Friday, February 16, 2007

The Iraq War - in Congress, in the Streets, and Elsewhere

From the AP:

WASHINGTON - Democrats pushed a measure critical of President Bush's Iraq policy to the brink of House passage on Friday, the culmination of an extraordinary four-day debate over a war that has killed more than 3,100 U.S. troops. There was no doubt about the outcome of the vote, with nearly all Democrats in favor and as many as two dozen or so Republicans expected to break ranks. Passage would set the stage for a test vote Saturday in the Senate, where Republicans have said they intend to block consideration of the measure unless Democrats grant equal treatment to an alternative measure that opposes cutting funds for the troops."I will do everything in my power to ensure the House resolution dies an inglorious death in the Senate," said Sen. Lindsey Graham), R-S.C.The House measure disapproves of Bush's decision to increase troop strength, and commits Congress to "support and protect" the troops.

On top of that, recently wrote that Congressman Murtha

will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president’s foreign and national security policy [emph added]. (Note, this precise wording was subsequently removed from the site, wisely, but a bit too slowly!)

Meanwhile in Iraq, The Multinational Force Headquarters released this report of recent actions:

Militarily, the first additional Iraqi forces and the first of five additional U.S. brigades have arrived in Baghdad and are conducting operations. General Petraeus is adamant that to win this conflict we have to protect the population. Consequently, Iraqi army, Iraqi police, and coalition forces will actually live together in joint security stations throughout Baghdad in order to be closer to the Iraqi people that they are protecting. The additional forces will also enable us to create more transition teams to assist, teach, mentor and coach the Iraqi security forces. There will be both an increase in the number and size of the teams, and they will reach down to the lower-level units within the Iraqi army and police units.

The non-military aspects of the plan have been strengthened as well. On February 8th, the Council

of Representatives approved a new Iraqi budget that includes $10 billion for economic development programs such as refurbishing state-owned enterprises and assisting small businesses through microfinancing. This week the first state- owned enterprise won a competitive U.S. government procurement bid for $44 million to provide the new Iraqi army uniforms.

While there is cause for optimism, there are several reasons why -- need to be patient with this new strategy [Emph added]..

In and around Baghdad, Iraq the Model reports:

On the streets, checkpoints and roadblocks are becoming increasingly serious and strict in doing their job; soldiers and policemen are sparing no vehicles or convoys from searching and I personally saw a case yesterday where an ambulance driver tried to rush his vehicle through a checkpoint but the soldiers ordered him to stop and let him pass only after they checked the inside of the vehicle finding only a civilian medical emergency.
Strict checkpoints always mean slow traffic and inconvenient delays for Baghdadis but this downside is welcome when these security measures make the streets safer.

Despite the traffic jams and though this is the largest deployment for troops in the capital, daily life and civilian activity-contrary to what was expected-still continues at a rather normal level, unlike previous crackdowns where life came to near paralysis.

America’s military and political efforts in Iraq have clearly shifted since the beginning of the year, and although the increase in troops on the ground are a key component of the way this war is being waged, they are by no means the sole change that has occurred in the campaign.

It is regrettable that while many Americans find themselves at “the operator level” in a political war and executing a strategy that intends to bring the war to a positive outcome, the U.S. Congress is taking actions that, no matter what the outcome, will have no positive effect on the troops in the field, or make their job any easier.

In fact, one can expect additional legislation to be proposed after this resolution that further limits the flexibility and the capacity of the Commanders and Soldiers fighting in Iraq. So, while

Sunni insurgents and other groups wage the “war of a thousand cuts” in the streets of Iraq, certain members of Congress continue fighting their own war of attrition in the Capitol.

UPDATE: It passed, 246-182. You can check how your Representative voted here.


The Democrats' next move will to be to craft legislation that blocks funding, or places so many restrictions on Soldiers deploying to Combat that the DOD will be unable to field units:

Rep. Jack Murtha, one of the most vocal congressional opponents of the war in Iraq, is vowing to block President Bush’s plan to send

another 21,500 U.S. combat troops to Iraq in the upcoming debate over defense spending. “We’re gonna stop this surge,” the Pennsylvania Democrat declared in an interview posted on the Web site

On Thursday, Pelosi pulled together a small group of reporters from the nation's biggest newspapers to essentially endorse the Murtha strategy.

