Democrats did the right thing

To those who see the world through a partisan prism, last week's congressional vote to continue funding American troops in Iraq looks like a loss for Democrats. On the contrary: Those Democrats who refused to legislate an American military defeat — despite intense pressure from a well-financed, well-organized campaign on the left — deserve great credit.

No serious person doubts that America is at war with Islamist movements that seek the West's destruction. Among those movements, none is more threatening than al Qaeda. And al Qaeda's most active and lethal combatants are in Iraq.

Recently, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, sent a letter to Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, the leader of al Qaeda forces in Iraq. In it, Zawahiri reassures Muhajer that a great and historic victory is close at hand, that soon America will be driven out of Iraq. Among the tactics that both Zawahiri and Muhajer believe are proving effective: murdering innocent women and children to fuel sectarian strife.

Let's stipulate that had President Bush not toppled Saddam Hussein, most of these al Qaeda terrorists would not be in Iraq, they would be somewhere else. The fact remains: They are in Iraq now. They are there because they regard Iraq — an oil rich capital of the Arab world — as the most important theater in what they say is a global power struggle.

They believe they are eroding our will to fight them in Iraq. And perhaps they are. But if they can achieve that goal in Iraq, is there any reason to think they won't be able to achieve it in other parts of the world as well?

Iran's rulers also are America's enemies. After nearly 30 years it should be obvious that "Death to America!" is not just a catchy slogan: It is a long-term goal. And it is a goal toward which they believe they are progressing because we have done nothing over the past three decades to shake their confidence — not when they seized our embassy and took our diplomats hostage, not when they assigned Hezbollah to slaughter our Marines in Beirut, not when they killed our soldiers at Khobar Towers.

And as they move toward acquiring nuclear weapons, aid and abet those killing our troops in Iraq, and take visiting American scholars hostage, we do next to nothing. To them, it looks like the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the Iranian Islamist revolution, was spot on when he stated: "America cannot do a damn thing."

The history of warfare is marked by innovations: the saddle and stirrup, the long bow, gunpowder, the cannon, mechanized cavalry, aircraft and missiles among them.

America's enemies are now testing an equally revolutionary innovation. They are attempting to discover whether it is possible to defeat a superpower with little except suicide-bombers, roadside explosives detonated by cell phones, and a ferocious will to power. They use these weapons to kill whomever they can: infidels or Muslims, combatants or non-combatants, men, women and children alike.

One might have thought that such indiscriminate slaughter would evoke outrage and defiance within the international community. But the international community is selective about what evokes its outrage: reports (later proved to be false) of American guards at Guantanamo mishandling Korans? Absolutely. Beheadings and illustrated al Qaeda instruction books on torture? That gets a yawn.

Congress has authorized four months of funding for Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq. By September, he will need to show that he is making headway with his new strategy of bringing in reinforcements and moving troops out of big bases and into the mean streets of Baghdad and al Qaeda-infested Anbar Province. While he does that, Ryan Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, must push as hard as he can to get Iraq's leaders to make risky compromises and assume heavy responsibilities.

Was it a mistake to invade Iraq? A majority of Americans now think it was. Some charge that Bush misled us; some believe he was misled. Others believe that Bush underestimated our enemies, and overestimated the abilities of his intelligence gatherers and analysts, Pentagon planners and State Department nation-builders.

That issue will be debated for generations. Right now, the more pressing question is this: How do we prevail in Iraq, understanding that failure would be a body blow to America's security and vital interests? The answer, at least in part, is by giving Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker the support they require — not signaling to al Qaeda and Iran that they are only a few more suicide-bombings away from a great and historic victory.

(Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.)


  1. Jellicoe

    What planet does Mr. May come from (and why does he repeat, echo chamber-like — as if god-given truth — the lies that are being broadcast 24/7 by the government and its allies in this hideous excuse for a functioning democracy), and why is he being given access to the public on this website? Shame for this and other articles of similar import that have been sneaking into this website ever since the new management took over. Why not just sell out to the WSJ and retire? — Disappointed daily reader.

  2. Access Of Evil

    Last day of May now.

    We gave Dumbass the money to support a surge and May became the third deadliest month for US troops in the history of the debacle.

    A general on CNN explained it:

    “We’re sending more troops into more dangerous places, and encountering more firefights. That means more trooops can expect to be killed.”

    PJ O’Rourke is right: “It’s cheaper to pay for the oil than it is to steal it.”

