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Rhetoric flies while debate rages

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February 14, 2007

By DAVID ESPO

Democrats relentlessly assailed President Bush’s policy in Iraq as a catastrophic failure Tuesday as the House plunged into momentous debate on a war that has lost public support and cost more than 3,100 U.S. troops their lives. “No more blank checks,” declared Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“This battle is the most visible part of a global war” against terrorists, countered the Republican leader, Rep. John Boehner, hoping to limit GOP defections on what loomed as an extraordinary wartime rebuke to the commander in chief. “If we leave, they will follow us home. It’s that simple.”

The Democratic leadership set aside most of the week for the historic debate, expected to culminate in a vote on Friday on a bare-bones, nonbinding resolution that “disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush … to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.”

The 95-word measure adds that “Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States armed forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq.”

The debate was Congress’ first on Iraq since Democrats gained control of the House and Senate in midterm elections shadowed by voter opposition to the war. Decorum carried the day in the chamber — where catcalls are part of near-daily discourse — as Democrats and Republicans took their five-minute speaking turns across the hours.

Passage was a virtually certainty. Democratic leaders said they expected no more than one or two members of their rank-and-file to oppose the resolution. Republicans said that despite quiet lobbying by the White House, they expected at least two dozen GOP lawmakers to swing behind the measure, suggesting that it would command the votes of at least 250 or 260 votes in the 435-member House.

Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would attempt to pass an identical measure later this month. Republicans blocked debate on a different proposal critical of the troop increase earlier this winter, after Democrats refused to give equal treatment to a GOP-backed alternative.

Democrats made clear the nonbinding measure was the beginning of a longer campaign to bring the war to an end.

“A vote of disapproval will set the stage for additional Iraq legislation, which will be coming to the House floor,” said Speaker Pelosi of California, who underscored the significance of the debate by delivering the first speech.

“In a few weeks, the war in Iraq will enter its fifth year, causing thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of casualties, costing hundreds of billions of dollars and damaging the standing of the United States in the international community. And there is no end in sight,” she said.

Boehner followed her to the well of the House seconds later, the first Republican to speak.

“There is no question that the war in Iraq has been difficult. All Americans are frustrated we haven’t seen more success more quickly,” he conceded. Pivoting quickly, he called the Iraq War the latest in a string of conflicts dating to the founding of the nation more than two centuries ago.

“Every drop of blood that has been spilt in defense of freedom and liberty — from the American Revolution to this very moment — is for nothing if we are unwilling to stand against this threat,” he said.

Republican congressional aides said the White House was working against the measure, although presidential press secretary Tony Snow, asked if that was the case, said “no.”

“We’ve made our views known, in terms of what people have to keep in mind. But members of the House and members of the Senate have the freedom to go ahead and write their resolutions and do what they want with them,” he said.

Additionally, ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar met with several Republican lawmakers during the day and warned them of the consequences of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., said one ambassador compared the U.S. involvement in Iraq to open-heart surgery — requiring the surgeon to stay until the job was finished.

One by one, Democrats cast the war in starkly different terms.

“The administration’s policy on Iraq has failed. It failed yesterday, it’s failing today, and it will fail tomorrow,” said Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, serving his first term in Congress after winning his seat last fall. “These failures have left America weakened, not strengthened.”

Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, who served in World War II and has been in Congress since 1955, joined the chorus of critics. “When faced with a choice of approving of the president’s policy or giving a vote of no confidence, the choice is easy,” he said. “I cannot support, nor will I condone, any policy that continues the long train of failure that brought us to this point.”

Republican supporters of the administration countered, but were urged to do so carefully.

“If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge (in troops) or the current situation in Iraq, we lose,” Reps. John Shadegg of Arizona and Pete Hoekstra of Michigan said in a letter to fellow Republicans.

“As in the Cold War, our current struggle is one of survival,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said in floor debate. “The enemy does not mean merely to chase us away. The goal of the Islamist extremist radicals is to destroy us. If we run, they will pursue. If we cower, they will strike.”

“The world is watching. The radical jihadists who oppose us are watching,” said Shadegg, warning against anything that could signal weakness on the part of the United States.

Republicans had sought to offer an alternative measure, drafted by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, that would have prohibited Congress from cutting off funds for the troops. Johnson was a prisoner of war during Vietnam, and Boehner teared up before reporters as he listened to the Texan describe his reaction at the time when he learned of anti-war protests back in the United States.

But Democrats decided not to allow a vote on the GOP proposal, and the House decided, 227-197, to uphold the rejection. Republicans said if it had been allowed to come to a vote, their measure would have exposed divisions among Democrats, some of whom have said they will not vote for any more money for the war.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., echoing the remarks of other party leaders, said Democrats would protect the members of the armed forces in harm’s way. “There will be no defunding which will cause any risk to the troops,” he told a news conference.

