December 18, 2006

Robert Gates


From AP: Gates: Iraq failure would be 'calamity'.

Robert Gates assumed the helm at the Pentagon on Monday, warning in his first public remarks as defense secretary that failure in Iraq would be a "calamity" that would haunt the United States for years.

The former CIA chief pledged to give President Bush his honest advice on the costly and unpopular war, and said he would go to Iraq soon to see what U.S. commanders believe should be done to quell the growing violence.

"All of us want to find a way to bring America's sons and daughters home again," Gates, 63, said after taking the oath of office as defense secretary from Vice President Dick Cheney at a Pentagon ceremony. "But as the president has made clear, we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for decades to come."

He takes office as Bush conducts a wide-ranging review of his approach to the 3 1/2 year-old Iraq conflict. The fighting, teetering on the edge of a civil war between sects, has seen more than 2,940 Americans die at a cost to U.S. taxpayers exceeding $300 billion.

Officials say the options Bush is studying run from a short-term buildup of thousands of more troops to a pullback of U.S. combat units so they can focus on training Iraqis and hunting terrorists. Bush said last week that he would wait until January to announce his new strategy, to give Gates a chance to offer advice.

Gates said he wants to hear the views of U.S. commanders on how to improve the situation, "unvarnished and straight from the shoulder." The remarks seemed to contrast with critics' complaints that the man he replaced, Donald H. Rumsfeld, did not listen enough to the advice of the military's top officers.

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Posted by Forkum at December 18, 2006 06:14 PM