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A December 4 Washington Times editorial falsely claimed that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) has "advocated ... a date-certain timeline for withdrawing" all U.S. combat troops from Iraq. In fact, Levin has proposed that a phased withdrawal begin in four to six months, but has not proposed any specific timetable for the completion of that withdrawal.
As Levin stated on the December 3 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, hosted by Tim Russert:
LEVIN: Here's what we've proposed. We've proposed that the Iraqis be told that in four to six months, we're going to begin a phased redeployment of American troops from Iraq.
RUSSERT: The president's rejected that.
LEVIN: I know the president's rejected that. He's rejected everything that reflects on his policy, or that suggests that his policy is wrong, or that we got to change course. He, he says over and over again, "We're going to be in Iraq as long as the Iraqis want us." That is an abdication, number one, of policy on our part. But worse, it's the wrong message to the Iraqis. It tells them that it's not their responsibility, it's ours.
Tim, we've got to shift the responsibility to the Iraqis. The Democratic proposal is a modest one. It is not precipitous. It's been characterized as cut and run. It is not. It simply says to the Iraqis, "Folks, you say, your prime minister says that the problem in Iraq is political." Our military leaders say that there's no military solution to Iraq. You put those two facts together -- [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-]Maliki's statement that the problem is political, with the, I think, fact that there's no military solution. We have got to shift the onus to the Iraqis to solve their political problems. We cannot save them from themselves, Tim. And we should give them four to six months, and then we will begin a redeployment of American forces. Give them that much time to solve the problem, which they acknowledge is a political problem, not a military problem.
This was a reiteration of what Levin said at a November 15 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Gen. John Abizaid:
LEVIN: In the end? We are three and one-half years into a conflict which has already lasted longer than the Korean conflict and almost as long as World War II. We should put the responsibility for Iraq's future squarely where it belongs -- on the Iraqis. We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves. The only way for Iraqi leaders to squarely face that reality is for President Bush to tell them that the United States will begin a phased redeployment of our forces within four to six months. That is not precipitous; it is a responsible way to change the dynamic in Iraq to stop the march down the path to full-blown civil war on which the Iraqis are now embarked. Yes, some U.S. troops would need to remain in Iraq for the limited missions of counterterrorism and training of Iraqi security forces and to provide logistical support and force protection. And yes, we should also convene an international conference to support a political settlement and to provide resources for Iraq's reconstruction.
As opposed to requiring a "date-certain timeline" for withdrawal, the June 2006 Levin-Reed amendment asked the president to "submit to Congress a plan by the end of 2006 with estimated dates for the continued phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq, with the understanding that unexpected contingencies may arise." And in contrast with the Times editorial's assertion that the "leaks from the Iraq Study Group suggest" that the group rejected Levin's proposal, a December 1 Los Angeles Times article reported that "[t]he [Iraq Study Group's] troop reduction proposal resembles one offered by Democratic Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and [Levin], who have called for a drawdown to begin within six months." The article further noted that "Reed and Levin ... have said that there should be no fixed timetable and that U.S. forces should shift to an advisory role." According to the article, Reed said that "the outlines of the Iraq Study Group's plan and the Reed-Levin plan 'track very closely.' "
From the December 4 Washington Times editorial titled " 'Realist' foolishness on Iraq":
Our Iraq policy today is at a crossroads. Indications are that much of the Washington establishment, anticipating the official release on Wednesday of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) recommendations, embraces the idea of an Iraq exit strategy -- regardless of whether that fledgling democracy could survive on its own. The major obstacle to this ill-conceived idea is President Bush, who says emphatically that he has no intention of searching for a graceful way to abandon the Iraqis to Islamist fascism. So, the self-styled realists hope to get around that by using the recommendations of the ISG, headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, which are said to include a plan for a "major" withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq in the coming years despite considerable evidence that Iraqi security forces are not yet capable of taking on the terrorists and militias. Portions of a leaked classified memo issued by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suggest that he too may have been moving in that general direction.
The Defense Department (which has long resisted large-scale efforts to bolster the U.S. military presence in Iraq) will attempt to put the best face on the Baker-Hamilton report. On Friday, Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, who commands U.S. forces in northern Iraq, asserted that Mr. Bush and the ISG are not far apart when it comes to removing U.S. troops from Iraq. Indeed, leaks from the Iraq Study Group suggest that it rejected two of the worst ideas proposed by these modern-day McGovernites: an immediate troop pullout and a date-certain timeline for withdrawing the current 15 brigades in Iraq, a plan being advocated by Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who will likely chair the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress.