May 03 2007
By Eric Fleischauer
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby supports President Bush's veto of the supplemental bill imposing timelines on U.S. troop withdrawal, but thinks it will be time to reassess our role in Iraq by Thanksgiving.
In an interview Wednesday, the Tuscaloosa Republican questioned the commitment of the Iraqi government to the war effort.
"The Iraqi government is going to have to be committed, and I'm not sure at this point they've shown a lot of commitment to stability in their own country," Shelby said. "They've just settled a lot of scores."
Part of the problem in Iraq, he said, is that its people are not ready for democracy.
"They've never experienced the freedom we have in the West, and I don't know if they ever will," Shelby said. "You can't just change cultures and civilizations overnight. I think we were probably too optimistic on spreading democracy to an area of the world where a lot of them wouldn't appreciate it."
That's only one of several miscues the United States has made in Iraq, Shelby said, but he thinks we need another six months to see if a troop surge and a new general leading the effort make a difference.
"We've made all kinds of mistakes since the initial military victory," Shelby said. "I'm not exuberant about what might happen in the next six months. I think it's about 10 minutes till 12 on the clock, and there's got to be tremendous progress made by military on the ground between now and Thanksgiving, and there's got to be a lot of progress at the same time by the Iraqi government. A lot more than they have shown thus far. If not, the administration and everybody will have to reassess where we are."
Shelby said popular sentiment against the war should not guide Congress.
"You shouldn't be voting on the whims of people," he said. "People's ideas change. You should be voting on substance. We could destroy the will and the confidence of our troops, and that would be irreparable."
Shelby: Tenet a liar
Shelby blasted former CIA director George Tenet, who released a book Monday.
Tenet, acting CIA director at the time of Anthony Lake's confirmation process to fill the position permanently, writes that Shelby approached him and said, "If you have any dirt on Tony Lake, I sure would like to have it."
Shelby said he was in Scotland with his family at the time Tenet claims the conversation took place.
"He's one of the biggest liars in the world," Shelby said. "Everybody knows that. ... You've got to consider the source with George Tenet. He's highly discredited. He's not telling the truth."