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By DALE McFEATTERS
Joseph Lieberman — independent senator and Iraq war supporter — is probably not someone the Democrats feel like taking advice from. But in an op-ed piece this week, he urged his colleagues in Congress “to step back and think carefully about what to do next.”
The Democrats were elected on promises both implicit and explicit to get the United States out of Iraq, and a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows growing public support for that position. A majority, 53 percent, says the United States should set a deadline for withdrawal, and a slightly greater number, 56 percent, is opposed to President Bush’s surge of 21,500 more troops.
The new majority Democrats have been in a rush to demonstrate their opposition to the war in concrete ways. The House passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the surge, but Republicans blocked it in the Senate.
Now they are torn between two other ideas, both with significant drawbacks.
Senate Democrats are preparing to rewrite the 2002 resolution authorizing Bush to go to war. This one would limit our objectives in Iraq, thus narrowing the scope of the war, and call for withdrawal in any case by the end of March 2008.
Bush surely realizes that the surge and a highly respected new commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, are his last shot at salvaging the situation there. If this works — and we should know a lot sooner than 2008 if it does — then a deadline becomes an obstacle. If it doesn’t work, the deadline doesn’t matter because we’ll be leaving anyway.
Another proposal in the House — fortunately rapidly losing support — would attach all sorts of training and deployment requirements to the funding for the war, effectively tying up in red tape the administration’s ability to fight the war.
This is a backhanded, almost underhanded, way of trying to stop the war without leaving Democrats open to the charge of failing to fully support the troops already deployed. If Congress truly wanted to stop the war, it could do so tomorrow simply by using its constitutional power to cut off all funding for it.
As Lieberman said: Step back. Think carefully.