As Chairman Carl Levin of Senate Armed Services
conceded Sunday, Congress is not going to de-fund the war in Iraq, even if Bush
vetoes every Democratic timetable for withdrawal.
The war will go on – backed by a Democratic Congress.
If Majority Leader Reid is not bluffing about his threat to vote with Russ
Feingold to cut off funds, Harry will be rolled by a bipartisan coalition that
includes dozens of members of his own caucus.
For Democrats recall the consequences of having voted to cut off funds for
the war in Vietnam, into which JFK and LBJ had plunged the United States. Whatever
Americans think about a war, they are not a forgiving crowd when it comes to
those perceived as having abandoned the troops or ensured defeat.
That is what Democrats are toying with today. That is why the GOP has begun
to pound Speaker Pelosi, after her runaway strut through the Middle East, to
get her vacationing colleagues back to Washington and get that $100 billion
for the troops and the war passed.
No matter how Harry and Nancy bridle, the Congress they lead will give Bush
exactly what he demands. And the final vote to fund the war, no strings attached,
will tear at the seams of a Democratic Party whose base favors a rapid if not
The Democratic Congress thus faces this April a humiliating climb-down, and
all because of a Democratic Senate's vote in October 2002 – Tom Daschle, Reid,
Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd all assenting
– to give George Bush his blank check for war.
If I had known then what I know now, I would never have voted for the war,
John Edwards assures us of the most important vote that he, Hillary, Biden,
and Dodd ever cast – the votes that ensured America would commit the greatest
strategic blunder of their lifetimes.
This is not to absolve President Bush of culpability for what historians will
surely call "Bush's War," or the neoconservatives who howled for war on Iraq
from the moment the planes hit the towers, and who had plotted and propagandized
for war on Iraq for years before 9/11.
Yet Democratic courage in October 2002 might have stopped the stampede, for
Democrats were the last, best hope of the opponents of war. But they failed
the nation. What the nation got was a vote to "get the issue behind us," so
Democrats could focus on holding the Senate, which they lost in any event.
Now that we have passed the four-year mark in a war that has lasted longer
than the War Between the States or World War II, what does the profit-and-loss
statement look like?
On the credit side, Iraq has been liberated from Saddam Hussein and a Ba'ath
Party that tyrannized and terrorized Iraqis for decades. Saddam is dead, his
henchmen have met justice, and none will hold power again. Kurds are free. The
Shia are liberated from Saddamite and Sunni oppression.
The price of liberation, however, is scores of thousands of Iraqi dead, many
tortured and murdered by their own kinsmen, a ravaged nation, a sectarian civil
war, al-Qaeda in Anbar, 2 million exiles, the flight of Iraqi Christians, the
probable breakup of the nation, and the reversion of Iraq to the status of a
For America, the consequences have been enormous, when one considers that,
measured by U.S. casualties, this is not a major war.
We have lost 3,300 dead and 25,000 wounded, with no end to the bleeding in
sight. The worldwide sympathy America enjoyed after 9/11 is history. America
is severed from old allies and despised around the world. Our reputation suffers
from Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Haditha.
The material costs of the war run into the hundreds of billions, and hundreds
of billions more before it ends. The U.S. Army is "breaking" or "almost broken,"
depending on whether one agrees with the ex-Army chief of staff or Colin Powell.
America's position in the Middle East is as imperiled as ever it was in the
Cold War, with the king of Saudi Arabia accusing us of an "illegal foreign occupation"
of Iraq, and Arab peoples professing pandemic detestation of America and preferring
Osama bin Laden as man and leader to George W. Bush.
Most Americans are bitter at how the world perceives us today, given the sacrifices
we made over 60 years to ensure that freedom did not die and the world would
be a better place. But then gratitude has never been a long suit of the human
Yet if the world does not love us, and the American Empire is gone, are we
not well rid of it? Perhaps Bush should be thanked for having shown it is not
worth the cost and for having booted it away.
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