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Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA 6)
News and Opinion

Gerlach position at odds with campaign rhetoric
Correspondance with my Congressman

-- Daniel E. Loeb

I recently called my Congressman, Jim Gerlach (R-PA 6), to encourage him to support the Iraq De-escalation Act of 2007 (House Resolution 787). This bill would cap our forces in Iraq, allocate additional resources to the reconstruction of Iraq, and require the Iraqi government to meet certain commitments to us. The staff member with whom I spoke promised to pass along my concerns, and a couple of weeks later I received a response from Representative Gerlach.

Unfortunately, the views expressed in his letter were at odds with the campaign promises he made at the "Open Sukkah" at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El. At that time, Gerlach declared that

"Congress must be more assertive to determine what is going on on the ground in Iraq. We are appropriating the money, but we need to ask more questions in a formalized basis and debate what our next step is."
He added that Iraq's "unity government has no sence of urgency" and that we need a "benchmark of success specifying certain troop levels by certain times."

In March 2006, the Republican Congress created the Iraq Study group to assess the situation in Iraq and make policy recommendations and encourage that sort of debate. They concurred with the National Intelligence Assessment and the opinion of most military leaders, that a completely military solution was impossible and that we needed to slowly wind-down our operations in Iraq, putting the onus on the Maliki administration to govern their own country.

Instead of doing this, Gerlach now writes that "the President has made the determination that a troop 'surge' ... is the way." In fact, Bush has dismissed the very military leaders who called for a drawdown of forces. Instead of calling for Congress to hold the Administration's foot to the fire over Iraq policy, Gerlach now accepts the President's unsupported assertions over the advice of Congress, the Iraq study group, his own generals and the American people.

Gerlach wrote: 

"if President Bush's comments are accurate, way may begin to see some withdrawing of U.S. military ... as the Iraq government and its forces continue to grow."

However, Bush has a history of remarks in opposition to his own experts:

  • If President Bush's comments were accurate, we would have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, created using fictive Uranium purchased in Niger, and biological weapons engineered in fictive mobile labs.
  • If President Bush's comments were accurate, our attack on Iraq would have destroyed an al-Qaeda cell in that country rather than having created one there.
  • If President Bush's comments were accurate, we would be treated as liberators in Iraq,
  • If President Bush's comments were accurate, major combat operations in Iraq would have been over by May 2, 2003,
  • If President Bush's comments were accurate, Iraq's oil revenues would have more than adequately paid for our involvement in this conflict and the reconstruction of Iraq.
  • If President Bush's comments were accurate, there would have been no cause for concern regarding the Hurricane Katrina.
But in fact, the weapon's inspectors, Ambassador Wilson, the Army Corp of Engineers, and the National Weather Service were absolutely right.

Given the reality of Iraq as compared to past "hopes" of the Bush administration, I wonder why Gerlach will not adhere to his campaign promises

Congress should learn from its mistakes and not blindly accept the remarks of our President.

The President's premise is that the Maliki government is an effective ally in the war against terror. In fact, both sides of this Iraqi civil war share in their contempt for American life. The hollowness of Bush's pretense was exposed most clearly in January near Karbala  when insurgents drove brazenly into a secure Iraqi government compound. They were waved past several Iraqi checkpoints, killed five U.S. service members in a twenty minute hail of grenades and gunfire, and then drove off unchallenged. It stands to reason that Maliki's "army" was complicit in the assassination of these Americans were on the Iraqi base to plan security details for the upcoming Shiite holydays.

Of course, reducing our troop levels in Iraq is no panacea. Rather it is a way to make the best of the terrible situation created by our invasion of Iraq: A civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites with our servicemen caught in the middle.

If the Iraqis themselves do not take control of the situation, violence will inevitably get worse. In fact, the Saudis recently summoned Vice-President Cheney to Riyadh warning him that if the Americans leave and Iranian-aligned Shiites take control of Iraq, then they might be forced to intervene in order to defend Sunni interests.

My response: Better them than us.

For reference, this is the letter I received March 9, 2007.

Jim Gerlach, 6th District Pennsylvania
308 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4315
Fax: (202) 225-8440

Thank you for contacting me about the war in Iraq and the future role and commitment of the United States.
As I reply to you, the President has made the determination that a troop "surge" in Baghdad and Al-Anbar Province is the way to try to assist the Iraqis in quelling sectarian violence between the Sunnis and the Shia factions and bring some stability and security to the Iraqi people. Certainly, with this decision, the President is committing our military for the next twelve months. So I'm not sure what the Iraqi Study Group's conclusions and recommendations will have on the Administration's policy in the coming months or on the current Congress for that matter.
I pubicly have expressed my concern over my concern to the extent that I don't believe that embedding our military forces with the Iraqis to curb sectarian violence is the right approach or will yield the results that we all seek in that country. Nonetheless, I do hope the plan works and will not support any legislation that would cut off funding to our troops in the field. It is interesting that the House Republican Leadership is now calling for the establishments of benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of our efforts in the coming months when I introduced a resolution last year to do that very same thing and our Republican Leadership was silent on that effort to bring more accountability by the Maliki government for the ongoing situation.
Further, both Prime Minister Maliki and President Bush, in his nationwide address regarding the surge, indicated that all security responsibility would be turned over to Iraqi forces in November or December of this year. Consequently, it appear that 21,000 troops will be committed to Baghdad and Al-Anbar over the coming months to quell sectarian violence and continue to root out Al Qaeda terrorists and that will most likely result in some very significant and bloody conflicts thoughout this year. At the same time, if President Bush's comments are accurate - hopefully as the Iraqi government and its forces continue to grow in strength and security responsibility.
Again, thank you for contacting me about the war in Iraq. If I can be of any future assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
With kind regards, I am

Jim Gerlach
Member of Congress

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