The Democrats took the majority of both the House and Senate on January 4th, 2007 since then 192 members of the Armed Services have died as have countless Iraqi civilians. With power comes responsibility, so voters should know that this is now the Democrats War and every death and casualty is their responsibility.
When they came to power their leadership said they would not use the “power of the purse” to end the war. But pressure from voters opposed to the Iraq quagmire has changed their tune. Last week an obviously frustrated Rep. David Obey told Marine Mom, Tina Richardsin a Capitol Hill hallway encounter that his appropriations bill would de-authorize the war.
I went to Capitol Hill as part of a support delegation for Tina Richards this Monday to return to Rep. Obey’s office to seek clarification of his hallway comments. There has been a lot of deal making by Congressional leaders to line up support for the Iraq War supplemental. They are adding billions in goodies for constituents, for Midwest farmers, avocado growers, communities that have lost bases, Katrina relief, Veterans and other goodies to gather votes.
The headline that the Democratic leadership would like voters to hear is “troops out of Iraq by August 2008.” But the headline is more a wolf in sheep’s clothing than a reality. After hearing details of the bill from Obey’s appropriations staff person the loopholes may define the law more than the headline.
For most in the peace movement an August 2008 deadline for withdrawal is already way too slow. Why the delay? On November 17, 2005 Rep. Jack Murtha called for redeployment within six months. Here we are sixteen months later and the Democratic leadership is talking about redeployment in seventeen months! Six months has turned into 33 months and in fact the August deadline is illusory. How many lives U.S. and Iraqi will have been lost in this quagmire over this time period?
But, that is not the worst of it. As Rep. Maxine Waters, the Chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus point out, a few weeks ago the Congress passed a non-binding resolution against the so-called “surge” but this appropriation will actually pay for the surge which has grown since their vote by more than 8,200 troops. Indeed, the Democrats are poised to give Bush up to $20 billion more than he asked for!
The appropriation initially was going to require that only combat ready troops could be sent to Iraq. But in order to please “Blue Dog Democrats” and some Republicans the bill is now merely a requirement that Bush report to Congress if non-combat ready troops are used in Iraq. Since when do conservatives want us sending troops to wars who are not fully trained or equipped for combat? Combat readiness has become a symbolic requirement that will at best embarrass the commander in chief but it will not stop deployment of troops unprepared for battle.
And, it keeps getting worse. Regarding the August 2008 deadline not all troops are being redeployed (the bill does not say to where). The bill leaves four categories of soldiers who can remain in Iraq. These include troops to guard the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. This is the largest Embassy in the world a city within a city so who knows how many troops that will take. Also, troops involved in diplomatic and consular affairs will remain in Iraq.
But, the two big categories allow troops to remain in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda and to train the Iraqi military and police. President Bush has called Iraq one front in the war on terror, where the main target in the war on terror is Al Qaeda. Indeed, “we’re in Iraq to fight them over there rather than over here,” according to the president. Further, he claimed that Saddam and Osama were working together and Vice President Cheney still makes that claim. And, throughout the Iraq War the resistance in Iraq has been defined as terrorists and there have been no solid numbers regarding how many Al Qaeda fighters are in Iraq. And, can you imagine the intelligence-leak drumbeat as that deadline approaches. There will be story after story planted in the establishment media about Al Qaeda coming to Iraq in preparation for the U.S. exit. This hole is so large by itself to make the Democratic exit strategy a virtual mirage.
And, then there is the training of Iraqi military and police. How many trainers will the U.S. have for an Iraqi military and police that will be in the very high hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million? Will training include U.S. soldiers being embedded in the Iraq military or police as part of training them? This is another gigantic loophole that makes the withdrawal more a “stay the course” plan then a real withdrawal.
But, the thing that makes this supplemental appropriation particularly dangerous is the Democratic leadership decision not to raise the question of forbidding military force against Iran. The Bush administration has been beating the war drums for a military attack on Iran for months. It had been reported that the spending bill would have required congressional approval, with some exceptions, before using military force against Iran.
The Congressional Quarterly reported on March 8, 2007 that “The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee also is working to keep the language out, said an aide to a pro-Israel lawmaker.” Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the consigliore for the hard right Israeli lobby in the House of Representatives a congressman who was a civilian volunteer with the Israeli army during the first Gulf War, is quoted as predicting “that the language would ultimately not be included in the supplemental on the House side.”
On the 8th CQ reported “a Democratic leadership aide said there are no plans to remove
the provision. ‘There’s heat,’ the leadership aide acknowledged. ‘We’ve heard
their concerns, but we think it’s likely to remain on the bill.'” Less than a week later it seems the hard right Israeli lobby, which is often the puppet master of U.S. foreign policy, has gotten the provision removed.
Thus, the Congress has decided to put up no barriers to a Bush attack on Iran. In hearings before Sen. Russell Feingold this January legal experts said that the original use of force resolution, the power of the president to act to defend U.S. national security and the authority of the president to introduce troops into “hostilities, but not into a war” may be sufficient to allow military action against Iran absent congressional action. If Congress put up barriers requiring Congressional approval or restricting the use of funds appropriated than that would limit the president’s authority. But without Congressional action, Bush could act militarily against Iran.
So, the slow exit of the Democratic leadership will in the best case scenario be a partial exit that could keep tens of thousands (or more) troops in the Iraq quagmire. And, their failure to curtail the president’s authority regarding Iran will give him the unbridled path he needs to go forward with military action against that country. This supplemental may result in a bigger Mid-East war in 2007, rather than a real exit from Iraq.
Is this what the November 2006 anti-war mandate was for?
KEVIN ZEESE is director of DemocracyRising.US and co-founder of VotersForPeace.US.