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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

Turn Out the Night Light, the Iraq Debate is Over

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The United States Senate got its jammies and toothbrushes out, as they prepared for their sleepover. Republicans dismissed the late night debate as nothing more than political theater. But what they don't grasp is that there is no debate. The debate on Iraq is over, and it's been over for a long time.

Only last week, respondents in Newsweek poll, said that they disapproved of "the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq" by 68-27 percent. A 41-point margin doesn't happen over night.

Thinking there is a debate on Iraq is like thinking there is a debate on whether chewing tobacco causes gum disease. You can filibuster that chaw is a good thing. You can call people chicken-hearted cowards too afraid of it. But when your teeth fall out, and cancer sores fill up your mouth, reality pretty much has its way.

68-27 percent. The debate on Iraq is over. You could probably get a closer poll result if you asked people whether the sun was good for you. 57 percent yes, 39 percent concerned with prolonged exposure and global warming.

When George Bush squeaked past John Kerry by 2.4 percent, he claimed a mandate. (Okay, it wasn't a mandate. As I've previously noted, it wasn't even a boydate. But he claimed it.) So, if a 2.4 percent margin is a mandate in George Bush World, what would 41 percent be?? If George Bush had won by 68-27 percent, we would now be calling him Generalissimo.

But Republicans think there is a debate on Iraq in the Senate.

"Our enemies aren't threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts," said Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Of course, no one in the world is threatened by talk-a-thons, other than apparently Republican Senators and those with a fear of Jerry Lewis. More to the point, Democrats aren't trying to threaten "our enemies" by talking. They're trying to threaten Republicans. They're trying to get Republicans on the record for continuing the Iraq War that Americans are against, 68-27 percent.

And of course our troops deserve better than publicity stunts -- though that didn't stop President George Bush from whipping out his publicity flight suit, codpiece and "Mission Accomplished" banner. For Republicans to start whining about publicity stunts on the troops' behalf is like P.T. Barnum complaining that his neighbor put on a funny hat for Halloween.

If Mitch McConnell wants to talk about what the troops deserve, how about body armor, a rest and better medical benefits, but the Republicans in Congress and the White House haven't chosen to give them that, so you're sort of left with publicity stunts.

Certainly this all-night session is a publicity stunt by Democrats. But it's a publicity stunt like Tylenol explaining. "We aren't the ones who poisoned our tablets. Blame the bad other people." And it's a good publicity stunt, too, for letting the crack Iraq Senate see what it's like to put in long hours, rather than taking off a month while in civil war.

And so Democrats want to draw total attention to the problem that is prolonging the Iraq War. Because until you identify a problem, you can't resolve it. Can't vote on it. Republicans want to avoid that attention, because...well, it's them.

Republicans want to avoid debating Iraq. But -- the debate on Iraq is over. 68-27 percent.

"If we leave Iraq prematurely, jihadists around the world will interpret the withdrawal as their great victory against our great power,'" said Republican Senator John McCain, the former future-President of the United States.

What Republicans ignore is that all jihadists will interpret anything as their great victory. Jihadists would interpret 2+2=7 as their great victory. When you're rigidly, maniacally certain that you're predestined to be in the right about everything, then everything can only be a victory on your behalf.

Most reasonable human beings, on the other hand, are far more concerned about how their messages are interpreted by their friends. Like, if we leave Iraq now, after five years of getting rid of a despot and helping set up a government and building an army, we send the message that the United States is not interested in entrenching itself permanently on other sovereign nations, and will attend to seriously addressing terrorism in concert with all nations of the world.

If Republicans in the Senate don't want to debate that all through the night, that's okay. After all, the debate on Iraq is long over. Republicans are free to play to their 27 percent base. Every word out of their mouths only solidifies the 68 percent who are aghast.