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Christopher Shays (R-CT) Reverses Himself on Iraq. Blames Iraqis For Their Failure to Launch

Reported by Marie Therese - August 25, 2006 -

Are we seeing the flip-side of Joe Lieberman's loss to Ned Lamont being played out on the Republican side of the aisle in Connecticut? It seems that ardent Iraq war supporter Rep. Christopher Shays - who has visited the country 14 times - might be a tad worried about how his constituents in anti-war Connecticut will react to his pro-war stance. On this morning's FOX & Friends First, he did a 180 and called for a timetable for troop withdrawal.

BRIAN KILMEADE: Our next guest was once an intense supporter of the war in Iraq. Now he says we should set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. How about next year?

GRETCHEN CARLSON: Connecticut Congressman Chris Shays is in London with us. He’s wrapping a Congressional delegation trip that including trips to Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Darfur and Rome. Good to see you Congressman. You’re calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq right now which is against what you used to say, which is that you were in full support of the war. Re-election coming up for you.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT): I am in full support.

CARLSON: But, but is this because it’s become increasingly more apparent, according to some, that it may be difficult to win elections now ...


CARLSON: ... with current status in Iraq?

SHAYS (having difficulty with his earpiece): First off, I’m getting an echo. If you could turn off the echo.

KILMEADE: OK. I'll try.

SHAYS: The bottom line to this is I want us to succeed in Iraq. I am a strong supporter of the war and the question is how do we do that? I’ve been there fourteen times, and what I’m seeing since January of this year is I’m not seeing the political will on the part of the Iraqis. They spent four to five months to get a government. You have a new government that’s been in office about three months, and yet they haven’t set timelines on when they’re going to have provisional elections. They haven’t set timelines on when they’re going to have reconciliation. They haven’t set timelines on constitution. My judgment - based on my last two visits - is they’re happy to stretch this out forever, and in my judgment we need to incentivise the Iraqis. They need to know there is a limit to our presence there.

KILMEADE: You think that they would want us there one day longer than we have to be?

SHAYS: Oh, absolutely. I think this new government is very happy to have their office. I think they feel it’s difficult for Sunnis and Shias to negotiate. They want it done in the Middle East way, which is taking a long time. They were very critical of the deadlines we set for them but think of what was accomplished. From June of ‘04 a new government set up. Then they elected - had a constitutional election for people to create a constitution in January of ‘05. They created a constitution, ratified that constitution by October ‘05, then they created a new elected government by the end of that year - in 11 months and they don’t want to go on that kind of timetable, but they need to. The bottom line, from what I’m seeing, is we’ve seen really no progress since January because they’re willing to just keep stretching it out.

GRETCHEN CARLSON: So how does this affect the political situation back home in Connecticut? We're all familiar with the Lieberman-Lamont race where so many of the voters there said that they simply voted an anti-war statement . Do you think more and more Republicans will come out and take your stance as well?

SHAYS: Well, but see, you all - and the media loves to do this - you put it in the context of an election. It's not about an election. You don't have decisions of war and peace based on election. What you have is a desire on the part of me, Senator Lieberman and others to have success. Success means that we replace our troops with their troops. Success means, in my judgment, that we encourage them to have reconciliation ...

CROSSTALK (Rep. Shays clearly cannot hear Kilmeade)

BRIAN KILMEADE: Congressman.

SHAYS: ... so they won't need as many of their troops ...

CARLSON: Congressman.

SHAYS: ... so we can leave more quickly.

KILMEADE: Why don't you stay right there. Congressman Shays, since we're up against a ... Congressman Shays I don't know if you can hear me, but Congressman Shays, we're gonna come right back to you in just a second.

SHAYS: The bottom line for me is I want to make sure that the Islamist terrorists don't win in Iraq, that Iran doesn't ...


KILMEADE: I guess we lost contact. But I understand the general the drift of what he was sayin'. Back in a moment.


KILMEADE: Connecticut Congressman Chris Shays has traveled to Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, Rome and London. Right now we catch up with him in London and Congressman we were talkin' to you and you made your point that we really should set a date and that you're really a little disappointed with the Prime Minister and this current Iraqi administration. They're too content to have us there. But I want to move across and talk about your visit to Israel. Is it your belief, when you talk to the insiders, that this cease-fire will hold?

SHAYS: I think it - I think both sides want it to hold, deeply. The Israelis clearly are horrified that, for the first time, that one-fifth of their population was under siege. Usually when they're at war, they like the war to be outside their own country. They have a blockade, which is very detrimental to Lebanon, and they're not gonna drop that blockade until they can be convinced weapons are not gonna come into Lebanon. The key, good part of this whole thing is that Lebanon wants to gain control of its entire country and so you're seeing the Lebanese army move south. If they go south, if they make sure Hezbollah doesn't have weapons, you'll see some real progress in that area.

CARLSON: Representative, what do you think about the whole concept - we've had Newt Gingrich saying that we may be going into World War III here with all of the activity going on throughout the world - your thoughts on that?

SHAYS: I think that's a real overstatement but the one thing I agree with Newt about is - the 9-11 Commission made it very clear. They said we are confronting not terrorism, we are confronting Islamist terrorists. Islamist terrorists are Hezbollah. They're Hamas. They're the Jihad. They're the Brotherhood. They're Al Qaeda. They are all of those and more and we have to be really clear that we are too dependent on fossil fuel, too dependent on the Middle East. We need an all-out effort, a Manhattan Project, a man to the moon, to become less dependent on fossil fuel and the Middle East.

KILMEADE: And that would be clear. In 10 to 20 seconds, enough. What can Jordan do, what can Egypt do to help us out right now in that region?

SHAYS: Well I think they need to be engaging in Iraq. Ironically, Iran is the only one who has sent an ambassador to Iraq - and now Jordan is. We need the other countries to realize that it will not be to their benefit to have Americans and the Iraqis fail in Iraq.

KILMEADE: Yup. Congressman Chris Shays, good luck with your trip back and thanks for joining us today.

SHAYS: Thank you very much.

To view a video of most of the first half of the interview, go to Think Progress.