  3. wiseoldgranny

    What would happen if he were to go to Iraq …..unembedded……rather than just using the same old talking points and rhetoric?

    What ever happened to facts? Who are our troops fighting in Iraq? Sunnis? Shia? Insurgents? Who are they? 90% of the killed are civilians. When they kick down doors while people are sleeping, arrest people, take them to prison, torture and/or kill them without warrants or charges. How do they know who they are? When they bomb villages and cities, how do they, get only the ‘bad guys’?

    bush will not pull out the troops now, the Iraqis haven’t signed the ‘oil bill’, yet. You know, the one giving 80% of Iraqi oil to US multi-nationals. They haven’t finished the largest ’embassy’ in the world, yet. They haven’t finished all of the permanent bases that congress forbid them to build.

    bush will not pull them out even when this is all done.The troops will have to stay and die, for US (our?) interests. Why? Because, as soon as the US pulled out, the Iraqis would throw out the US installed puppet government, and take back their assets, natural resources and their country.

    Who will we be losing to? Terrorists? No one has said to quit fighting terrorists. But, the Sunnis, the Shia, the insurgents, are not the terrorists!! They are Iraqis fighting for their country and it’s people, no different than any patriotic American would do, if the Russians had done to us, what we have done to Iraq.

    We have devastated a whole country, 2 million Iraqi refugees, almost 1 million dead Iraqis, 1 1/2 million displaced Iraqis in Iraq. God only knows, how many wounded seriously.

    3475 dead American troops, 25,242 wounded American troops, God only knows how many with brain damage and/or uranium poisoning, uncounted. 1 1/2 trillion spent out of the national treasury.

    Who would we be losing to? They figured that about 3% of the fighters in Iraq were terrorists. What if we bombed LA to get the gangs? Ireland to get the IRA terrorists? Chicago to get the mafia? With depleted uranium, phosphorus, and cluster bombs? Have we gone crazy?

    So if you walk away from a huge gang fight and let the police take care of it, are you weak? Or do you wait to fight your own battles and make sure you are on the right side and protecting the right people with every bit of strength you have?

  4. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Mr. May, you say Al Qaeda leaders are salavating about being just a few
    suicide-bombers away from victory.

    The Defense Intelligence Agency eastimated that Al Qaeda represents only 5% percent of insurgent activity, and that there effect on the occupation troops is

    But OK, since your so focused on a negligble threat, will follow your thread.

    Republikan administrations have had it both ways with Islamic factions; the Afghan Services Bureau founded by Osama Bin Laden in 1984 which was created to fund the Afghani resistance against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The Afghan Services Bureau, the forerunner to Al Qaeda was the dance partner of Ronnie Raygun.

    And of course during the Iraq/Iran War the Ronnie Raygun administration provided bucks to both sides. Iran being primarily Shite and a funder of Hezbollah which killed our GI’s in Lebanon in 1983.

    In Lebanon right now Mr. Bush is sending bonus bucks to
    Prime Minister Fouad Sinior who is Sunni, who is giving those Bonus Bucks to Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, and in the Bekaa Valley that have
    ideological ties with Al Qaeda. These Sunni groups are funded as a buffer against Hezbollah. These Sunni groups hate Hezbollah, but they hate Americans even more.

    The Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, has very close ties to the Iranian
    Government which supports Hezbollah.

    Another partner of Bush, Prince Bandar, is Saudi; Saudi Arabia has a majority of Sunnis in its population. Prince Bandar who is the Saudi national-security adviser and close friend of the Bush family has informed Bush that if he
    re-deploys US troops out of Iraq, letting the Shites have control, that Saudi Arabia will fund Sunni Insurgents against the government of Nouri al-Maliki.

    Bottom Line Mr. May. Just what the hell do you mean about the US prevailing
    militarily in Iraq. I still don’t know what that means. We won the War, it is now an occupation in the middle of a civil war. What exactly does Bush have to show
    for in the fifth year of this occupation. Iraqis dying by the hundreds every day, with very limited clean drinking water, and electricity at pre-war levels. A barrel of oil before the war was $18.00 and now its $70.00 a barrel. This war is a boon
    to Haliburton and all the other slut contracting companies filling their pockets
    with taxpayer bucks.

    This Godamn war is of no benefit to this country. This war is well on its way to
    bankrupting our nation so the Neo-Cons can destroy any remnants of the New Deal and Great Society domestic programs which is in the cross hairs of the Leo Strauss inspired Nut Cases to destroy.

