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Democrats Make the Right Move on Iraq War Funding

The left-wing blogosphere, including my colleague Paul Hamilton, are lamenting the "cave in" on the part of the Democrats in the debate over funding for the war in Iraq while right-wingers like Kim Priestap are popping the corks on their champagne bottles. In this piece, I hope to explain to you why both are wrong.

The Republican strategy in the debate over funding the Iraq War has been clear from the very beginning. Their goal was to portray the Democrats as attempting to "cut off" weapons and supplies for the troops in the field. They wanted to paint a picture for the American people of our soldiers in the midst of a vicious firefight somewhere in Anbar literally running out of bullets in the middle of the battle because Nancy Pelosi refused to give them the means to defend themselves. The idea that this would happen was of course completely nonsensical, but it was effective in raising the question of how we should go about conducting a withdrawal from Iraq.

Contrary to all of the breathless hyperventilating on the right, the first Iraq War funding bill did not come close to mandating a "surrender" or complete withdrawal of the troops. It called only for a limitation of their combat role to combating "Al Qaeda" forces in Iraq, training Iraqi troops, and securing the US embassy. Last I checked, there is no official registry of Al Qaeda members and that provision could have easily been interpreted to include virtually all Sunni insurgents in Anbar and Baghdad. Bush could have signed that bill and then interpreted it in a way that would have allowed the majority of our troops in Iraq to remain in place for an indefinite period of time, but it clearly would have signaled the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq.

The Democratic proposal was a responsible attempt to begin the process of an orderly withdrawal that would significantly reduce, but not completely eliminate, our presence in Iraq. The plan they proposed is, in fact, the only realistic way we are ever going to see a withdrawal executed. A sudden pullout of all of our troops from everywhere in Iraq would be extraordinarily difficult to manage from a tactical and logistics standpoint. The only sensible approach is to conduct a gradual reduction over a span of 12 months or so while making every effort to prop up the faltering Iraqi government so that it doesn't entirely collapse. Our troops won't be able to withdraw easily if all hell breaks loose in Iraq. We shouldn't let our haste to get out of Iraq prevent us from trying to salvage what we can from the situation and do our best to preserve whatever law and order remains in that country as we exit.

But Bush refused to go along with the Democratic plan for a responsible withdrawal and orderly exit. Once again, and in defiance of the will of the American people he will continue to escalate our presence in Iraq and sink us deeper into the quagmire of that country's civil war. Rather than work with the Democrats in formulating a sensible withdrawal strategy, the President has again decided to go it alone, guaranteeing that this will continue to remain "Bush's War" for the foreseeable future. The Republicans will continue to face the unenviable task of offering unconditional support to a deeply unpopular President waging a deeply unpopular war against the expressed will of the American people.

In September, General Petraeus will come back to Washington to deliver a progress report on the situation in Iraq. I predict (really going out on a limb here) that the situation will be largely unchanged from what it is today, and what it was in 2006, 2005 and 2004. Bush and the Republicans will, of course, claim that significant "progress" has been made and that we just need to give the strategy more time. We will have the debate all over again, and the Republicans will again be forced to continue digging their electoral grave over the Iraq War.

To those on the left who are furious with the Democrats right now I ask the question: do you believe that a President John Kerry would have signed the first Iraq War funding bill that the Democrats sent to the President with a timeline for withdrawal? Of course he would have. We, the American people, have only ourselves to blame for failing to unseat Bush in 2004 or elect veto-proof majorities of Democrats in both houses of Congress. It's clear what we have to do. So let's do it instead of attacking the Democrats in Congress who want to bring this war to a responsible conclusion.

The stage is now set for the 2008 elections. Those elections will be an identical rerun of the 2006 elections. If you want to end this war there is still only one game in town: electing Democrats. The cowardly Republicans will continue to force this war down the throat of an unwilling American public indefinitely. They don't have the political courage to admit they were wrong on Iraq and organize an orderly withdrawal. Instead, they want to continue pretending they were right, play out the clock on the Bush Presidency and then dump the whole disaster on the next (and Democratic) President so they can blame the Democrats for "losing" Iraq.

So if you're angry about the Democrat's failure to end the war, turn that anger where it belongs: on the Republicans. Work to unseat Republican representatives and Senators in your state so we can obtain a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress. Volunteer for one of the Democratic Presidential candidates and help them to get them elected in 2008. Do whatever you can to crush the Republican Party and dump its pulverized bones on the ash heap of history.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (6)

Paul Hamilton:

Good article, Larkin. I give it five stars, but I also disagree on a couple points as I'm sure you suspected I might... :)

You're right that the Rove Fact Factory has been hard at work defining the debate. That's been their MO from the beginning and that is the reason it's so important for the Dems to get in front of issues such as this and to present as unified a front as possible. I realize that we elected quite a few Blue Dogs (conservative Democrats) in the last election, including three from Indiana and they voted against the Dems' funding-with-strings plan. I really believe the reason they did this was because they simply did not see the sort of political groundwork that is necessary if you're going to go up against the president on something like this. That's what makes me feel like there was a lot of posturing going on, but, like Bush's War itself, the results were certain before the battle was joined because we didn't do what it took to win and thus our resolve wasn't up to our rhetoric.

