by Taylor Marsh
We've been here before. Listen, but verify. Symbolism is not enough. We should have learned this by now.
In a conference call I participated in yesterday, Speaker Pelosi was emphatic. When Senator Biden's name came up she said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that Democrats need to realize we are in the majority and act that way. Enter the Senate leadership and the symbolic votes they intend to cast. Iraq is going to hell. We are in the majority in Congress, but symbolism is the order of the day? Pardon me if I am not impressed.
A symbolic vote may be a plan to start, but it is not nearly enough. Sure they say that eventually they may go further, but what did the American people vote on if not to have the Democratic Party make a strong stand against Mr. Bush and to move this country in a new direction, especially on Iraq? November wasn't about symbolism, believe me. Americans want concrete action.
While Mr. Kennedy and a relatively small number of other Democrats were pushing for immediate, concrete steps to challenge Mr. Bush through legislation, Democratic leaders said that for now they favored the less-divisive approach of simply asking senators to cast a vote on a nonbinding resolution for or against the plan. ... ...
"We believe that there is a number of Republicans who will join with us to say no to escalation," said the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. "I really believe that if we can come up with a bipartisan approach to this escalation, we will do more to change the direction of that war in Iraq than any other thing that we can do." ... ...
The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, criticized the Democrats' plans. "We understand that the resolution is purely symbolic, but the war -- and the necessity of succeeding in Iraq -- are very real," he said Tuesday night. ... ...
John Edwards understands this and stated what must be done clearly.
George Bush's expected decision to adopt the McCain Doctrine and escalate the war in Iraq is a grave mistake.
"The new Congress must intercede to stop Bush from stubbornly sticking to the same failed course in Iraq and refuse to authorize funding for an escalation of troops. They should make it clear to the President that he will not get any money to put more of our troops in harm's way until he provides a plan to turn responsibility of Iraq over to the Iraqi people and to ultimately leave Iraq. George Bush wants to dig a deeper hole, but we need to climb out.
"The situation in Iraq demands a political solution -- the Iraqi people must take responsibility for their country. Escalating the war in Iraq, which our own generals agree won't help, sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people, to the region, and the world. In order to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving and immediately withdraw 40-50,000 troops. Once the U.S. starts leaving, the Iraqi people and other regional powers will be forced to step up and engage in the search for a political solution that can bring an end to sectarian violence and allow reconstruction to take hold, creating -- as should have been done long ago -- Iraqi jobs for Iraqis."
The troops in the field in Iraq will continue to be funded, but the escalation must be stopped. Tom Vilsack, another presidential hopeful, weighed in as well: "Now the president and the Congress are poised to make a big mistake even bigger."
Senator Ted Kennedy stated it eloquently yesterday, which I covered on my radio show.
The American people are behind us, with 61% against to 36% for it.
Then there's the reality that past surges have failed.
"Operation Together Forward" (June-October 2006): In June the Bush administration announced a new plan for securing Baghdad by increasing the presence of Iraqi Security Forces. That plan failed, so in July the White House announced that additional American troops would be sent into Baghdad. By October, a U.S. military spokesman, Gen. William Caldwell, acknowledged that the operation and troop increase was a failure and had "not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence." [CNN, 12/19/06. Washington Post, 7/26/06. Brookings Institution, 12/21/06.]
Elections and Constitutional Referendum (September-December 2005): In fall of 2005, the Bush administration increased troop levels by 22,000, making a total of 160,000 American troops in Iraq around Iraq's constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections. While the elections went off without major violence these escalations had little long-term impact on quelling sectarian violence or attacks on American troops. [Brookings Institution, 12/21/06. www.icasualties.org]
Constitutional Elections and Fallujah (November 2004-March 2005): As part of an effort to improve counterinsurgency operations after the Fallujah offensive in November 2004 and to increase security before the January 2005 constitutional elections, U.S. forces were increased by 12,000 to a total of 150,000. Again there was no long-term security benefit. [Brookings Institution, 12/21/06. New York Times, 12/2/04.]
Massive Troop Rotations (December 2003-April 2004): As part of a massive rotation of 250,000 troops in the winter and spring of 2004, troop levels in Iraq were raised from 122,000 to 137,000. Yet the increase did nothing to prevent Muqtada al-Sadr's Najaf uprising and April of 2004 was the second deadliest month for Americans. [Brookings Institution, 12/21/06. www.icasualties.org. USA Today, 3/4/04]
Many say we should dump the Iraq war and his plans for escalation in Mr. Bush's lap and leave it there.
But a symbolic vote as our soldiers die, while others are redeployed for yet another tour, and we begin spending another $6.8 billion is simply not enough.