On the face of things, Congressional Resolution 557 seems the sort of innocuous legislation destined to fly through Congress with little if any debate. The resolution acknowledges the one year anniversary of the commencement of hostilities in Iraq. It covers four major points: It commends the “valiant service” of U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq; it praises Iraqis for their courage under the long, brutal reign of Saddam Hussein and for creating an interim constitution; and, finally, it posits that “the United States and the world have been made safer with the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime from power in Iraq.” Hammering home that final point, the litany of atrocities and deceptions that defined the Hussein regime are listed yet again.
Whether they supported the war or not, you would be hard pressed to find a member of Congress who doesn’t take advantage of any and all opportunities to praise American troops. Even far-left members whose rhetoric and actions suggest they would like to call in UN peacekeepers to patrol the Pentagon understand that praising our servicemen and women is a part of the job one shirks at their own electoral risk. Since the resolution carefully avoids any mention of George W. Bush’s leadership, there would appear to be very little downside for Democrats in supporting it. Instead, Democrats used the vote as an excuse to throw one of their patented Election Year 2004 temper tantrums.
The problem, Democrats screamed to every reporter in sight, was that they were not consulted on the language of the resolution. “Partisanship! Partisanship!” they cried. “I'm indignant, insulted and embarrassed that no one came to me and asked me about this resolution,” Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. John P. Murtha, told Republicans. “I'm embarrassed that you would come up with a partisan resolution without consultation with any Democrat.”
Then Democrats begin explaining the language they would liked to have seen incorporated into the resolution. Put simply, the donkeys’ idea of supporting the troops gives new meaning to the phrase, “damning with faint praise.”
Imagine you’re a young soldier having just finished another hard day patrolling the dangerous streets of Baghdad or Basra, and someone hands you the following “thank you” card, courtesy the Democratic Party. You may be risking your life daily, but Democrats want to be sure you understand that, “A final judgment on the value of activities in Iraq cannot be made until Iraq is stable and secure.”
In other word: Rebuilding schools and hospitals, ending the days of torture sessions and rape rooms – well, it’s just not clear whether that was of “value” yet.
The Democrats also wanted the number of soldiers killed and wounded listed, something the soldiers they are supposed to be thanking are probably more keenly aware of than somebody who spends their days in the Capitol ever will be. From there, the Democrats‘ perfect resolution would have demanded that President Bush “take steps to correct he failure of the United States government to plan adequately for the postwar occupation of Iraq,” admit the war was based on “failed intelligence” and promise to do more to help U.S. veterans.
In light of this sort of uplifting prose, Republicans locking Democrats out of the room while crafting the resolution starts to look like a stroke of genius. Shame is an increasingly scarce commodity in today’s Democratic Party. Here they are, crying partisanship because they were unable to turn a non-partisan resolution into a commercial for John Kerry. The Democrats’ 2004 strategy is crystal clear: Iraq must be portrayed as a failure at all costs. This mission takes precedence over honesty, over Congressional decorum, and, indeed, over issuing a heartfelt thank you to troops on the anniversary of a war they went to fight on our behalf.
Since the resolution did not damn George W. Bush to Hell and call for his impeachment, many Democrats voted against it. What should have been a unanimous resolution passed by a margin of 327-to-93. Almost all the no votes were Democrats (e.g., nominal Republican and practicing Libertarian Ron Paul also voted no).
Democrats wanted to have their angry press conference, where conspiracy theories abounded. “This resolution was designed by political consultants to achieve a unanimous no vote from Democrats to be used to create negative ads to hurt us this year,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat. Sherman did not explain why he fell for the Republicans’ wicked plot.
Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York said he was only upset because the resolution didn‘t encourage “unity.” Of course, “unity” can only be had when Republicans admit every last paranoid criticism of Bush is Gospel truth. “[The resolution] is not designed to talk about things that can unify us as Americans and as a Congress,” he told Newsday. “They are putting things in there that they know everybody doesn't agree with. Safer? How are you going to say that to the people of Spain?”
(Well, first of all, there was terrorism before we went into Iraq. Our action in Iraq was neither the beginning nor the end of terrorism. And secondly, why do we have to say anything to the people of Spain in a resolution commending U.S. soldiers?)
Barbara Lee, the only member of the House to vote against toppling the Taliban during the aftermath of Sept. 11, described the resolution as “horrible and misleading” and an example of a Republican “pattern of distortion and deception.”
“This resolution…ignores the victims of this war, ignores the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction, and ignores the costs to our credibility, to our alliances, and to our domestic priorities,” Lee said, showing more contempt for the Bush administration than Saddam Hussein‘s. “This resolution also fails to address the New World Order – or disorder that has been created by this war. It fails to mention the fact that the Doctrine of Preemption on which the Iraq War was based has undermined long-standing alliances, weakened the effectiveness of the United Nations, and damaged our nation’s credibility with the international community.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued her predictable self-aggrandizing, shrill sophistry.
“With their resolution, the Republicans are in denial as to why we went into Iraq, in denial as to the current state of stability and security in Iraq, and are denying our men and women the benefits, the equipment and the quality intelligence that they deserve as they serve our country,” Pelosi said, apparently choosing to forget her own vote against the $87 billion to supply troops with those very items.
During the debate over the resolution, several Democrats gleefully pointed out the continuing U.S. casualties and the horrific attack in Spain as proof that the Bush administration’s foreign policy was flawed. You can almost see the DNC’s talking points written on their foreheads. “Our mission in Iraq has not been accomplished,” Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said. “Even as we speak here, a car bomb has rocked Baghdad and killed more than 20 people.” Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, “The mission is far from being accomplished and President Bush will be judged harshly for the tragic events of the last year.” Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania: “Is it safer today in Spain? Is it safer in the Middle East? Putting it on paper doesn't mean that we're out of the conflict.”
Some just missed the point entirely.
“This resolution is more about what the Republican leadership wants us to forget about the past year,” Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts said. “The costs, the bloated contracts, the lies, no weapons, no ties to al-Qaeda, the flawed intelligence, the wounded and the dead.” Right. Either that or it was about commending U.S. and coalition soldiers.
But at least the representatives had fire. Their national team was bland at best.
“While our brave servicemen and women have helped us make progress on this front, that doesn't change the fact that on the anniversary of Iraq, Bush's rhetoric on terrorism is still at odds with his priorities,” said Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the DNC. This begs the question: Who is “us”? “This president not only allowed his stubborn, go-it-alone Iraq policy to weaken the alliance that emerged in the days after 9-11, but also failed to provide the focus and resources necessary to fully protect our ports, airlines and borders.”
Towards the end of the rancorous debate, the resolution’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Henry Hyde pleaded with the Democrats to tone the political rhetoric down long enough to pass the resolution.
“Regardless of our disagreements on process and how we got here, I would argue that in the interests of, dare I say, patriotism and standing up for our country in this war, I would ask that everybody read the resolution,” he said. “It is simple and straightforward.”
Henry Hyde dared to say “patriotism,” and likely his liberal colleagues use the word often enough as well. But Hyde proved his dedication to patriotism with Resolution 557, while many of his Democratic counterparts were only able to prove their dedication to political warfare.