Beyond the saber rattling and hankie wringing, of which there was plenty in both Senate and House on Thursday, the debate comes down to this:
Republicans do not want to set a timetime for withdrawing American troops. Democrats do.Neither party could claim the high ground nor, I predict, will have done so when the final votes are taken. This is because of the perverse dynamics of the war itself.
For all their flag waving, the Republicans are confronted by some fundamental truths:
Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place. The war was predicated on lies and fabrications. A large majority of Americans, many of whom will be voting in mid-term elections, know that and want out of it.For all their harrumphing, the Democrats are dogged by a fundamental truth of their own:
The Iraqi government, army and security forces are years from being able to go it alone. A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops will lead to civil war and carnage. Like it or not, that blood will be on America's hands.By the time that Thursday's scrum had ended, the House was headed toward a vote on a Republican resolution to "complete the mission" in Iraq, prevail in the global fight against terrorism and oppose any "arbitrary date for withdrawal." Over in the Senate, a Democratic resolution calling on the U.S. to withdraw most troops by the end of this year was shelved.
(Update: The resolution passed on Friday afternoon by a comfy 256-153 margin.)
Yuppers. The Republicans are still running the show. They will prevail on any and all Iraq war votes -- and have to face a discontented electorate when they go home and begin campaining for re-election in earnest.
VOICES IN THE DEBATEHouse Speaker Dennis Hastert:
It is a battle we must endure and one in which we can and will be victorious. The alternative would be to cut and run and wait for them to regroup and bring the terror back to our shores.
Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and Vietnam War vet whose has called for a speedy withdrawal:
Rhetoric does not solve the problem. We need a plan. It's not enough to say stay the course. They're fighting each other, and our troops are caught in between.
Rep. Charlie Norwood, a Georgia Republican:
The American people need to know precisely who they are. It is time to stand up and vote. Is it Al Qaeda or is it America?Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who opposes a timed withdrawal:
There are two things that don't exist in Iraq: cutting and running, and weapons of mass destruction.Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat:
The war in Afghanistan was the response to the terrorist attacks -- not the war in Iraq.House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California:
This is a war that is a grotesque mistake. We need a fresh strategy, one that will make us safer, strengthen our military, and restore our reputation in the world.
Rep. Phil Gingery, a Georgia Republican:
In this fight for the future of peace, freedom and democracy in the Middle East and around the globe, winning should be our only option.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER LIEThat lying sack of spit known as Dick Cheney popped a whopper on Sean Hannity's Fox Snooze show on Thursday -- that the war in
Said the veep:
Taking down Saddam Hussein was exactly the right thing to do. <><> As someone who believes in bad karma, which Cheney has in spades, I wince at comments like these and pray that he is not proven wrong.>
It's also, I think, in part responsible for the fact that we haven't been hit again in nearly five years. That's no accident. The fact is, we've taken the battle to the enemy. That's been the key to the safety and security of the American people these last few years, and we need to continue to do it. And we need to make certain that
doesn't become a failed state, but instead the Iraqi people have an opportunity for self-government. And that's exactly what we're doing.> Iraq
A GO-FREE CARD FOR INSURGENTS?
There was surprisingly little mention of the most important news (okay, make that the only real news) out of President Bush's brief meet and greet in Baghdad: Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's proposal for a limited amnesty as part of a national reconciliation plan that is likely to include pardons for Sunni insurgents who have attacked U.S. troops.
At first blush, there is much to like and not like in the plan.
Reconciliation is good, but immunizing insurgents for their thuggery is not.
Worse yet, al-Maliki's plan sets a double standard. The insurgents would not be protected from prosecution for attacking Iraqis.