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Republicans Own and Disown the War

Democrats handed Bush the Iraq funding bill he wanted, and in the process handed responsibility for the war's continuance back to the Republican Party. At the same time, a majority of Republican voters now realize that the "surge" is failing.

Jim Lobe at IPS has all the sordid details -- and here are the highlights:

Even as Congress moved to approve President George W. Bush's request for continued funding of the Iraq war through the end of this fiscal 2007, a major new poll released Thursday found that public disillusionment with the war has reached record highs.

The New York Times/CBS News poll, the latest in a series of recent surveys that have shown an unexpectedly sharp drop in support both for Bush and the war...

According to the survey, which was conducted May 18-23:

  • More than three out of four citizens (76 percent) now believe the Iraq war is going badly -- up from 66 percent just a month ago. A record 47 percent of respondents said the war was going "very badly".
  • Perhaps even more important, a majority of 52 percent of self-described Republicans say the war is going at least "somewhat" badly -- a whopping 16 percent increase from mid-April and a strong indication that pressure on Republican lawmakers, who have remained remarkably loyal to the White House in a series of Iraq-related votes this spring, to abandon the president is increasing.
  • Only 20 percent of respondents said the surge -- which is designed mainly to tamp down sectarian violence in Baghdad -- was improving the situation in Iraq. Three in four respondents, including a majority of Republicans, said the additional deployments, which are expected to be completed by mid-June, was either having no impact or was making things worse there.
  • The new survey also found that 61 percent of Americans now believe that invading Iraq was a mistake, as opposed to only 35 percent who believe hat it was the right thing to do. The 26-percent spread was the widest found in any major national polling on that question.

[...]

"We seem to be seeing a reaction to the anticipation that the surge might make things better," said Kull about the latest figures. "The conclusion that this is not really working seems to be consolidating, particularly among Republicans."

Bush himself appeared to recognise that perception during a press conference early Thursday in the White House Rose Garden which he opened by welcoming Congress' imminent approval of the compromise bill that will provide the war funding he wanted virtually without conditions.

He soon found himself on the defensive, however, repeatedly appealing for patience from the public in permitting the surge strategy to take its course, particularly in light of what he said he anticipated would be a particularly violent summer in the run-up to a scheduled September assessment by the strategy's author and commander, Gen. David Petraeus.

  • The poll found that 63 percent of respondents agreed with various proposals by the Democratic leadership that combat troops should be withdrawn no later than the end of next year.
  • At the same time, nearly seven in 10 respondents said Congress should continue funding the war, but only if the Iraqi government meets a number of specific benchmarks set by the U.S. for progress in achieving national reconciliation and in prosecuting the war. The pending appropriations bill includes such benchmarks but permits Bush to continue military operations regardless of whether the benchmarks are met.
  • Only 30 percent of respondents in the latest poll said they approved of Bush's performance as president -- near his record low of 28 percent in a Newsweek poll released earlier this month and markedly lower than the roughly 35 percent average of all major national polling this year.
  • Moreover, 72 percent of respondents said they believe that the country is "seriously off on the wrong track", the highest percentage ever recorded for that question since it was first posed by a Times/CBS News poll in nearly 25 years ago

Seventy-two percent -- Almost 3 out of 4, believe this country is seriously of on the wrong track. What a mess.


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Comments (11)

ke_future:

oh, for god's sake, at least give the surge a chance to finish deploying the man power before calling it a failure.

you know, bush made a couple of really good points yesterday. one of those being that one of the reasons that we are seeing an increase in casualties is because we are moving into new areas. areas where the insurgents have not been challenged.

if you really want to know what is going on in Iraq, i suggest you check out Yon and Totten. They paint a much more realistic picture of what is happening in Iraq than the mainstream media does. They don't say everything is great in Iraq. It isn't. But they are at least honest about what is working, what is not working.

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/
http://www.michaeltotten.com/

Paul Hamilton:

...handed responsibility for the war's continuance back to the Republican Party

No sir! I will not sit here and allow the Democrats to blame the Republicans for their own political cowardice!

If they were going to confront Bush about war funding, then they needed to stick to their guns. They didn't, they backed down and THEY LOST!