Numerous Democrats have expressed a determination to withdraw combat forces from Iraq, but they also say they would do so in a way that did not expose the troops to additional danger.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

4 Responses to Rhetoric flies while debate rages

  1. The South Point

    February 14, 2007 at 9:14 am

    Let’s make this very, very simple… Get… the… HELL… out… of… Iraq!…

    And Afghanistan. And where ever else our mentally ill president and vice-president have gotten us into.

    Holy crap, it’s going to take us forever to re-establish again some kind of worthy reputation to the world after what our presidential and vice-presidential nutcases and their sycophants (who gleefully rushed forward to grovel and lick up whatever amount of presidential and vice-presidential spit that they could) have done.

  2. Kent Shaw

    February 14, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    .

    SEAL has nailed it. I can think of nothing to add.

    .

    There is an excellent video called “Why We Fight”. It can be found and viewed for free on the internet. There is a massive sickness in this country. We have been engaged in militaristic activities all over the globe since WW2. We are so locked into a militaristic interventionist foreign policy that it seems “normal” to us. IT IS NOT. We have over 700 bases all over the world “to protect American interests.” What other country does that? This years military budget is over 620 BILLION DOLLARS. That is more than all other countries combined. And 35 million people in this country, over 10 percent of the population, have no idea where their next meal is coming from. And we are almost 9 trillion dollars in debt, much of that owed to Communist China. Think about all of this. How long can it continue before it all comes crashing down. And Congress “debates” a non-binding resolution. Take a look in the mirror people. You’ll see the cause of the problem right there.

  3. SEAL

    February 14, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Rep. John Boehner, hoping to limit GOP defections on what loomed as an extraordinary wartime rebuke to the commander in chief. “If we leave, they will follow us home. It’s that simple.”

    He has made that stupid statement so many times he has come to believe it. The only reason “they” came to America to attack on 9/11 was because we were over there in their countries in active position of force for many years. They want us to buy their oil and leave them alone. That’s all. If we leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone.

    The only justifiable thing we have ever done in the Middle East was to push Saddam back out of Kuwait. And Daddy Bush was smart enough to not become involved in what Junior has because he knew what they result would be.

    The problem with these repubidiots constantly repeating the lie that they will follow us home is that too many people, even those adamantly opposed to the war, come to believe it. All the while ignoring the real issue which is that you cannot force democracy upon a people or a nation. Democracy must come from within. But what makes the whole declared objective of the Bush administration a complete sham is that the Iraqi people do not want our democracy. Every time anyone has asked any Iraqi the question he/she has said no, they want government according to islamic law. No matter what we do or how we do it, the end result will be just that.

    If, by some miracle we were able to quell the insurgency and establish peace with a representative democracy in place, the minute we left the Iraqis would change it to what they want – governance according to islamic law. Religious autocracy.

    About six months after the war began Bushco established a complete blackout of media coverage. One of the reasons for that was because of the statements being made in the media interviews by the Iraqi people. “We don’t want your democracy.” The farmer says, “A sniper was hiding in the trees so the soldiers bulldozed the whole date palm orchard down and, now, my village has no means of support.”

    One of the most serious coverups is the after affects of the uranium tipped weaponry we used. The heavy ordinance we have been using for many years now is tipped with uranium which makes it super hot enough to penetrate heavy armor such as a tank. It’s so effective it goes right through a tank and into the ground up to one meter in depth. That leaves the destroyed war equipment graveyards contaminated 2-300 times above normal and many areas of the land so riddled with those shells they will be virtually uninhabital for thousands of years. Plus it will get into the water table. The instances of cancers, particularly lukemia, has already risen several hundred percent across the country. Our soldiers are, also, being exposed to that and we will see some of it a few years after they return.

    There are many reasons besides the obvious one of not showing the violence on the 6 &11:00 news like they did during the Vietnam war. If you don’t see it or hear about it, it isn’t happening. Most of the media in Iraq has no clue. They aren’t allowed to go out in the public. The soldiers are under orders to keep their mouths shut.

    So, all we get are administration lies and propoganda based upon the ridiculous goal of “winning.” However, they have never declared what it is they are trying to win. That’s because there is nothing to win except control of the oil. That would require a permanent military occupation of Iraq. That’s why there will be no withdrawal.

  4. Ardie

    February 14, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    What really bothers me is huge amount of money we are spending in Iraq while neglecting our own country. How can it be patriotic to squander the wealth of this country on Iraq? We need to get out now—the sooner the better. Then impeach Bush and Cheney.