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From former Carter aide, a plan for getting out of Iraq

Zbigniew Brzezinski outlines a two-point plan: Consult with Iraqi leaders to fix a departure date, and engage all of Iraq's neighbors about securing the country's future.

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The week the Iraq war started, in March 2003, Zbigniew Brzezinski received a briefing from President Bush's top security advisers: Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Dr. Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, asked them whether they were "really confident" that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"I've known some of them for 20 years," he recalled at a Monitor breakfast Thursday. "They looked me in the eye, and each of them said, 'We know, Zbig, we know they have weapons of mass destruction.' I was skeptical."

Brzezinski then recounted appearing on national television the day the war started, and saying that he prayed to God that there are WMD in Iraq, "because if we started this war on false assumptions, it's going to be very costly."

Today, Brzezinski says, his fears have been realized. In the session with reporters, he said he believes Mr. Bush has resigned himself to bequeathing the war to his successor – and that whoever succeeds him will end the war. The question is, how?

Brzezinski lays out a two-point plan for the US: First, he says, go to the Iraqi leaders and say: Let's sit down and discuss a jointly defined date for departure.

"And when I say Iraqi leaders, I don't mean just the guys in the Green Zone. I mean a lot of the guys outside of the Green Zone," the guys with militias, Brzezinski says. "A lot of the guys in the Green Zone – not all, but a lot of them – will pack their bags and leave when we leave."

Next, he says, he would suggest a US departure in about a year, and see which Iraqi leaders are prepared to go along with that. "My guess is it will be the guys who are not in the Green Zone, but who have the militias," he says.

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