Friday, April 27, 2007

Iraq:turning the Table

Yesterday, the Senate approved a $124 billion war spending appropriations bill, sending to President Bush's desk a measure that would "force troop withdrawals to begin as early as July 1." Because of the withdrawal provisions, Bush pledged to veto the bill next week -- a period that coincides with the four year anniversary of his infamous "Mission Accomplished" declaration aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.

The Center for American Progress's Iraq plan -- Strategic Redeployment -- explains why a phased withdrawal is necessary: it would provide political space for Iraqis to strike power-sharing agreements, empower Iraqi forces to take control, motivate regional powers to get involved, undermine Iraqi support for the insurgency, extricate U.S. soldiers from a civil war, shift our attention back to global terrorist networks, and restore the strength of the all-volunteer ground forces. Before their recent campaigns to demonize the concept of redeployment as "surrender" and "precipitous withdrawal," a number of conservative lawmakers had urged President Clinton during the 1990s to adopt the position that they now criticize. While the White House and its conservative allies now detest congressional involvement in Iraq policy-making -- calling it "micromanagement" -- in the 1990s, conservative lawmakers understood and exercised their constitutional rights to shape foreign policy.

"Under the Constitution, Congress has a duty to question the war policies of this or any president," said Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). "We must listen to the voices of the people." A New York Times-CBS News poll found that the public favors a timeline for withdrawal in 2008 by a wide margin, 64 percent to 32 percent. The poll also found "public support for Congress to have the final say on troop levels in Iraq, 57 percent to 35 percent." Today's Progress Report highlights a few examples of the conservative hypocrisy on the need for timetables:

JOHN MCCAIN ARGUED FOR WITHDRAWAL: In Oct. 1994, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called on President Clinton to withdraw forces from Haiti "as soon as possible." "In my view that does not mean as soon as order is restored to Haiti," he said. "It does not mean as soon as democracy is flourishing in Haiti. It does not mean as soon as we have established a viable nation in Haiti. As soon as possible means as soon we can get out of Haiti without losing any American lives." A year before, in Oct. 1993, McCain argued against giving any strategy the chance to succeed in Somalia. "Mr. President, can anyone seriously argue that another 6 months of United States forces in harm's way means the difference between peace and prosperity in Somalia and war and starvation there? Is that very dim prospect worth one more American life? No, it is not," he said. (Watch the video of his statements here.) A McCain spokesman said, "It's intellectually dishonest to compare the situations in Haiti and Somalia to the current situation in Iraq." The only intellectual dishonesty comes from McCain's willingness to contort his views to defend Bush's failed Iraq policy.

JON KYL WANTED FORCES OUT BY CERTAIN DATES: Another senator who has displayed intellectual dishonesty over the need for a timetable is Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Recently on CNN, he attacked the withdrawal plan, claiming it was "the first time I know of -- in the middle of a war -- that a country just announces that on a specific date it's walking off the battlefield." But in June 1998, Kyl voted in favor of provisions that called for U.S. forces to "walk off the battlefield" by a certain date in Kosovo and Bosnia. In June 1998, he supported a bill to "require the President to submit Congress a plan for withdrawing United States forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina if the Congress does not so act by March 31, 1999.” In May 2000, Kyl supported an effort by Congress to compel Clinton to withdraw all ground forces from Kosovo by July 1, 2001.

JOHN BOEHNER VOTED TO LIMIT TROOP DEPLOYMENTS: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) recently warned that we cannot leave Iraq -- "like we did in Somalia" -- because "we will leave chaos in our wake." Yet, Boehner voted numerous times to limit the deployment of troops in Somalia. On at least two occassions, he supported amendments to move up the deadline to bring toops home from Somalia (House Roll Call Vote #179, 5/22/93 and House Roll Call Vote #555, 11/9/93). He also voted against $1.8 billion in funding for the operation in Somalia (House Roll Call Vote #188, 5/26/93).

EVEN BUSH ARGUED FOR DEADLINES: Earlier this week, Bush said, "I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake. An artificial timetable of withdrawal would say to an enemy, just wait them out." But in 1999, George W. Bush criticized President Clinton for not setting a timetable for exiting Kosovo, and yet he refuses to apply the same standard to his war. Bush explicitly said, "I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn." Bush also said, "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." Now, Bush has taken exactly the opposite position, arguing it's important for the president not to explain the exit strategy.

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