KE: Let me raise a point: We move into some new neighborhood, take a lot of casualties and, maybe, get the terrorists out. Do you believe that the terrorists just give up the fight, or do they take their dirty work to some other part of town or the country? There have been several cities where, in the past, we've declared a win over the bad guys and the moment we turned our attention elsewhere, they moved right back in.

This is not a war where the object is to conquer territory, it's one to eliminate terrorists. And to accomplish that, we are going to need MASSIVE numbers of troops -- half a million or more to have any chance, and even then, it's shaky at best. If the populace is against us, sooner or later we will lose, and as time has passed, we are LESS popular, not more.

So why do you think that we can defeat the terrorists in Iraq strategically with 200,000 troops if we couldn't with 135,000 or 152,000? Do you believe we should re-institute the draft to get the personnel we need?

Or maybe should we just admit that this war was a mistake and that it's too late to "un-shit the bed."

"you know, bush made a couple of really good points yesterday. one of those being that one of the reasons that we are seeing an increase in casualties is because we are moving into new areas. areas where the insurgents have not been challenged.

I'll call Bullshit! on that. It suggest that insurgents have been sitting in those new areas, waiting for our forces to arrive. Bullshit.

We expanded our reach and they have responded by expanding theirs... absolutely no surprise. We moved into new areas and they followed us in. Put down the kool-aid, cirby. Bush is ducking responsibility - again.

"No sir! I will not sit here and allow the Democrats to blame the Republicans for their own political cowardice!"

Wake up, Paul -- the nutroots ARE NOT running the Democratic Party. There weren't sufficient votes to override the veto, and a funding stalemate is irresponsible.

With more time there will be more votes, as the tide of public opinion continues to shift in favor of ending the war. Next time -- hopefully -- we won't have as many Bush loyalists blocking efforts to bring this debacle to a conclusion, and Republicans and Democrats -- together -- will vote to bring this to an end.

More and more Republican voters are coming around to this realization (see poll results). They need to talk to their representatives and convince them to vote differently. Your suggestion that Republicans can block efforts to set a timetable, and avoid responsibility for letting the war continue without timetables, is a bit absurd.

What would you have suggested the Democrats in Congress do instead? "If they were going to confront Bush about war funding, then they needed to stick to their guns. They didn't, they backed down and THEY LOST!"

Paul Hamilton:

There weren't sufficient votes to override the veto, and a funding stalemate is irresponsible.

Then why did they start a fight they knew they couldn't win? This is about political posturing and Bush held all the cards. They would have been better off to just approve a measure which funded the war without strings through September and *then* start the political fight. The Dems are still acting like a minority -- sound and fury signifying nothing! And I would remind you that the last time there was a funding stalemate and the Pubs got recalcitrant about it, they ended up looking like complete fools. So long as the Democrats kept sending measures which funded the troops, they were off the hook. The public SUPPORTS the measures they added to that bill -- in fact, the public wanted more stringent measures. It was BUSH who was cutting off the funding and the Dems could have shouted that from the rooftops. That's the way the Rove Machine has operated since the day Bush came to office and it's the way *we* need to do now. Quit letting the White House define the situation.

Paul Hamilton:

Edit to the above since it looks contradictory...

Instead of saying it was a fight the Dems *couldn't* win, I meant it was a fight they weren't willing to draw a line in the sand and don't retreat an inch. If they planned to just whine a little bit and then give Bush what he wanted, the whole exercise was futile and should have been avoided. Yes, Bush would win, but if they Dems had simply pointed out exactly who was cutting off the funding, they would have won in the court of public opinion and Bush would have eventually backed down.

"Yes, Bush would win, but if they Dems had simply pointed out exactly who was cutting off the funding, they would have won in the court of public opinion and Bush would have eventually backed down."

I guess I disagree that Bush would have backed down.

Also, you say the public was behind the Democrats in blocking funding, but polls showed that while the public was in favor of ending the war, on the matter of funding the troops the public wanted compromise, not conflict. Republicans refused to compromise and had the votes to block the veto.

Hopefully that'll change in '08, but until it does change people will need to talk to their elected representatives and convince them to vote to end the war. This will come up again in September, and we will get the progress reports and have another chance at this. If we see positive progress in September, will you give the Democrats credit for the progress by funding the war until then?

