No wonder Americans are confused and frustrated. From Iraq comes war news that’s as bad as ever. From Capitol Hill comes a war policy debate in which the House of Representatives sounded like a wholly owned subsidiary of Jingo R Us.
As House partisans spun things, America’s choice seemed to be either “cut and run,” surrendering to the “evildoers,” or endless “grotesque” failures dooming U.S. troops to fight and die in an unwinnable war. “Is it al Qaeda or is it America?” thundered one Republican hack. His Democratic equal addressed the House with hands tied by a thick rope, an idiotic made-for TV protest of a parliamentary rule. Next came the Senate, where legislators are smoother and savvier, but clarity is not among their virtues.
So today we’ll clear things up and find the war policy that’s in the best interests of the U.S. and Iraqi governments, troops and people. Right after this pop quiz:
1) Who said: “We envisage the U.S. troop presence by year’s end to be under 100,000, with most of the remaining troops to return home by the end of 2007.”
Was it: (A) Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., introducing his troop withdrawal plan, supported by many liberal activists? (B) Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., introducing his own withdrawal plan? (C) Vice President Cheney? (D) All the above? (E) None of the above?
2) Who said: “The eventual removal of (U.S. and coalition) … troops from Iraqi streets will help the Iraqis, who now see foreign troops as occupiers rather than the liberators they were meant to be.”
Was it: (A) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.? (B) House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.? (C) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld? (D) All the above? (E) None of the above?
3) Who said: “…the removal of foreign troops will legitimize Iraq’s government in the eyes of its people. … Iraq has to grow out of the shadow of the United States and the coalition, take responsibility for its own decisions, learn from its own mistakes, and find Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems.”
Was it: (A) Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright? (B) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice? (C) National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley? (D) All the Above? (E) None of the above?
The Answers: For each question, the correct answer is (E) because the quotes were authored by Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, a man whose name is always pronounced carefully in public (and come to think of it must be on the lips of readers who feel, with due justification, that they were just dirty-tricked). But wait, Iraq’s national security adviser is a soft-spoken man who wields great influence in his government. His words were from his most remarkable op-ed article in the June 20 Washington Post.
What made the article so remarkable was that Iraq’s national security adviser has articulated a withdrawal plan that must surely be to the liking of all liberal Democrats and even the president.
Liberals who favor a prompt withdrawal of U.S. troops can surely endorse it. John Kerry’s plan, after all, calls for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by July 2007 except those “essential to completing the mission of standing up to Iraqi security forces, conducting targeted counter-terrorist operations and protecting U.S. personnel and facilities.” So those two plans are within just a few months of each other.
President Bush must also like the idea. After all, if Iraq’s national security adviser says it is by far in the best interests of his government and people, how can Bush-Cheney et al object? Lost in the too-political war debates were crucial questions about what U.S. troops should now be doing in Iraq.
Do we really think it is smart to have U.S. troops going door to door in villages like Habitha or should that be done by Iraqi troops, who after all speak the language of the villagers? Do we really think U.S. troops should be spread so thin that they are deployed at checkpoints with just a few in each of three humvees vulnerable to being kidnapped and killed? Those answers of course must be: No! But U.S. troops should continue flying F-16s, dropping smart bombs and guiding them down the chimneys of insurgents, as they did in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Enacting a mandatory troop withdrawal date might deprive the United States and Iraq of leeway for contingencies. And even liberals may agree that it is not necessary to do so if Bush seizes this moment to publicly declare that this farsighted Iraqi strategist’s words are America’s new policy for war-and-peace.
(Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at martin.schram(at)gmail.com.)