This morning I read that the Senate, led by Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, is going to have an all night “Iraq debate” to “highlight Republican resistance to allowing a simple majority vote on a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq.” Just what we need — more rich, old, white men yammerring on and on and on while our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins, uncles and aunts are dying in Iraq (not to mention the Iraqis).
NY Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer says there is “such urgency to bring an end to the war” that they are “stepping up the pressure.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t think any Republicans will be upset about a Senate slumber party except those who have to skip their D.C. Madam visit that night.
Reid is whining because Republicans are threatening to use a filibuster, which can only be overridden with 60 votes, to block an amendment to a military spending bill that would embarass Bush. I’ve lost count of the ridiculous number of toothless nonbinding hand-wringing votes that have occurred since the Democrats took office last year. No wonder Congress’ approval rating is lower than Bush’s. People want them to shut up and start doing something about Iraq instead of just droning on and on about Bush. That’s why the comparisons between the U.S. and the Roman Empire are totally false — back then, when the Emperor angered the Senate, Senators stabbed him to death.
Senate Republicans aren’t afraid to use a filibuster to stop an embarassing vote for Bush but the Democrats won’t do it to stop the killing in Iraq. It takes 60 votes, a super-majority, to end a filibuster undertaken by one Senator and the Republicans have only 49 seats. None of the Senators running for President — Obama, Clinton, Biden, or Dodd — filibustered the war-spending bill in the spring and none of them are filibustering the jaw-dropping $648 billion Defense Authorization Bill which will fund the U.S. military through 2008 for everything including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Reid has said “the war is lost” yet continues to fund this lost war to the tune of billions of dollars a year. (Mr. Reid, I have some Enron stock you may be interested in buying.)
The impending vote on this monstrous bill is giving Senate Democrats the opportunity to do photo-ops, get sound-bytes on the air, and have a slumber party over an amendment that will inevitably be voted down or blocked by intransigent Republicans. The irony is that the amendment would not end the war, close the permanent bases the Pentagon is building in Iraq, or get any troops out of harm’s way.
I’ve read the text of the doomed amendment. It would require some unstated number of troops to be withdrawn, starting within four months of the bill’s passage and ending by April 30, 2008. So Bush could withdraw a division of tens of thousands of troops or a single squad of ten soldiers on April 29, 2008 and satisfy the amendment’s requirements. After the deadline, U.S. forces in Iraq could only be used for the following purposes: protecting U.S. bases and personnel, training, equipping, and providing logistical support for the Iraqi military/police, and fighting Al-Qaeda and other freedom-hating terrorists.
Sound familiar? It should. These limits are identical to the pre-surge Rumsfeld-Casey strategy of “as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down,” which was a smashing success. These limits are also identitical to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, the grumpy old white men and foreign policy nerds who offered Dubya some political cover to change his war policy after the GOP thumpin’ at the polls last November.
Reverting back to the old strategy will require the same number of troops as it did before (duh!) — about 100,000 or so. Like Slick Willie on affirmative action, the Democrats’ position on the Iraq occupation can be summed up as: “mend it, don’t end it.”
No wonder our troops are so fed up that they’re saying stuff like this: “we have people up there in Congress with the brain of a two-year-old who don’t know what they are doing – they don’t experience it. I challenge the president or anyone who has us for 15 months to ride alongside me. I [would] do another 15 months if he comes out here and rides along with me every day for 15 months. I’ll do 15 more months. They don’t even have to pay me extra.”
Of course, if I were a two-year-old, I would be deeply offended at the suggestion that my intelligence was equivalent to Harry Reid’s, but I would understand the anger. The anger about being lied to about Hussein’s WMD and connections with Al-Qaeda, that “we will be greeted as liberators,” about Iraq’s never-ending progress, about “turning points” that come and go with no change in the situation, and about the historically unprecedented multiple yearlong deployments of continuous combat that have been extended to 15 months that troops have to endure.
That anger has fueled the explosive growth of Iraq Veterans Against the War from a handful of members in 2004 to over 500 today. IVAW’s growth is a hopeful sign admist the divided, partially co-opted, and largely dormant American anti-war movement. A strong anti-war movement can do what Senate slumber parties, meaningless nonbinding resolutions, and Democratic Party politicians won’t: end the war by forcing the U.S. to close those permanent bases and bring all the troops home now.