Friday, March 09, 2007

A Unified Plan To Leave Iraq From Senate Democrats

"I don't belong to any organized party. I'm a Democrat," Will Rogers once said and those words have certainly been ringing true on Capitol Hill when it comes to the Democratic stance on George W. Bush's disastrous Iraq war. While Senate Democrats have been together on their opposition to continued U.S. presence in Iraq, there's been so many different bills and resolutions introduced by various party members that even seasoned Senate watchers have had a hard time keeping track of them.

That is, until yesterday, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), flanked by other senior Democrats, announced that they have joined forces on one, unified bill that will get all American combat troops out of Iraq by the end of March 2008, with some withdrawal of troops starting within 120 days of passage.

"The President's strategy in Iraq is not working, and Congress must decide whether to follow his failed policies or whether to change course," said Reid. "Democrats believe, as does an overwhelming majority of the American people, that the time has come to transition the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq. Hopefully, Senate Republicans will now join Democrats and the American people in calling for a change in course. They must put doing the right thing above protecting the President."

The Reid Joint Resolution builds on the longstanding Democratic position on Iraq and contains binding language that would compel Bush to begin withdrawing troops by as soon as August. The legislation would stipulate that a limited number of troops could remain for the purposes of force protection, training and equipping Iraqi troops, and targeted counter-terror options.

Senate Democrats announced their plans on the same day that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) proposed the House's plan, which calls for a total withdrawal from Iraq by September 2008.

"Democrats are united when it comes to changing our mission in Iraq," said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). "What's happened here is that Iraq has devolved into a Civil War. And that's not what we bargained for. That's why Democrats believe we should change the mission from policing a civil war to focusing on counter-terrorism. We want 2007 to be a year of transition. The focus should now be on our own plan to focus on counter-terrorism. Our goal is to ratchet-up the pressure on the President to change course."

Of course, the White House immediately said it would veto any such legislation.

"Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looks like what was described today,'' said Senior Bush aide Dan Bartlett. "What we're seeing here is an artificial, precipitous withdrawal from Iraq based on, unfortunately, politics in Washington, not conditions on the ground in Baghdad, Iraq.''

(Team Bush must see something different than the 3,100 American dead and the hundreds of Iraqis who are killed each month in the mess this administration has created.)

Senate Republicans have already blocked any debate on Bush's Iraq policies and this sets up a dramatic gut-check for GOP Senators who will have to decide between defending their president or listening to the will of the American people. For 21 of them, their reelection hopes in 2008 may ride on what call they make.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) called Bush's efforts in Iraq a failure and urged all Republicans to see that a change in course is long overdue.

"Democrats are united in our commitment to changing course in Iraq. We heard the American people and our military leaders. We heard our troops and their families," said Murray. "It's time to plan to end a war that this Administration has failed to effectively prepare for and execute. I urge our Republican colleagues to stand united with us in changing course in Iraq."