The Real Side
Staying the Course is Not a Strategy
Democrats, we’re talking to you
By Jim Scarantino
The Iraq war has been very, very good to Democrats. So it’s time they stuck their necks out for the troops.
Face it, the Dems have been playing it safe. “It’s Bush’s war, let him fix it.” “He got us in, he can get us out.” “Staying the course is not a strategy.” We heard it all during the past six months. Pounding Bush made them sound anti-war without ever actually committing to a precise plan to end the bloodshed.
Staying that course is not a strategy, either. With the election over, it’s just worn-out sound bites whose purpose has expired, and it's of no value whatsoever to American troops stuck in Iraq.
Democrats want hearings into the pre-war intelligence. A report showing how pre-war data was manipulated might give Democrats who voted for the war an exit strategy from an embarrassing hole. But it does nothing for a 19-year-old American patrolling the alleys of Ramadi—and wondering if his face is in a sniper’s crosshairs, or if that dead dog up ahead has been disemboweled to disguise a bomb.
Bush doesn't want to be the president who “lost” Iraq. He prefers handing the mess to the next decider, just like his father handed off Somalia to Bill Clinton in 1992.
Neither do Democrats want to be saddled with “losing” Iraq. This election showed the war can be a tectonic force. Far better to have a lingering disaster that can be blamed on the outgoing administration than arm Republicans with hand grenades for the next presidential contest.
Sound too cynical? Answer this: Do you think John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats with their sights on the White House voted to give Bush authority to conquer Iraq because they were convinced Saddam was an imminent, dire threat to us, or because they wanted to show they weren't “soft on national security”?
Whoa! you protest. That presumes they might have known better. But they were fed cooked intelligence, you say. Bush and Cheney misled them. That’s why we need those hearings.
When the Senate approved the Iraq War Resolution in November 2002, it was controlled by Democrats. They chaired committees with subpoena power. They received the same reports with the same footnotes questioning assertions that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, or doubting that he had mobile weapons labs, or challenging claims that the infamous aluminum tubes were intended for nuclear centrifuges.
Less than two years before the Democratic Senate passed the Iraq War Resolution, and for the preceding eight years, Democrats controlled the Pentagon and CIA. They had the inside stuff, including the debriefing of Saddam’s son-in-law, who defected with information that Iraq had dismantled all WMD programs.
Or they could have just asked Hans Blix, Scott Ritter and other U.N. weapons inspectors to testify in their committees, and repeat what they had been telling the world for years: Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.
Still, they voted to allow Bush to wage war against people who had not hurt us. If a Democratic Senate had not turned Bush loose, no Americans would have died in that troubled country, nor would any Iraqi children have been killed by our bombs and bullets.
Already Democrats are positioning themselves to do nothing except continue to complain about Bush’s handling of the war. Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean and other Democratic leaders are arguing that the president controls the military and foreign policy, and there’s little they can do to stop him. What of their promises about a change in direction? Maybe they meant only an adjustment in the angle of finger-pointing.
Democrats are not helpless bystanders, and those who voted for the war need to atone for their misconduct. With their increased power, they can bring the troops home, sooner rather than later. And now is better than sooner.
Democrats must rediscover Congress’ power over military expenditures. They must stop spending our money to make it possible for more of our loved ones to die young. Bush can veto a legislative timetable for withdrawal, but he can’t get a war appropriation if Congress doesn’t give it to him. When the money spigot stops running, so do the tanks and Humvees. If Democrats want to bring the troops home, then stop authorizing the funding needed to keep them in Iraq.
Any Democrat worried about political risk from this kind of hardball can feel better by doing something very simple: Head to an airport and join in greeting our returning soldiers. If looking into the eyes of men and women rescued from the pit of Iraq is not reward enough, they shouldn’t be in Congress, and certainly not the White House.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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