Whatever we do in Iraq from here forward, we must strive to make better decisions than those made between 2003 and 2006. And one way to achieve that is by making certain that our civilian leaders are fully informed. All three candidates for President are extremely intelligent, but that doesn't mean that all three are tracking the truth on the ground in Iraq. Anyone who wants to be President of the United States needs to see Iraq without the distorting lenses of the media or partisan politics. I would be honored to visit Iraq with Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, Senator McCain or any of their Senate colleagues.
I hereby offer to accompany any Senator to Iraq, whether they are pro-or anti-war, Democrat or Republican. I will make this offer personally to a few select Senators as well. Our conversations during the visit would be on- or off-record, as they wish. Touring Iraq with me, as well as briefings by U.S. officers and meetings with Iraqis, would provide an accurate and nuanced account of the progress and challenges ahead, so that the Senators might have a highly informed perspective on this most critical issue. Our civilian leaders need to make decisions based on the best information available. The only way to learn what is really going on in Iraq is to go there and listen to our ground commanders, who know what they are doing. Generals Petraeus and Odierno have years of experience in Iraq, and vast knowledge of our efforts there. But the young soldiers who have done multiple tours in Iraq also have unique and invaluable perspectives as well. These young soldiers have personally witnessed the trajectory of the war shift dramatically, and can articulate those changes in concrete and specific terms. It doesn’t matter if a soldier is only twenty-something. If he or she spent two or three years in the war, that person is likely to have valuable insights. The best way to understand what is really going on is to listen closely to a wide range of service members who have done multiple tours in Iraq. Some will be negative, some will be positive, but overall I am certain that the vast majority of multi-tour Iraq veterans will testify that there has been great progress, and now there is hope. Combat veterans don’t tolerate happy talk or wishful thinking. They’ll tell you the raw truth as they see it.
Whether any Senators take advantage of my offer, I do hope that the presidential candidates visit Iraq, not just for a photo opportunity, but to spend time with our commanders and combat veterans, who know the truth and are not afraid to speak it.