Congress: Move Out on Iraq
By Dan Smith
Global Beat Syndicate
WASHINGTON —With the third anniversary of the U.S.-led
invasion of Iraq upon us, the expected tide of articles and analyses
has come, looking at "progress"—how much, if any; and what Iraqis and
coalition forces still need to do before we can achieve drawdown and
proposed strategies tend to feature the integration of political and
economic progress and progress on physical security for Iraqi citizens.
Without stability and security, the economic infrastructure will remain
dependent on foreign donors and lending institutions. Iraq, which once
exported agricultural products as well as petroleum, now imports and
subsidizes both. And in the three months since the election of the
Iraqi parliament, Iraqi politicians remain divided on just about
everything. And while large swatches of the country appear peaceful,
this "peace" owes as much to the sectarian-associated militias that
still exist in defiance of U.S. and Iraqi authorities as it does to
these two authorities.
March 19 Sunday talk shows, tied to the invasion three years ago on
that day, displayed the range of views dividing domestic U.S. politics
and reflected rising public distrust in the entire war effort.
example, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace,
said the coalition forces were making very, very good progress, and he
rejected the notion that and the recent violence was a sign of
impending civil war.
contrast, Representative John Murtha (D-Penn), who sits on the House
Appropriations Committee and until recently supported the war, gave a
decidedly contrary view, saying in effect that we've made no progress
at all, and are now caught in a civil war.
Pace, unless he resigns to protest administration policy, will support
(properly) the optimistic White House line when appearing in public,
unclassified settings. And he might well believe (or want to believe,
so that Iraqis can be given more of the battle) that progress is being
made, while leaving open the question of how sustainable any "progress"
may be over the long haul.
his part, Congressman Murtha repeated a point he made two weeks earlier
on another Sunday talk show, where he said, "Iraqis have to settle this
themselves. This is not a 'we' thing. This is a 'them' thing." On March
5 also, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind), picked up the same theme,
saying, "The question really is whether Iraqis want to be Iraqis, as
opposed to Sunnis and Shi'ites and Kurds. That hasn't been decided."
insights from two experienced legislators from both congressional
chambers and both political parties ought to galvanize Congress to do
what members failed to do in 2003: hold an extended debate—this time on
strategies that could reverse the ill-considered policy that has made
the United States the hostage to whatever Iraqis do, and do not do. The
perfect legislative setting for this debate could come as both houses
examine the administration's 2006 Supplemental Appropriations request
for warfighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. At best, floor debates just
might produce new ideas about ways to extract U.S. forces from Iraq,
thereby liberating U.S. foreign policy. Or, at least, an open debate on
the mechanics of redeployment would put the Iraqis and the world on
notice that all foreign forces, including U.S. troops, will leave Iraq.
our system, generals can talk about when armies will leave, but
generals do not make policy. The Bush administration has lost so much
credibility at home and abroad by its ineptness and attempts to spin
events that its pronouncements carry minimal impact. By default, that
leaves Congress as the locus for full and frank discussion of how best
to leave Iraq—and to depart so that Iraqis are able to provide for the
security and well-being of their people.
Congress with the courage to hold an unfettered debate on the next
steps for reclaiming America's independence from "entangling alliances"
will go far in gaining us political redemption, at home and abroad.
they say in the military, it is time for members to "Move out!"