Harry Reid Wants Honest Talk on Iraq. So Stop Calling it "Supporting the Troops" to Authorize Funds to Prolong the War

12/18/2006 03:55 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, December 18, 2006

The Iraq Study Group, whatever else it may have done or not done, established a political fact: U.S. policy in Iraq is a failure, even from the point of view of official Washington.

That's a start. But unfortunately, the most straightforward solution is being marginalized from the political debate: get the hell out, as Richard Cohen noted in the Washington Post.

Even more unfortunately, key Democratic leaders are contributing to this deadly restriction of debate by mischaracterizing support for continuing the war as "supporting the troops." This mischaracterization foolishly suggests that if Congress cut off funding for continuing the war, US troops would be left to twist in the wind. As I wrote on Huffington Post last week, "A soldier would run out of bullets, because Congress cut the funding. A soldier would go to the mess hall, but there would be no food, because Congress cut the funding. Jeeps and tanks would stop in the middle of the road. No gas. Congress cut the funding."

This is, of course, false. If Congress cut off funding for the war U.S. troops would be withdrawn. Now, some folks don't want to withdraw U.S. troops. But they should argue for that position honestly, not hide behind a false claim of supporting the troops.

In many ways incoming Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid is a Democrat's Democrat, like when he told the truth about then Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, calling him a "political hack."
But on the issue of continuing the war, Reid is playing a very damaging role.

Yesterday Sam Husseini of IPA Media asked Reid: "Isn't continued funding for Bush's execution of the war continued support for Bush's execution of the war?"

Reid answered: "We're going to do everything we can to make sure that our troops get everything they need, everything, without any exception. But what we're not going to do is continually fund all these contractors over there..." (The video is here.)

While his criticism of the use of private contractors is welcome, it doesn't address the point.

The problem is, there is every reason to believe that if Congress continues to provide money, the Bush Administration will continue to do whatever it wants. We've seen the Administration ignore the law on illegal wiretaps, and claim unilaterally that it was authorized to do whatever it wanted when Congress authorized the use of force.

So, for example, while a Congressional resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawal would be a really good thing, it might have no effect, if Congress contradicted itself by paying for more war. By putting discussion of cutting funding out of bounds, Reid is undermining efforts to end the war and bring the troops home.

This is why it's so important to write to your Members of Congress and ask them to oppose funding for extending the war. Please do it today if you have not done so recently.