06/16/2006 11:45 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Republicans Played Politics With Our Soldiers' Lives – How Democrats Should've Responded

Republicans showed yet again how cheaply they value the lives of our soldiers. They're perfectly willing to let the dying continue indefinitely, without a serious review of our failed war policy, if that's what it takes to win in November. Democrats should have walked out on them on live national television, and then told the American people why.

Only one person in Washington really helped our troops this week - and she wears a fishnet body stocking to work. It wasn't a good week for leadership.

The GOP's sham vote in Congress this week was an attempt to shore up popularity for an occupation that neither Americans(1) nor Iraqis(2) support. Their "war resolution" was a patchwork of clichés, misleading statements, and outright lies. (I dissect it line-by-line here.)

Its only purpose was to embarrass Democrats and try to drive up falling Republican poll numbers. Their motivations are obvious, and it's equally clear that nothing matters more to them than winning. But why do the Democrats keep letting them play games with the lives of Americans and Iraqis alike?

Congress is America's institution, not the Republican Party's. Yet the GOP had no problem hijacking our legislative branch for this partisan stunt. What's worse, they used Pentagon resources, which should be working 24/7 to protect us, to prepare a 78-page debate briefing book for Republican Congressmen.

(That's a violation of Federal law, by the way. They don't care: they're even using the military as Republican errand boys now.)

Democrats should have boycotted this Potemkin parliamentarianism. They could have made a powerful statement, and taken back control of the news cycle, if they had walked out en masse and publicly issued a letter that read something like this:

"Dear Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, and Speaker Hastert:

It's tragic that, in a time of national crisis, you would rather commit the resources of our Congress to this artificial exercise than debate the urgent issues at hand.

You hold the majority, so we can't stop you. However, we're not going to help you play games with the lives of our soldiers in the field. When the ruling party submits a war resolution that isn't even binding on its own President, it's indulging in stunt politics at the expense of our national security.

We're shocked and offended on behalf of our fighting men and women that you would use their sacrifice in a cheap attempt to score propaganda points. Their heroism stands on its own, and speaks for itself.

When you're ready to have an open and honest debate about the best course of action in Iraq, give us a call. We owe it to our troops and the American people to have that discussion, and you've avoided it for too long.

But from now on, whenever you want to waste the people's time and money, and interrupt the business of this chamber for empty theatrics, you'll be doing it alone.

We rebuke you for this misuse of power, and for your attempt to distract our country from the real questions before us. Our fighting men and women - and the American people - deserve better.

Sincerely yours,

America's Elected Democratic Senators and Members of Congress"

Instead, Democrats played right into their hands. Some Democratic strategists argued that the embarrassment will cut both ways, and that some Republicans will suffer because of their "yes" votes on this resolution.

But they would have voted "yes" with or without Democratic participation. Absent a bold grand strategy, individual Democrats were left to make the best of a bad situation. Their performance was mixed.

For example, Nancy Pelosi's choice of words in calling the war a "grotesque mistake" was itself a grotesque mistake. On the other hand, she did well when she observed that "'Stay the course' is not a strategy, it's a slogan." John Murtha echoed that point - but how many Americans heard either one of them?

Meanwhile, the only one who did something concrete this week was ... Cher! She's paying to properly equip some of our soldiers' substandard helmets, because our Republican leadership won't bother - and the GOP gypsies, tramps, and thieves in Congress won't lift a finger to help. (OK, granted - it's not fair to the Romany people to call these characters "gypsies.")

Rep. Hilda Solis understands what she was up against: "The resolution brought to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday was nothing more than a sham to boost sagging polls on the war in Iraq."

Sadly, her party's leadership wasn't bold enough or brave enough to forcefully make that case to the American people. So the dithering continues in Washington, the dying continues in Iraq - and the only one to get something done for our troops this week was the ageless chanteuse from the great state of California.

And the beat goes on.

A Night Light

(1) As Kristina Vanden Heuvel observes: "A CBS poll finds that 80 percent of Democrats believe the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, and more than 60 percent want US troops home as soon as possible. A Washington Post/ABC poll finds that 70 percent of Independents feel the war was not worth it, and 33 percent of Republicans agree. Even 72 percent of our troops believe US forces should leave Iraq in the next year."

(2) As I wrote earlier this week, "Per a University of Maryland poll ... nearly half of Iraqis (and almost all Sunnis) support the attacks on American troops ... 70% of Iraqis want us to set a timetable for withdrawal."

(3) "Cher" link via Crooks and Liars