Stepping up his campaign against the White House, Murtha, chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, told Tom Andrews, a former congressman-turned-activist, in the online interview that he would attach so many conditions to an upcoming spending bill for Iraq that the Pentagon would not be able to find enough troops to carry out the president’s “surge” plan.

Again, commanders in the field are ALREADY EXECUTING a strategy based on the employment of additional forces, many of whom are already in place. It is doubtful that the framers of the Constitution believed the separation of powers would ever be used to undermine Commanders and Soldiers in the midst of a war.

It is critical for the administration to ensure that Legislation is not passed making it impossible to prosecute the war (i.e. the Murtha plan); such legislation would be reprehensible, and today's Democrats would grow ever more similar to the so called Copperhead Democrats of the Civil War:

They called themselves Peace Democrats; their opponents called them Copperheads because some wore copper pennies as identifying badges. As was true of the Democratic party as a whole, the influence of Peace Democrats varied with the fortunes of war. When things were going badly for the Union on the battlefield, larger numbers of people were willing to entertain the notion of making peace with the Confederacy. When things were going well, Peace Democrats could more easily be dismissed as defeatists. But no matter how the[American Civil War] progressed, Peace Democrats constantly had to defend themselves against charges of disloyalty. Revelations that a few had ties with secret organizations such as the Knights of the Golden Circle helped smear the rest.

The most prominent Copperhead leader was Clement L. Valladigham of Ohio, who headed the secret antiwar organization known as the Sons of Liberty. At the Democratic convention of 1864, where the influence of Peace Democrats reached its high point, Vallandigham persuaded the party to adopt a platform branding the war a failure, and some extreme Copperheads plotted armed uprisings. . .

With the conclusion of the war in 1865 the Peace Democrats were thoroughly discredited. Most Northerners believed, not without reason, that Peace Democrats had prolonged war by encouraging the South to continue fighting in the hope that the North would abandon the struggle.

While the war has gone far from well, drafting legislation that makes failure inevitable, yet does not end the war outright, and immediately remove Soldiers from harm's way, is reprehensible. Such actions are based on passion and partisanship. America is a democracy, not an angry mob.

The Copperheads, in their time, seemed aligned with the will of the people; had their vision of the future prevailed, America's fate over the last two centuries would have been drastically different. Hopefully, those in government, the media, and in conversation around the country who possess "the long view" will prevail in the coming debates over the war, and ensure that America is not consigned to short sighted and destructive isolationism.


lugh lampfhota said...

Nice post Bob.

America is now ruled by Democrats, and the only way that I could describe them is an angry mob.

Unless we can get some of the 60% of Americans who do not vote to take a stand, we are doomed to be ruled by the socialist mob that is the present Democrat party.

I'm not hopeful.

2164th said...

The most important asset any leader has is his ability to persuade. It is an ongoing process, necessary to develop relationships, loyalty, fear and respect so that at critical times a good leader will get people to do and support decisions they may not like.

It is particularly true with the office of the US President. Bush wasted opportunities, dissipated allies, and lost the respect and fear of his enemies.

He is being visited with the consequences. In politics everything is personal.

Bob W. said...

Whit, I concur withyour assessment.

Strategic communication has been the proverbial achilles heel in this conflict.

There are signs this is changing however, so we'll see what the coming weeks bring. . .

Jefro3000 said...

Of course you are right in pointing out that this non-binding resolution is only the first phase of a strategy which will incorporate using standards of military readiness in order to restrict the president's ability to add more troops to the theater through the use of extended and/or accelerated deployments and the like. The thing is, Murtha believes that we do not honor and support our troops by committing them to a war against a country that posed absolutely no threat to the US. We do not support the troops by cutting VA funding. We do not honor the dead by adding to their number.

I did like your reference to our troops as being "seasoned". It reminded me of Dick Cheney's friend (was it Flynn?) who was "peppered" in the face with a blast from Cheney's shotgun.


sexy said...