I didn't think so, ;) -- although it seems (using your logic) if it's the "Democrats" fault and responsibility" for continuing the war at this point, they should get credit if continuing the war yields positive results... no?

Anyway, that's the way it works - we vote, and accept the outcome of the vote. There weren't enough votes to override the veto right now. We'll try again.

ke_future:

i'm not saying that the insurgents were just sitting there. what i am saying (or more acurately what the 2 writers i linked to are saying) is that as the US and Iraqi troops move into a new area and start making it safer, the local populous becomes more corporative over time. one of the things they are seeing in Anbar province are locals pointing out where bombs, IEDs, and weapon caches are located.

that's how we win the war. when the locals trust us more than they trust those that are blowing everything up.

it's not going to be quick. it's not going to be easy. there will be good days and there will be bad days. but patience and a consistent approach to the dealing with the locals will pay off in the end.

but if we just pull out and say "this is too tough for us" then we lose. and in losing, we enable the insurgents to gather more followers and influence. then they *may* eventually come into political power in at least some part of the country.

and then what? they won't like the US. they'll have had the experience that the US has no staying power. i wouldn't want to see what happens that day. especially if they are allied with an expansionist Iran under the Mullahs.

i think in this case doing the right thing (helping the Iraqis to forge a workable, stable, democratic nation), is in the long term interests of the US.

Paul Hamilton:

Lee: As usual, the public went for the perceived middle ground, but IMHO, that was an illusion in this case. Either we withdraw or we don't. Either we have benchmarks or we don't. Either Bush is Il Commandante or he isn't. There simply is no compromise to be made here.

And the flaw in your logic about giving the Dems credit if the war goes well is that they don't DESERVE the credit because they've ceded control totally to the White House. Win or lose, this albatross is around Bush's neck.

Remember that I'm old enough that I have vivid memories of Vietnam. I've seen this dance before, and the only ending is more bloodshed in vain. When you find yourself in a hole, STOP DIGGING!

"that's how we win the war. when the locals trust us more than they trust those that are blowing everything up."

And how will we know when the war is won?

When the insurgents go underground for a year, to rebuild their arsenal, train new members, etc... when things calm down for a while can we really say "we've won"?

I suggest not, because this war cannot be won by military means, and continued military efforts will never - never - bring this to a conclusion. It's going to take a negotiated peace and cease fire, and talks -- as recommended by the Iraq Study Group - but since extending this war is more to the Republicans' liking versus ending it -- we haven't seen the true "peace process" start yet.

You can point to locals' support of their occupying force as progress, ke future -- and you're right -- but I don't agree that it will lead to an end of the war, instead we'll just end up with a continued police-action presence that'll run on for decades.

We've already tried that for several years now in Iraq, and are not any closer to an end to this war, and since Bush is unwilling to end this war through negotiation it's time to get our men and women out of harms way - and stop sacrificing their lives through the political machinations of the Republican party.

Paul Hamilton:

KE, I truly wish that you were right about this, but there is simply no evidence that it is the case, and after four years, you have to really ask yourself how much longer you should beat your head against the wall.

And I need to ask you what you believe would be the best-case scenario for an outcome in Iraq. I find it appalling that we've gotten to the point where we are offering tacit support to the Shia militia. What do you think would be the regional political consequences if both Iran and Iraq were dominated by Shia extremists?

ke_future:

military alone? you're right that won't work. neither will diplomacy alone. the problem with diplomacy is that in order for it to work, you have to have something the other guy wants. and as far as i can tell all people like sadr want is power for themselves and death or subjugation for us. i'm not willing to offer up either of these as bargaining chips.

it's going to take a strategy that uses military, diplomatic, economic, and cultural means to achieve our ends.

what do i think will be the sign that we won? when somebody tries to blow something up, instead is caught by dedicated and professional police based on tips by a concerned public. the bomber is tried and convicted by a jury of his peers that could include iraqis of any tribal or sectarian sect, and is sentenced according to the rule of law.

and nobody thinks that this process is strange. and everybody thinks the bomber is.

i would take that as a win.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

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

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