Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Iraq: The Non-binding Hinder Binder

The debate kicked off in the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon on the non-binding measure on Iraq. In one regard, the measure, if passed, will be little more than a wedgie on young Mr. Bush: embarrassing and uncomfortable, but something he can ignore if he chooses to. So is it worth even bothering to debate?

I think it is. But I also think the process needs to start moving along.

Let's Talk

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says the Iraq war isn't about winning or losing anymore. Even retired General Wayne Downing says, "We're not going to win this thing." (Tuesday on MSNBC.) Kucinich and Downing both think the debate on a non-binding resolution is a waste of time, but I disagree for a number of reasons.

For starters, it's an opportunity to allow an open debate on the war and its strategy. Since it doesn't directly address how Congress might stop the "surge," it won't put its members in the awkward situation of having to grapple with the nuts and bolts of how to shut the escalation off at the purse.

So let the Bush administration echo chamberlains like Duncan Hunter (R-CA) get on the floor and ape the standard Rovewellian line of claptrap about how such a resolution will send the wrong message to America's friends, America's enemies and America's troops. I watched Hunter's pitch on CSPAN. He kept his hands on the podium throughout his speech. I suppose that was to ensure that his knuckles didn't drag against the carpet. Glittering generalities, appeals to emotion, flawed analogies--the whole nine yards of chicken hawk tripe.

Let everybody hear Peter King (R-NY) hide behind the "support the troops" canard. King's comments on the floor indicated, once again, that he doesn’t understand the difference between warfare and a rousing game of canasta.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) pulled the "our enemies are hearing us debate" card designed to shut down debate. I wonder how she managed to draw that one from the Karl Rove deck.

The likes of King and Hunter and Ros-Lehtinen know how to appeal to the autistic right, but as the recent election proved, most Americans have finally figured out the difference between horse manure and chocolate ice cream.

Let's Balk

Wednesday morning, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said that it's time to stop using the troops as pawns in the rhetorical effort to escalate and continue the war. Thank you Mr. Kucinich.

As I have stated many times, this business of justifying policy because it makes the troops happy is the worst kind of disingenuous bunker bunk. America does not exist to support its military--it's the other way around. And the troops exist to execute policy, not to dictate it.

Let's Walk a Little Faster

Congratulations to the House for actually bringing a war resolution to the floor for debate. They've made a heck of a lot more progress in this regard than the Senate has. I'm concerned, however, that even the House is not moving fast enough to stay the inevitable escalation.

The latest Battle of Baghdad, the cornerstone of the escalation strategy, is already underway. From Wednesday's New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Feb. 13 — The Iraqi government on Tuesday ordered tens of thousands of Baghdad residents to leave homes they are occupying illegally, in a surprising and highly challenging effort to reverse the tide of sectarian cleansing that has left the capital bloodied and Balkanized.

In a televised speech, Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, who is leading the new crackdown, also announced the closing of Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria, an extension of the curfew in Baghdad by an hour, and the setup of new checkpoints run by the Defense and Interior Ministries, both of which General Qanbar said he now controlled.

In a very short time, the administration will argue that any real attempt by Congress to block additional troops in Iraq is a deliberate move to ensure defeat, and an irresponsible abandonment of the Iraqi government.

Dubya Talk

At his Wednesday morning press conference, Mr. Bush said that the Iraqis are following through on their promise to commit more troops to Baghdad. Coalition troops (whoever they are) will arrive in Baghdad on time. There's good coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces. The terrorists are trying to discourage the U.S. from backing up the operation.

The Senate approved the nomination of General Petraeus as U.S. commander in Iraq, now the House is debating Petraeus's strategy. (I thought it was Fred Kagan's strategy. Or was it Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Makili's strategy?)

If we fail "there," the enemy will follow us here, Bush said. I have yet to hear any of these "follow us here" parrots explain how "they" are going to get "here."

Our troops are counting on our elected leaders in D.C. to support them by approving the administration's request for emergency war funding, Bush said.

Like I said, if Congress wants to stop the escalation, it's going to have to get a move on.

When the Decider Decided

Several colleagues have noted that Congress is already behind the eight ball, largely because the escalation strategy wasn't made public until after the election changed the balance of power in the legislature. I agree with that, and I also think the escalation was decided upon well before the election was held. Delaying the announcement of the escalation not only put a drogue chute on Congress's response; it also ensured that no one could point to the election results as a referendum condemning the escalation.

Four years into this Iraq fiasco, we're still in the same place. The administration still spends more effort spinning the war than on winning it, and it continues to succeed at outmaneuvering the other branches of government because the executive can move faster than the legislature or the judicial system can.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.


  1. How much of this debate is just delaying tactics, much ado about little or nothing, while we're waiting for the inevitable "incident" with Iran...?

    That will end any debate, and it'll be escalation, full speed ahead.

    As we've seen over and over, the American public wants their news boiled down to simple catchphrases, so all this debate will make the average viewer's eyes glaze over. "Bottomline it for me -- Iran's evil? Bomb the F*#K outta them, too!"

    I feel now very much the way I felt around this time in 2003. In spite of all the talk, the invasion was a done deal. History's rhyming again, Mr. Twain!

  2. Yeah, Jeff. Delaying tactics. "Sounds like..."