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Seeking Cover to Cut-and-Run By: William R. Hawkins
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 28, 2007

As Sen. Joe Biden, D-DE, assumed the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in January, he claimed that top officials in the Bush administration have privately concluded Iraq was lost and are simply trying to postpone disaster so the next president will “be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof,” in a scene reminiscent of South Vietnam's end. This would better describe Biden's own assessment, and that of other members of Congress opposing the reinforcement of U.S. troops in Iraq.

If Biden wants a true comparison to Vietnam, it would not be terrorists overrunning the Green Zone but an Iranian tank brigade, after American troops have been withdrawn and Congress has placed a ban on air support for Baghdad's defenders. That seems to be where the left-wing of the Democratic Party is heading, embracing defeat on a grand scale in the Middle east as an earlier generation of Democrats had done in Southeast Asia.


However, the party’s leaders are still hesitant to put into public documents the same “cut and run” rhetoric they use when talking to the party’s left-wing base. Sen. Biden’s Iraq resolution was supplanted by a “bi-partisan” resolution sponsored by Republican Senator John Warner. The “compromise” Warner language stated, “the Senate believes a failed state in Iraq would present a threat to regional and world peace, and the long-term security interests of the United States are best served by an Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself, and serve as an ally in the war against extremists.” This was essentially a restatement of the Bush administration position.


The Warner resolution was blocked on a procedural vote, So the debate moved to the other side of the Capitol. The House Democratic measure had no long list of findings or policy declarations like in Warner’s resolution. It simply reads:


Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), that:

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.


It was a controversial attempt by Congress to dictate military operations on the ground. In all due respect to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), this is not the ancient Roman Senate whose members took the field and commanded the armies the Republic raised, and the assessment of the war laid out in the resolution shows their lack of expertise.


The political motive for this resolution is that the American public has grown impatient with an insurgency that fills the media daily with images of car bombs killing scores of innocent civilians. The White House has done a very poor job educating the public and Congress about this kind of low level conflict against an enemy too weak to advance beyond terrorism. It has thus allowed an unwarranted defeatism to set the mood in Washington.


            But the American people do not want defeat. According to a poll released Feb. 20 by Public Opinion Strategies, by a margin of 53 to 46 percent, Americans agree that “The Democrats are going too far, too fast in pressing the President to withdraw the troops from Iraq.” By 57-41 percent margins, voters agree with both of the following statements: “The Iraq War is a key part of the global war on terrorism,” and “I support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security.” The public rejects by a margin of almost 3-1 the statement that “I don't care what happens in Iraq after the U.S. leaves; I just want the troops brought home.” Fifty-nine percent say pulling our troops out of Iraq would damage America's reputation as a world power. By 56 percent to 43 percent, Americans agree with the premise that “Even if they have concerns about his war policies, Americans should stand behind the President in Iraq because we are at war.” Only 17 percent said “the U.S. should immediately withdraw its troops from Iraq.”


That 17 percent, however, seems to dominate Democratic gatherings and blogs, especially in regard to the party’s presidential nominating process for 2008. Thus, Democratic leaders are caught in a crossfire. They are very sensitive to a public backlash if they cut off funds for the troops in Iraq. When Vice President Dick Cheney said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's opposition to the Iraq troop surge was playing into the hands of the al-Qaida terrorist network, Pelosi complained to the White House that her patriotism was being questioned. But the party’s core activists are dragging Pelosi and others into embracing policies that will purposely aid the enemy. For example, on February 21, Sen. Biden was applauded when he called for “de-authorizing the war” at the AFSCME Democratic Presidential Forum in Carson City, Nevada.


Pelosi had opened the House debate on February 13, proclaiming defeat. “President Bush's escalation proposal will not make America safer, will not make our military stronger, and will not make the region more stable. And it will not have my support.'' The Democrats will now have to ensure defeat to protect their position. A victory would destroy their credibility. Thus, Pelosi’s claim that “As this debate begins, let us be clear on one fundamental principle: We all support the troops” is hollow. Indeed, she added, “A vote of disapproval will set the stage for additional Iraq legislation, which will be coming to the House floor.”


            But when Pelosi’s close political ally, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), threatened to tie President Bush's $100 billion war request to strict standards of troop safety and readiness in an attempt to micro-manage Iraq war operations, many Democrats objected. “If this is going to be legislation that's crafted in such a way that holds back resources from our troops, that is a non-starter, an absolute non-starter,” declared Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah), a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats.


