Don't Give Terrorists a Timetable
Tuesday, November 22, 2005; Page A28

One of the most critical issues that members of Congress must address is the wisdom of setting a schedule for our continued presence in Iraq. In this regard, I would hope that they would look back to September 1983, when both houses of Congress held War Powers Act hearings on our presence in Beirut as part of a multinational force. I asked Congress then not to set a schedule for our withdrawal from war-torn Lebanon. I said, "If the time is too short, our enemies will wait us out; if it is too long, they will drive us out."

My warning was ignored, and Congress passed a law that said that Marines would stay for 18 more months. That in essence told the Iranians, the Syrians, the Druze and the newly organized Hezbollah: "Put your plans on hold for a year and a half."

On Oct. 23, 1983, they gave us their answer -- an 18-ton truck carrying the equivalent of 18,000 pounds of TNT smashed into the headquarters of Battalion Landing Team 2/8, and 241 of our most precious sons, who had done nothing more than try to restore peace to a troubled country, were murdered.

My message to Congress is simple: Never tell your enemies your plans. Ambiguity in war is essential.

My personal message to our enemies is equally simple: If you continue your barbaric acts of terrorism, you eventually will be punished -- count on it.

Let me close by reminding all Americans of the mission given to Muslim terrorists by Osama bin Laden in 2001: "By God's leave, we call on every Muslim who believes in God and hopes for reward to obey God's command to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever he can."

Lest we forget!



The writer, a retired Marine Corps general, was commandant of the Corps from 1983 to 1987.