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John Kerry, known in some Massachusetts circles as Senator Weathervane, made quite a splash in a NYT op-ed this week where he seemed to be calling for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. But as always with our slippery junior Senator, one must read his proposals very carefully. Here is what he said in the NYT:
“Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military. If Iraq’s leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year’s end.ONLY TROOPS ESSENTIAL TO FINISHING THE JOB OF TRAINING IRAQI FORCES SHOULD REMAIN.” (Emphasis mine.)
In the first place this is not a call for withdrawal, but for “Iraqization” of the conflict, the same strategy that failed in Vietnam and in the process cost so many lives, a strategy which Kerry decried at the time. Secondly, Kerry does not call for total withdrawal of troops but rather for “troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces” to remain behind. However, the distinction between combat forces and “training” forces is a tricky one. Are the U.S. forces that “accompany” the sad sack Iraqi forces combat troops? Or are they “training” forces? And it would seem that those training forces will require “enduring bases” to house them.
Kerry followed his op-ed by introducing a Senate Resolution revealingly entitled: “S. J. Res –. To provide for a strategy for successfully empowering a new unity government in Iraq.” Whereas in his NYT piece, Kerry calls for two deadlines, the second to get “combat forces” out by year’s end, the second deadline is missing in the resolution. Here are the relevant parts:
“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives
of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
(2) United States forces shall be withdrawn from Iraq at the earliest practicable date if Iraqis fail to form a national unity government by May 15, 2006;
(3) if Iraqis form a national unity government by May 15, 2006-
(A) the United States should reach agreement as soon as possible with such government on a schedule for the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq, leaving only forces critical to completing the mission of standing up security forces of Iraq; and
(B) the President shall-
(i) consult with Congress on the schedule referred to in subparagraph
(ii) present such withdrawal agreement to Congress immediately upon its completion; and
(4) redeployment of United States forces to rear guard garrisoned status in Iraq for security back-up, training, and emergency response in Iraq should be accelerated.”
Whereas in the NYT piece a deadline is set for getting combat troops out of Iraq by the end of 2006, this deadline is missing from the Senate resolution! Good old Crafty Kerry. It is left to Bush and the Iraqi government to come up with a schedule for withdrawal. Congress is only to be consulted and informed once Bush and the puppet Iraqi government have come up with whatever schedule they devise. This is nothing more than the same old crap, calling on Bush to devise “an exit strategy.” Congress and Kerry avoid all responsibility for setting a date in this resolution.
Next Kerry explicitly states that the remaining troops will be “garrisoned” presumably in enduring garrisons. And more than that, the mission of the remaining forces is not to be simply for “training” as mentioned in the NYT piece but also for “security back-up (whatever that means) and “emergency response.” No deadline. No complete withdrawal.
Is there any good news in the Kerry stance? Yes there is. Kerry is always looking out for the well-being of — Kerry. (As we say in Massachusetts, John Kerry is always there for his friends when he needs them.) The fact that he took this step at all is an indication that antiwar sentiment is wide, deep and enduring, according to the sophisticated polls he is no doubt running. This sentiment can be marshaled for presidential ambitions, and perhaps provides Kerry with the only way to outflank Hillary the Hawk. And so Crafty Kerry is front and center, reporting for duty.
We in Massachusetts have been picketing Kerry’s Boston Office and other events where he appears since last December. (It has been cold.) We would like to think that we had a hand in the small, albeit typically duplicitous step that he has taken. (See: www.BirdDoggingKerry.org). Finally, the discrepancy between Kerry’s op-ed and his Senate resolution means we must watch carefully as the politicians, both Democrat and eventually Republican, slither over to an antiwar stance.
JOHN WALSH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org