I also disagree with you that what the Pubs are doing is "cowardly." I think it's partisan, but not cowardly because these congressmen are defying public opinion rather than just doing an imitation of a weathervane and pointing whichever way the polling winds happen to be blowing. I have opposed this war from the beginning and did so even when 90% of the public was on the other side. Admittedly, I'm not running for office, but I still believe that the American people respect politicians who take a principled stand, and when you add in the fact that the Dems are on the side of the majority regarding the war, it's remarkable to me that they failed to put up a cohesive and persistent opposition to Bush. Are they so used to being cowed by Karl Rove that they have lost their backbone completely? And, as I've said before, if they weren't willing to put up the good fight, they shouldn't have fought at all. Deferring the fight to September isn't a bad idea -- because it's more obvious every day that this war cannot be won as it's currently being fought -- but by handing Bush a win in May, we give him an advantage four months from now.

And I don't blame the voters for this at all. Veto-proof majorities in congress are almost unheard of, and IMHO, they aren't a good thing because they put too much power in the hands of the legislative branch. But we are a majority and that should give our side a measure of confidence and influence in the marketplace of ideas. But instead, it's still Bush and his viewpoint front and center 90% of the time. Yes, we made a splash when the changeover or power took place, but since then, it looks way too much like business as usual to me and judging by the precipitous drop in congress' approval ratings, I don't think I'm alone. Changeovers in power occur for a reason and if we continue to just give in to Bush like this, the public is going to feel like they just wasted their ballot and will stop looking to our side as a real alternative to the abuses of power in this administration.

So yes, '08 is certainly coming and we need to show the voters that the Democratic party stands for something and has the principles to defend their beliefs against political pressure. IOW, we need to act like a majority. That doesn't mean we posture and bully like Bush and his congressional stooges used to do, but we need to calmly but firmly tell the people what we believe and then, like that proverbial "tree that's standing by the water, we shall not be moved."

Steve Crickmore:

After weighing both sides, I must come down with Larkin, on this issue...My feeling is that so great is the coming train wreck in Iraq, (by no means has it fully run it's course), that a small troop withdrawl, with Bush and Cheney still as the conductors of the train, would not have significantly altered the continuing and impending disaster, but it would have altered who gets the blame. I wish I could be proved wrong about Iraq, but there is not even a modicum of self-doubt, that the war architects deserve to see the full consequences of their hubris rather than shift or project their guilt to the anti-iwar Democrats.

Even if the Democrats had managed to overcome a veto standoff on the supplemental appropriations bill,(a big if) Bush and the Republicans would have used it used as a club, to beat the Democrats for a long time to come. "We would be winning or have won the war, if the treasonous Democrats hadn't pull the rug under from us."

A tug of war fracas on supplemental military appropriations on Memorial Day Weekend would have been to gift to the administration. Keep the spotlight on Bush, Rove and Cheney, where it should be, until they have exhausted all hopes of the remaining independents and the non-Bushie Republicans, and then act decisively and unitedly.

As a member of the "right wing blogosphere" who on the issue of Iraq, is only concerned with the US Army (let Republicans and Democrats be damned), I believe Larkin is reading the tea leafs very well.

I hate to see democrats gaining more seats and the White House in 2008, would like to stop that, but alas they are whistling and digging their graves at the same time.

Regardless of what metrics the Administration or its enablers use to "evaluate" progress in Iraq in 2008, the only metric the American Voter will use is the number of daily US Deaths. If it is three a day in August 2008, Republicans will do very bad. If it is greater than three a day, there will be a Republican rout.

One more point as someone who as a reservist has done two voluntary tours post 9/11. By the summer of 2008 we will have some soldiers doing their 5th involuntary tour.

They are not be going to be "happy soldiers" with no end in sight. The GOP will be doing well if they get 50% of the serving military (w/family) vote.

Instead of voting 3rd party these members will be voting "D" for the first time.

Paul Hamilton:

Oak, I agree with both your notes. The current administration has shown very little regard for the grunts and seem to view them as merely means to an end. To some extent, that's true in any war, of course, but when a conflict is going nowhere, as this one is, then the deaths are a much greater tragedy. Bush has used up all his credibility with the American people -- including the troops and their families -- and needs now to show people that he's working to bring the war to an end.

Paul Hamilton:

Larkin, I'm not saying we should just bail out as quick as our feet can carry us, but this confrontation came down to one thing -- either let Bush call all the shots or impose some checks and balances on him.

You know, like the friggin' constitution says they're supposed to do.

We've propped up Maliki and the rest of that bunch for four years at the cost of almost 3500 American soldiers and half a trillion dollars. Even if you believe this war was justified, we've done our share. But the Iraqi leadership are content to take a couple months off -- just relax. With George Bush in office, their cush jobs will be waiting and all it will cost is a couple hundred more dead Americans and a paltry few billion dollars.

Hey, it's not THEIR money...

So maybe we need to quit worrying so much about polling numbers or if Poor Georgie might get his feelings hurt and start doing their duty to the American people, both over there and over here.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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