Harry Reid: More troops to Iraq!
December 22, 2006
This last Sunday, Harry Reid, the incoming Democratic majority leader in the U.S. Senate, went on ABC's Sunday morning show and declared that a hike in U.S. troops in Iraq is OK with him. Here's the evolution of the Democrats' war platform since Nov. 7, 2006, the day the voters presented a clear mandate: "End the war! Get out of Iraq!" and took the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives away from the Republicans.
So the Democrats recaptured both the Senate and the House and swiftly went to work -- to obliterate the mandate. The first thing they did was reject Jack Murtha, the man who said "Quit Now" in 2005. They voted down Murtha as House majority leader and picked the pro-war Steny Hoyer. Then Nancy Pelosi, chose Silvestre Reyes as House Intelligence Committee chairman. Reyes promptly told Newsweek, "We're not going to have stability in Iraq until we eliminate those militias, those private armies. We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq … I would say 20,000 to 30,000 -- for the specific purpose of making sure those militias are dismantled, working in concert with the Iraqi military."
Next, the Democrats in the Senate gave unanimous confirmation to Robert Gates as defense secretary. Gates has a career record as one who slants intelligence to suit his bosses' political agenda. Recently, as president of Texas A&M, he deep-sixed affirmation action as college policy. The Democrats in the Senate could have stretched out the hearings, grilled Gates closely on his plans, taxed him with his grimy past as Bill Casey's second-in-command in the Contra-gate era. Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh said flatly in his memoirs that Gates was not truthful in his 1991 confirmation hearings about his role. Next, House Democrats welcomed the Iraq Study Group report of James Baker and Jim Hamilton by promptly reaffirming the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Bill 2006," written by American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Then, on Dec. 17, the Democrats' Senate leader, Harry Reid, said it was OK with him to send more troops to Iraq. This was the same Sunday morning Colin Powell, appearing on CBS, said a troop increase "cannot be sustained" and that the thousands of additional U.S. soldiers sent into Baghdad since the summer had been unable to stabilize the city and more probably could not tip the balance.
The next day, it was instructive to go to the prime Democratic websites in the wake of Reid's statement. Nothing on Daily Kos, nothing on Truthout, nothing on any of them. They had many words about Republican warmongering, about McCain's call for more troops. About Reid, one of the top Democratic leaders, about the evolving Democratic posture -- nothing.
Since the elections of Nov. 7, elite liberal consensus, as represented by the Democratic leadership and major opinion formers such the New York Times, has rallied to the notion of a "surge" in U.S. troops in Iraq. "Surge" is a handy word. It has the timbre of forceful majesty, of mighty ocean rollers roaring onto a beach. It also has the promise of withdrawal, since what surges can also recede.
A faction in the Pentagon among the U.S. commanders in Iraq has been promoting the surge option to useful journalists such as Michael Gordon of the New York Times. In the Pentagon itself, sentiment is against the "surge," at least if you want to believe a report in the Washington Post Tuesday. In the Pentagon they know there are no troops available, making people serve longer tours promotes mutiny, and 30,000 more troops would make no difference.
Now a decisive moment approaches. The Democratic leadership -- Pelosi, Reid, Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden -- are recommending that the Democrats in Congress vote to approve the supplemental budget appropriation early next year, probably $160 billion, which will give Bush enough money to keep the war going till he leaves town.
Enough Democrats have always been available to push these appropriations through, sometimes by huge majorities or, in the Senate, unanimous agreement. Here's the record of shame: By 2004, when it was clear a disaster was unfolding and after Iraq's alleged WMDs had been exposed as frauds invented by U.S. and British intelligence agencies and the press: The House voted more money for the war, 410-12. The Senate agreed, 96-0. In 2005, by which time it was clear that the U.S. attack had spawned civil war, plus staggering corruption, the House voted war funds 368-58. The Senate gave it an OK, 100-0.
By 2006, the American people were turning decisively against the war. Bush's ratings were among the lowest in presidential history. Up came the request for yet more money. Final House vote June 13, 2006: 351-67. Final Senate vote June 15, 2006: 98-1. A second chance to say no with another appropriation. Final House vote Sept. 26, 2006: 394-22. Final Senate vote Sept. 29, 2006: 100-0.
Years ago, my father used to tell me that when it came to assessing the likely policy of the British Labor Party, the best approach was to figure out the worst option available, and then proceed under the assumption that this was the course the Party would adopt. Here in the United States I've always applied this useful journalistic rule to the Democrats, with unfailing success. Never for a moment after Nov. 7, did I doubt that Reid and the others would do the wrong thing.
As I warned after the election, the role of the Democrats will be to ease through a troop increase. This prediction has turned out to be 100 percent accurate.
Now comes the chance to see whether the antiwar movement, the progressive Democrats, will meekly toe the line, even as some start wasting their time promoting a Kucinich bid for the Democratic nomination, which will have exactly the same effect as did his bid in 2004. It was clear from the outset that the only substantive function of Kucinich's run was to try to preempt defections to a Third Party candidate such as Ralph Nader. Then, in Boston, Kucinich toed the line and fell in behind Kerry. Once again doomed to fail, he'll do the same thing in 2008.
Voices for Creative Nonviolence, joined by Veterans For Peace, have initiated the "Occupation Project" to occupy the hometown offices of representatives and senators who have voted money for the war. So now let's see how these Democrats, all with their eyes cocked toward 2008 and the need to hold the antiwar vote, react to the threat or the reality of being occupied.
Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
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