But it should be remembered that the first attempts to restrict American operations in Vietnam and cut off funds also failed. The Left kept hammering away, even when U.S. forces were winning victories. The objective of the antiwar movement was not to recognize defeat and cut the nation’s loses, but to bring about defeat. From a partisan perspective, defeat was the only way to justify the antiwar movement and create the myth that the war was always “unwinnable.” In a larger perspective, defeat was the only way to curb American “imperialism” in the world.


House Democrats gave away their position when they blocked a vote on a resolution drafted by Rep. Sam Johnson, (R-TX), that would have prohibited Congress from cutting off or restricting funds for the troops deployed in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Johnson was a prisoner of war during Vietnam.


The Democrats have even resurrected the term “escalation” to describe the troop “surge” in Iraq. The raid into Cambodia in 1970 to wipe out North Vietnamese sanctuaries was also called an “escalation.” The highly successful operation followed the long pursuit of communist forces defeated in the 1968 Tet Offensive. It was this Allied victory that drove the antiwar movement into a frenzy, leading to the first bills from the Democratic leadership to cut off funding for the war and promote a victory for Hanoi.


A number of bills have already been introduced to recreate the collapse of Vietnam in Iraq. A sample in order of bill number, and showing the escalation of the campaign to subvert the war effort.


H.R. 353 is to prohibit the use of funds for an escalation of United States forces in Iraq above the numbers existing as of January 9, 2007. It was introduced by Ed Markey (D-MA) with 24 co-sponsors. Markey cut his teeth in politics as an antiwar activist during Vietnam.          


H.R. 663: the “New Direction for Iraq Act of 2007” was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) with 10 co-sponsors. It would deny any funds for an “escalation” of troop deployments in Iraq and mandate the start of troop withdrawals 30 days after passage. The “redeployment” is to be done in “the shortest appropriate time frame” which is defined as “no longer than one year.” The bill also prohibits any long-term U.S. military installations in Iraq, but would authorize the US to pay for the “presence of neutral international experts as advisors to the Government of Iraq” to handle reconstruction and the disarmament of militias, among other tasks.


H.R. 787, the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007” has been offered by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) with 21 co-sponsors. It also caps the deployment of American armed forces at the January 10 level. It would then mandate a deadline for withdrawal, stating, “the phased redeployment of the Armed Forces of the United States from Iraq shall commence not later than May 1, 2007. The redeployment of the Armed Forces under this section shall be substantial, shall occur in a gradual manner, and shall be executed at a pace to achieve the goal of the complete redeployment of all United States combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008.”


H.R. 930 has the incredibly misleading title “Military Success in Iraq And Diplomatic Surge for National and Political Reconciliation in Iraq Act of 2007.” It has been introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). It would repeal the 2002 vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq, which the bill claims “is the sole basis of authority under which the President of the United States launched the invasion of Iraq in 2003.” This is an attempt to negate the president’s role as commander-in-chief. It would then enact a “Prohibition on Use of Funds To Continue Deployment of Armed Forces to Iraq” and would set a “Withdrawal of Armed Forces and Contractor Security Forces From Iraq- Not later than October 1, 2007, or 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, whichever shall occur first, all units and members of the Armed Forces deployed to Iraq and all security forces under contract or subcontract with the United States Government and working in Iraq shall be withdrawn from Iraq.”


As the U.S. troop surge moved forward against the backdrop of the Congressional debate, there were reports that the radical, anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had left his Baghdad stronghold for Iran. The question was whether he had fled the scene out of fear of American power, or whether he was merely consulting with his backers in Tehran to coordinate a response. If the left-wing of the Democrats advance their defeatist agenda, al-Sadr will have nothing to fear. He and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were undoubtedly pleased by recent statements by both presidential front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rep. Pelosi that President Bush must first seek permission from Congress – meaning from the Democrats – before taking any military action against Iran. Tehran’s loud rejection of demands that it cease enriching uranium last week, in the wake of a report by UN inspectors that it had ignored a Security Council ultimatum to freeze its enrichment program, was clearly predicated on the belief that American foreign policy is paralyzed.

William Hawkins is a consultant on international economics and national security issues.

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