WASHINGTON – Sen. Harry Reid said Wednesday the United States should tread lightly on Iraq, arguing it is not in the U.S. interest to involve itself in a “civil war” engulfing the beleaguered nation.
“It is not in the national security interest of our country” to re-engage in Iraq, Reid said in a Senate speech. “It’s not worth the blood of the American soldiers. It is not worth the monetary cost to the American taxpayer.
“I do not support in any way putting our men and women in the midst of this civil war in Iraq.”
Doing so, Reid said, would relive “the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country.”
Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada, said Republicans blaming President Barack Obama for the rise of Islamic militants who are sweeping through Iraq have forgotten why Obama initiated U.S. troop withdrawals in 2009.
“The Iraqis wanted us out,” he said. “The Iraqi government didn’t want American forces to stay.” Should Americans have put lives at further risk, “even as the Iraqi people were telling our military to leave?”
“What has been taking place in Iraq is a civil war,” Reid said, “and it’s time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves.
“After a decade of war, the American people have had enough.”
The speech appeared to be a preview of the advice Reid was likely to give Obama when House and Senate leaders met with the president about Iraq later Wednesday at the White House.
Obama is pondering further U.S. actions after sending 275 special forces troops to Iraq this week to boost security at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. He said the troops were equipped for combat and would remain on the scene until no longer needed.
Reid voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to commence military action against Iraq. But later he turned against the war, charging the Bush administration misled the nation about its need, and he attempted to defund it.
In 2007 he famously declared “the war is lost” before a U.S. troop surge that enabled the United States and its allies to regain the upper hand, albeit one that eroded after U.S. involvement ended.
In his speech Reid blasted Republicans for their criticism Obama’s handling of Iraq, saying they were once again looking for a reason to attack the president.
Reid revived criticism of Bush advisers who called for the United States to take an aggressive stance in Iraq, including diplomat Paul Wolfowitz, political analyst William Kristol and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“If there is one thing that this country does not need, it’s that we should be taking advice from Dick Cheney on wars,” Reid said. “Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is being on the right side of history.”
As for the Iraq war hawks, “we have already tried it your way, and it was the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country,” he said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau chief Steve Tetreault at 202-783-1760 or STetreault@stephensmedia.com Follow @STetreaultDC on Twitter