Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Iraq-War Debate - Don't Follow The Money

The debate over whether the United States should begin withdrawing combat troops from Iraq or remain indefinitely in the middle of a bloody civil war will be center stage in the 110th Congress over the next few weeks. Based on the votes in the House and Senate on the recent supplemental bill for funding the war effort, Democrats have come down squarely on the side of getting our military men and women out of the Iraq quagmire, while Republicans are generally assuming their usual, rubber-stamping position of going along with George W. Bush's deadly stay-the-course strategy.

And while political strategists and the corporate media may try to frame the debate in complex narratives on the proper U.S. policy, it's really so remarkably simple that most of the children in my son's fourth-grade class could probably understand it.

It's clear both sides want to fund the troops and nobody, on either side of the Congressional aisle, has suggested leaving troops wanting for the arms, equipment and other supplies they need while stuck in Iraq -- other than the chronic shortage of those supplies that the troops have always realized under the Bush administration.

So the argument over who is or is not "cutting off funding" for the troops is utter nonsense. Bush requested money to continue the war and the Democratic Congress, mindful of the impact on the troops, gave him exactly what he asked for, while throwing in some extra money to care for Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Done and done.

So, by definition, there is no conflict over funding and this is what it all comes down to: Democrats want to bring American troops home. The White House and the majority of Congressional Republicans do not.


It's really just that simple. There's no argument over the money. It's all about whether or not the troops will be extracted from an Iraqi civil war or kept there on a Bush-Cheney-McCain timeline that has no end.

In addition to simply standing on principle, Congressional Democrats need to look at American opinion -- not to form their own positions but to strengthen their resolve by realizing that they're in the wonderful place of doing the right thing by our troops and also responding to exactly what the people are demanding.

And just looking at the national polls done in the last month shows that Americans' beliefs about Iraq are overwhelming, definitive and codified.

When asked about the Bush-McCain doctrine of escalating the Iraq war, a significant majority of the American people said that they did not agree with sending more troops into what is clearly civil war:

Some Democrats may have political concerns about the perception that they are exceeding their authority and stepping on the Commander-in-Chief's right -- no matter how much of a miserable failure he has been -- to conduct the war any way he damn well pleases.

The Pew Research poll done a couple of weeks ago shows that 70 percent of respondents believe that Democrats are going either not far enough or are just right in fighting Bush on his Iraq policies. The CNN poll conducted about a month ago shows that 61 percent of Americans think that the Democratic Congress should now be setting Iraq policy or at least sharing responsibility with Bush.

But here's where the rubber really meets the road and tells the whole, simple story about what this political battle is all about: In every, single major poll taken in the last month, the majority of the American people want us out of Iraq and they want to know exactly when that's going to happen.

The USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted in early March tells us that 58 percent of Americans think U.S. troops should be pulled from Iraq in less than a year, with 20 percent of those saying they should be withdrawn immediately. More significant, is the fact that the Pew Research poll, which asks whether or not we should be setting a withdrawal timeline, shows that the percentage of Americans favoring a solid withdrawal date has not been below 50 percent since September of 2005.

And then there's other results supporting the Democratic position, such as a CNN poll taken last month showing that 54 percent of Americans believe Bush "deliberately misled the American public" about the rationale for the war or a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted recently, in which 56 percent of respondents said that it was "a mistake" sending any troops to Iraq to begin with.

Add all of this data to the fact that polling in Iraq has shown that a majority of Iraqi citizens want us to leave and that just yesterday, tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to protest continued U.S. presence in their country, displaying their national flag and waving signs declaring "Death to America" and "May America fall."

So let's just have everyone, on both sides of the political divide, agree that nobody has said they intend to leave the troops high and dry and that funding military men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan is something on which everyone in Congress agrees.

Then we can all talk about the real issue, which is that the Iraqi people want us to leave their country and the American people want our troops brought home.

Let Democrats talk about how they want every Sailor, Soldier, Marine and Airman to be out of Iraq and home with their families having barbeques in the summer of 2008.

And let the White House and the Republican party explain why they do not.

Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had some words on the Iraq subject for George W. Bush as the Senate opened a new work session today.