September 2, 2006

U.S. senator Trent Lott: Iraq is essentially three peoples

By Trent Lott - U.S. Senator
 
meridianstar com



President Bush once called me a “deal maker.” I responded, “No, Mr. President, I’m a results maker.” Because I’d rather have 50 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing, I approach every issue by looking for where we can find agreement and where we can produce results.

The way I see it, the Senate has three areas outside of the ongoing Katrina recovery effort that demand results when Congress convenes in September: Iraq, energy and immigration.

Iraq requires a new plan. I’m neither advocating a withdrawal nor a timetable for one. That would be counter-productive and send a signal to terrorists that all they have to do is wait out our American troops. I’m saying we ought to start thinking about new and more innovative ways to empower the Iraqi police, the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people themselves. I’ve contended all along that at some point Iraqis must take responsibility for their own country and destiny. I don’t know exactly where that point is. No one really does. But we all know we’re steadily approaching it. It may be that we need new thinking in the Pentagon, not necessarily with the generals, but with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the civilian leadership.  


When it comes to curbing Iraq’s sectarian violence, we should remember that Iraq is essentially three peoples — Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites — lumped together long ago by Colonial Britain into the manufactured nation of Iraq. Suppressed by decades of dictatorship, these three peoples still have distinct historical and cultural differences, manifesting themselves again and threatening the stability of the region and the entire world. Finding a results-driven plan to eliminate this friction and preserve order must be a global and bipartisan goal. Election year jockeying won’t produce results for Iraqis or Americans.

Immigration is another issue where Americans are demanding that Washington produce. Congress is engaged in a textbook example of party activists on both sides wanting all or nothing. Some want virtually no restrictions on immigration while others want to completely seal off our borders.

The President’s plan for “guest workers” is too amnesty-like, and that’s why most Americans oppose it. Here, too, is an area where we must step back, take a look at where we have agreement and move forward where possible. A compromise may not be everything I want, or everything you’d want, but we must take that first step. I have voiced support for a temporary worker program where foreign nationals wanting to work here would be allowed to do so, but only for a short time and under close watch before being required to return home.

During a recent visit to Mississippi, my friend Mitt Romney, the Governor of Massachusetts, advocated an immigration policy weighted toward allowing mostly skilled, productive immigrants into the U.S. who can contribute to our economy, rather than burden it. We ought to look at that and every idea and determine where there is a path to move forward and get results, asking only what’s best for America.

Energy costs continue a worrisome upward spiral. Just weeks ago I helped broker an agreement opening a new and large portion of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration. It’s a good first step that will have an immediate impact on our gas supplies. But this alone is not the solution.

Recently at the Gulfport Rotary Club, a Mississippian asked me whether I thought ethanol could be the answer to America’s energy needs. I told him no, that ethanol is only one part of what must be a multi-faceted approach to our becoming energy independent. Ethanol is indeed promising, but we also need more domestic production of gas, oil, coal, solar power, fuel cells — the whole package. There is no single silver bullet solution to America’s energy woes. Congress and the President should consider every energy plan that will produce results, regardless of what single-minded, special interest groups, from environmental organizations to oil companies, are pushing.

Americans want action. The Senate, the House and the President are equally responsible for giving Americans the results they demand and deserve. Iraq, immigration and energy are good issues on which to get to work.

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office)