Ah, our limping democracy. Despite the plaudits that House leadership is getting for just doing its job by discussing the Iraq war, a truly awful resolution is presently being "debated" in Congress (in quotes because, as usual, the rule for debate is so restrictive that someone should roll a laugh track during the CSPAN broadcast). If only every Member of Congress had to watch the film "The War Tapes" before heading to the House floor. This movie was filmed by a dozen National Guard soldiers in spring, 2004, just as the insurgency roiled. They carried digital video cameras. What they captured, coupled with their own interview-style narrative, leaves a searing impression of our soldiers' courage versus our civilian leadership's photo-op blabber. For more info on soldiers in conversation about Iraq, see Show Us the War.
I saw this film it at the progressive-mecca Take Back America conference here in DC this week. Although the crowd was partly in a hangover coma from YearlyKos in Las Vegas..the vibe got lively by Tuesday. Blogger row was twice as big this year as last--though something must be done about panel after panel with very little audience interaction. I also met some very cool women national security bloggers to recommend: Christy Hardin Smith at Fire Dog Lake and Taylor Marsh.
The House Resolution is a chest-thumpy piece of work, with no discernable problem solving recommendations, but lots of opportunities to slam critics. Its language equates the war in Iraq with operations in Afghanistan, and by labeling Saddam Hussein as a threat against global peace and security, the resolution seeks to retroactively justify the war. In fact, Majority Leader Boehner wrote a memo (leaked) detailing the political usefulness of returning to that tried and true tripe "kill them over there so they don't get us over here". Despite the restrictions, there should be a quality rumpus on the floor (led by a sizeable faction of House Democrats in the Out of Iraq Caucus who are tired of being sworn to talking point gimmees like Health, Education and 90K stuffed in the freezer...oops, I mean "culture of corruption").
Why is the Republican Congress engaging in this oh so 2003 posturing? Even the president is acknowledging the need for new, more humble directions in US foreign policy. But the lure of politics over good policy yet proves too strong. His henchman Rove still scorches the Earth with hateful rhetoric: He said of Democrats "They may be with you for the first shots. But they're not going to be with you for the tough battles......When it gets tough, and when it gets difficult, they fall back on that party's old pattern of cutting and running. ..." This nonsense from a man who has made quitting a standard operating procedure: He has given up on our best preventive defense strategies, quit on cooperation, cut and run on our allies, our intelligence community. Why, from the looks of this House resolution, the Republicans have even quit listening to the military....
Food for thought: A political-junkie military friend back from Iraq writes to me:
" What the administration is doing, on the one hand, is acting tough, calling out to "stay the course" and beating up all Democrats based on the words of the "out now" crowd... on the other hand, while everyone is distracted, they are, as they have been for two years, fighting a decent interval strategy. Their only focus is to shift the problem to the Iraqis as soon as possible, get on the airplane,and say "it looked good when I left. The administration has been spinning the situation, setting up the Iraqis for the blame (in 2008) and setting the tone of the discussion... instead of talking about Administration incompetence we're defending those people, who out of frustration and despair are advocating an understandable but unfortunately wrong solution, and handing the Republicans victory in 2006 and 2008...."
While my friend thinks that their insistence for change might be a losing strategy for the Dems, recent polls cause me to be more optimistic. At the conference, moveon presented data that demonstrated how simply talking about the war and calling for a new direction and a plan is a winning strategy. People might be divided about withdrawal, but Americans do want a plan. No Democrats that I've heard want immediate and total withdrawal, that's the big lie being spun by the Republican National Committee (who sent out a talking points memo to a million Americans on this topic, apparently). War opponents know that a security and reconstruction commitment will require some US presence. What people want is something that will change the present dynamic--one that includes redeployment.
Another friend, one steeped in Afghanistan for years, recently told me how already demoralized regional intelligence operatives have been getting pulled off long-term human intelligence building assignments to find bin Laden before November.
Feel safer now?