Monday, January 22, 2007

GOP Senator Still Linking Iraq To 9/11

So there I was over the weekend electronically leafing through the Senate's Congressional Record from last week to see if I missed anything newsworthy and I saw something that kind of took me aback -- and you're not easily surprised when you read the Record every day and see what kind of stuff from the Senate floor can slip under the news radar.

But there was Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, speaking for the record and suggesting that anyone who believes political compromise may be in order in Iraq wants to play nice with al Qaeda and, for a real oldie (and not a goodie), Gregg also went back to the playbook of linking Iraq and September 11.

"I rise to talk a little bit about the situation in Iraq and how we are trying to deal with this as a nation. We need to start with, when we are discussing Iraq, what are our national interests and why are we engaged there," said Gregg on Thursday.

So far, so good, right? But there's more…

"Our basic national interest in Iraq is the protection of America, our desire to make sure that we are projecting our purposes in a way that reduces the ability of those who would wish to do us harm in this war against us, which was declared in the late 1990s, when it was obviously brought to our shores on September 11, that in that war we are best postured to make sure terrorists, specifically Islamic fundamentalists who wish to do us harm, are not successful. That is the first purpose of our engagement in Iraq."

Apparently Gregg didn’t get the Republican National Committee memo telling him that, while making the bogus connection between our presence in Iraq and 9/11 may have had some utility at one point, it's kind of a played-out fib that doesn’t even fly in the reddest of the red states any longer.

But for those of you who had a hard time following Gregg's rambling sentence, he described the kinds of terrorists who attacked us on September 11 and said "That is the first purpose of our engagement in Iraq."

I don’t think even Fox News is using that line any longer, but here we had a United States Senator saying it into the Congressional Record on the Senate floor.

Gregg then broaches the subject of the bipartisan Biden-Hagel-Levin resolution, which gives the sense of the Senate that we should not be escalating the war in Iraq and that a solution to the Iraq quagmire will only come politically and not militarily. Which is all well and good, except that Gregg plays dumb -- or perhaps not -- and suggests that Democrats who believe that a compromise-based political solution is the only way to end the sectarian violence in Iraq, may actually want appeals to go out to al Qaeda and Iran.

"I notice, in the concurrent resolution which was submitted by some of our colleagues, they stated that the primary objective of the strategy of the United States in Iraq should be to have the Iraq political leaders make political compromise necessary to end the violence in Iraq," said Gregg to his Senate colleagues. "That is an objective, but that is not our primary objective. To make compromise? Whom are they going to compromise with, al-Qaida? Are they going to compromise with Iran?"

Gregg wraps it up with the time-honored Republican tradition of accusing Democrats of hurting the troops by opposing the continuation of the Iraq mess. He did it while responding to a staged question from John Cornyn (R-TX) in which Cornyn reminds everyone that some Senators are declared presidential candidates and asks Gregg whether he "believes that perhaps we have let our guard down and let this discourse become too political in nature rather than solution oriented?"

Here's Gregg, with a veiled reference to Democrats -- and I guess Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as well -- hurting the troops by bringing forth legislation to keep George W. Bush from escalating the war.
"My big concern goes to the morale of the troops in the field. What are they thinking? What are they thinking as a young 19-, 20-, 22-year-old soldier in Iraq today when they hear this discourse going forward and they are asked to go out on patrol, and they are told that maybe the troops their military leadership says it needs to support them is an issue?

"It is a legitimate issue as to how long we should allow this to hang out there. Let's have the debate. Let's resolve our national position as to what it is going to be, at least for the next year, if we get that far, and resolve it so that we know where we are; otherwise, we do harm to our national policy, because it is so disruptive to have this many voices at the same time claiming legitimacy and, more importantly, it does harm to our troops in the field, which is my primary concern."
So there you have it -- Republicans continuing to use the tired, dishonest trifecta of linking the Iraq war with 9/11, implying that Democrats want to play kissy-face with al Qaeda and painting any opposition to Bush as harming the troops.

Of course, Senator Gregg has the luxury of not having to run for reelection until 2010. I'm guessing it's his hope that by then he can escape questions about whether, at a time of national turmoil, he was just so dumb that he didn’t know the facts or so scummy that he thought he could sell some manufactured reality of his own.