- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2005

Stay the course

Retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey — who helped then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin L. Powell command U.S. troops during 1991’s Operation Desert Storm and has been sharply critical of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for denying the harsh “reality” in Iraq today — says Iraqi elections slated for Jan. 30 must proceed as planned.

Still, the retired four-star Army general, now a professor of national security studies at the U.S. Military Academy , yesterday said “it is hard to imagine ending up with a legitimate government, operational economy and decent security forces” in Iraq for at least two years and possibly as many as 10 years.

“Backing off the election is a very risky proposition,” said Gen. McCaffrey, calling it a critical “way station en route to an uncertain objective.”

“My judgment is, if we back off the election, or any other way stations, [insurgents] will take to the streets and ultimately drive the remainder of our allies out of Iraq,” he said.

It is equally important, he added, to keep neighboring allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait focused on seeing the elections through. Then, in a postelection period, the U.S. military must continue its arduous, often bloody task of “thinning out our enemies.”

With 150,000 U.S. troops on the ground, “it is impossible to imagine any combination of insurgent forces” could defeat U.S. resolve to bring stability to the country. Nevertheless, and while calling his numbers “soft,” he estimated 80,000 armed insurgents presently are battling U.S. troops in Iraq, with another 5 million Sunnis and Shias supporting the rebel forces.

At the same time, he made clear that he fully supports President Bush’s initiatives in Iraq, if not the president’s Pentagon chief orchestrating the military operation.

“Leaving Saddam [Hussein] in office was unacceptable, and if we had left him there, five years from now we’d have rued the day we lost our will,” he said. “President Bush’s political and moral courage taking us to war will pay off in the end, [although] this is not going to be easy in the short term.”

He also predicted that if Mr. Bush levels with Congress and the public on the obvious obstacles that the United States faces in Iraq, “I think the American people will want to stay the course.”

Regarding his recent public criticism of Mr. Rumsfeld, Gen. McCaffrey yesterday referred to “serious misjudgments by Secretary Rumsfeld” in leading troops, particularly the war’s first phase, when Iraqi resistance was underestimated and U.S. troop strength proved inadequate.

“Not much is gained by enumerating. That’s past history,” he said. “Now it is how we move forward. We need fresh thinking and courage.”

Searching the closet

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest U.S. homosexual-rights group, announced this week that it has formed a 25-member committee to search for a new executive director, in the wake of HRC chief Cheryl JacquesNov. 30 resignation announcement.

However, HRC did not name the members of its search committee, prompting San Francisco AIDS activist Michael Petrelis to ask if “closet cases” are running the search.

“Maybe the committee members are embarrassed to be associated with the gay community. Perhaps they’re not fully out of the closet, or they just don’t want their names released,” says Mr. Petrelis, a former resident of the District, where he was active with the local chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP).

“Whatever the reason for the secrecy, it doesn’t say much about HRC’s commitment to transparency and accountability to the community it purports to represent.”

Gwen Baba, co-chairwoman of the HRC board of directors, and Vic Basile, co-chairman of the HRC Foundation board of directors, will lead the committee, the group announced in a Monday press release. And while the names of individual search committee members will not be released publicly, Mr. Basile characterized the group as “diverse.”

Miss Jacques’ resignation in November widely was interpreted as a reaction to HRC’s failed efforts to defeat President Bush on Election Day, when voters in 11 states approved ballot measures effectively prohibiting recognition of same-sex “marriage” — and “moral values” was cited as the No. 1 issue in exit polls.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.



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