm's way.
"All she ever wanted to do is establish operational controls on our troops. I've been to Afghanistan, I've been to Iraq. What really disturbs me about Bennett's position is what I see with NATO allies who impose very strict operational controls on their troops. I've seen this. That puts very heavy pressure on other NATO forces, especially us, to do what they are unable to do because of the controls placed on them. That's what Siobhan wants to do to our troops and commanders in Iraq - place operational controls so they cannot do what they need to do.
"It's one of the challenges and this gets back to the Russia-Georgia issue. I am very concerned about NATO. I believe in NATO, but NATO is not a club. It is a collective defense organization. If this collective defense organization fails, we'll all be the worse for it. So we have to be very careful when we talk about admitting new nations into NATO, whether it be Georgia and that obligates us to their . . ."
LVRamblings: It obligates us to defend them . . .
Congressman Dent: "That's correct. Or the Ukraine or whoever.
"We have to have a very sober conversation about what membership means. Our nation spends nearly 4% of its GDP on defense. Many of our good friends in Europe spend about 1%. So this defense obligation will fall most heavily on The United States of America. So we have to think about this. We have to consider or revisit the membership criterion of NATO. Maybe nations should be required to invest more in their own security. This is an American guarantee for their defense. At the end of the day, we are providing so much of the leadership in NATO, whether it be in Afghanistan or Europe, that this is something we have to think very hard about.
"Last night, I wrote up my feelings about Iraq. You can have this if you want."
LVRamblings: Sure, I'll load it up on my blog. (Congressman Dent's condensed views about Iraq are portrayed in the blog below).