Archive for Friday, February 24, 2006

Roberts says U.S. must complete its mission in Iraq

February 24, 2006

By Joel Mathis

Amid growing sectarian violence in Iraq, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts on Thursday warned against weakening American resolve in the war on terror.

"If America cuts and runs," Roberts said, "our adversaries will rejoice."

Roberts, a Kansas Republican who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke at Baker University's Founders Day celebration.

And while he cautioned against American "messianic instincts" to export democracy by force, Roberts again defended the Bush administration's so-called "warrantless wiretapping" program, castigating the leakers and journalists who made it public.

"The fact is, this is not domestic spying; it is a very limited, but effective, terrorist threat warning capability," Roberts said, "and I believe it is vital for the protection of the American people."

But some Republicans are contemplating an investigation into whether the administration bypassed laws on information-gathering by the government.

The Washington Post reported Monday that intelligence committee members Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., had told Roberts they might join Democratic calls for such an inquiry. Roberts arranged to put off a committee vote on the matter until March 7, the paper reported, while he negotiates with the White House for expanded oversight.

"The details of this agreement will take some time to work out," Roberts said in his speech Thursday. Without an agreement, he said, "it is possible that the committee may vote to conduct an inquiry into the program."

Roberts used the bulk of his speech to warn against American withdrawal from Iraq. Such action, he said, would embolden al-Qaida -- making terror attacks on U.S. soil more likely -- and encourage rival nations such as Iran, North Korea, China and Venezuela.

"We have never faced this kind of enemy before. In this conflict ... there are no rules of war, no rules of engagement, no Geneva Convention or even the high moral ground of Islam," Roberts said of al-Qaida, adding: "They are not giving up."

Roberts did not take questions from the audience.

But one Baker student -- Wes Mikel, a Lenexa sophomore -- stood to challenge Roberts on why the fight against al-Qaida expanded to include Iraq.

"If everybody had 20-20 hindsight, this might have turned out differently," Roberts responded, saying that the belief Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction was a "worldwide intelligence failure."

If al-Qaida and other terrorists weren't already in Iraq, Roberts suggested, they are now, and must be defeated.

"The threat," he told Mikel, "is there."

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