Vocal Seminar-Woodlands at Ardsley 12-1-05

What Do We Do About Iraq?


Richard J. Garfunkel

December 1, 2005



Hello and good morning to all of you. My name is Richard J. Garfunkel, and I will serve as the leader for this forum. I want first to thank Reva Greenberg, from Westchester County’s Office of the Aging and VOCAL, who invited me to partake in this endeavor and to also thank Vera Schiller who recommended me to follow her husband Irv, who led these “speak-outs” in the past. I want to welcome you to the 2nd session of the 2005-6 season of VOCAL’s Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Program, speak-out forum for senior citizens. Basically this is a program that encourages seniors to voice their opinions on a subject of interest to our communities, whether local, regional or national. Its purpose is to help empower people to learn how to ask the right questions, find out information that is necessary for both their physical and mental well-being and add to their cultural and social awareness. By speaking out and using their mind with regards to current public policy issues seniors, like all of us will benefit.


I have passed out to all of you articles from various sources regarding this morning’s topic, “What Do We Do About Iraq?”



I also have a limited number of longer pieces that anyone can have. They also represent a broad spectrum of opinion:


My opening statement regards the important Public Policy question of “What should America do about Iraq?” Currently as a nation we are facing a very difficult situation in Iraq. We are spending approximately $7-8 billion per month. We are facing an ongoing insurrections that has escalated from 100 to 700 or so incidents per day that reflect bombings, small arms attacks, rocket propelled grenades, assassinations, kidnappings and general lawlessness. There has been some successes reflective or public voting, re-opening of schools, the development of a police force and army, the pumping of oil, the return of some services, businesses have reopened and the emergence of a free press. On the other hand there are people being killed every day by bombs, suicide bombers, and guerrilla warfare. The US has sustained over 2100 deaths, there are over 17,000 wounded and our armed forces are under great stress. This includes the stretching of our National Guard and Reserves, and the cost of medical care and disability. In other words is this effort worth the cost?


Therefore to frame our discussion this morning I would like to pose a few questions to our audience. Please note the following:


1)                 Should we stay the course with our current troop levels and rotation?

2)                 Should we increase our troop strength and therefore create more pressure on the insurgency?

3)                 Should we destabilize Syria whose porous border allows fighters to assist the Sunnis in their war against the Shiites?

4)                 Should we re-institute the draft and take the burden off our professional army, the Reserves, and the National Guard?

5)                 Should we establish a timetable for withdrawal of our troops?

6)                 Should we start pulling out our troops unilaterally without any regard to the progress regarding the Iraqi National Force?

7)                 Should Iraq be partitioned into three states, the Kurdish north, Shiite South, and the center left to the battle between the Sunnis and the Shiites?


Should therefore there be a change in Public Policy regarding the Middle East and the Islamic World


1)                 Should we alter our support for Israel?

2)                 Should we support a two state solution for Israel and the Palestinian Arabs?

3)                 Should we end our support for the oil oligarchies, like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia?

4)                 Should we be making a greater effort to forge cultural ties with the Islamic/Arab world?

5)                 Should we de-emphasize democratic reforms in countries like Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia?

6)                 Should we overthrow Syria, and destroy Iranian nuclear facilities?


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