  5. Even Steven Monton

    Dems and Repubs…….one beast with two heads.

    An illusion, that’s what the difference between Dems and Repubs is, just look at the results. The results speak for themselves.


    What have they promised, and what have they actually delivered?

    The democrats and their non-binding resolutions are nothing but a miserable disappointment to those who voted for them in hopes that the new members would actually represent the peoples wishes, and change the direction of this failed neocon agenda.

    The neocon agenda has been a massive failure for the USA.

    Then again, if the neocon agenda was to try and cripple the USA financially, governmentally (and the peoples faith in government with scandals), militarily, while destroying our good standing in the eyes of the world…..then it has been a marvelous success.

    It couldn’t have continued (this long), if not for the Democrats incompetence (intended or otherwise), failing on EVERY SINGLE one of thier chances to make a change in the direction US foreign policy has taken for the past six (or so) years.

    I don’t know everything about foreign policy, and I do not have “insider info” or am privy to classified documents, but when I see my countrymen (and women) dying, the dollar tanking, while prices are rising, the peoples faith in government collapsing, and society as a whole ignoring all of the problems right in front of their eyes…..something is wrong.

    But hey……….Cliff May seems to think everythng’s wonderful.

  6. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Yes! The Damn Dems have screwed the pooch numerous times
    before they got their majority in the House using that as an excuse for not being able to temper Bush, but even after they did wield real capability to bear…

    ‘When danger reared its ugly head, Nancy & Harry turned and fled’

    -Brave -Brave -Brave -Brave Democrats!!!

  7. Steve Horn

    So we’re at war with a system of beliefs. That’s what I get from the commentary of Mr. May.

    Our nation was founded on the skeletons of “non-believers” whom the early settlers “discovered” when they arrived here. Through displacement, disease and war we drove the native population off of the land we desired. I understand the myth that we were founded on the freedom of relegion – but that is a farce – we were founded on freedom to practice relegion which our government condones and understands.

    Witness the insertion of “under god” in our pledge as a way to distinguish ourselves from the evil athiests – the communists (of whom we were terrified) – in the 1950’s.

    Could it be fear of conquest that’s driving this “war on terror”? I’m starting to think so.

    It would appear that we are terrified by the thought of the current Christian domination of the world being replaced by Islamic dominance. We’re afraid of something different. Mr. May seems to be a bit more terrified than most, perhaps due to the fact that if the war ends, if terror subsides, his “think tank” will cease to exist, eliminating both his job and his reason for being.

    You can try to fight evolution – I’m sure that many native populations, faced with Christian domination, fought like hell to stop the invading hordes from taking over their land. But with God on our side (as Dylan penned) we persisted and won. Perhaps our time is over.

    Mr. May appears to be a reactionary – able to justify any means to the end of preserving his desired way of life. That said, I notice that he’s writing from a think, rather than an abrams, tank.

    If you harbor such power feelings in support of the fighting in Iraq, I ask you, Mr. May, why are you not participating in it?




    The Republicans have always been the traitors and thieves. The Democrats have been the enablers. That is the essence of any one party system. So, 3rd parties are needed to represent those people who are smart enough to actually get something done against the immediate interests of the filth who run this country. The fundamentalists are actually a 3rd party Nazi movement and their success shows what a third party can do. Progressives can learn a lot from them. The power of hatred is vital in politics, for instance.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  9. mary cali


    Cliff May is just another delusional right winger who apparently thinks we need to continue hemorrhaging blood and treasure in Iraq until we “win” so we don’t look “weak”. May does not suggest that we need to fully mobolize the US, reinstitute the draft, and raise revenue in order to pay for “winning” in Iraq. May and his rightwing friends never suggest that we might have to rescind some of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy in order to pay for this war. I assume they are fine with the fact that we are borrowing heavily from the likes of China and that the interest on the debt will go to Chinese citizens and not Americans.

    There is no debate that we never had enough of a force to maintain security in Iraq. That is proven every day as Americans and Iraqis are killed in the chaos we helped create.

    Nor will there be a debate for generations as May states about whether going into Iraq was a good idea. Other than for neocons, such as himself, invading Iraq has turned out to be a disastrous mistake. Iraq was a contained threat not an imminent one. By invading Iraq, we have created more terrorists, further inflammed the Mid East, empowered Iran while weakening our own military. What is to debate about that?

    If we are not willing to make the sacrifices, money and blood, required to “win” in Iraq, than it is time to redeploy the troops. We need to get them off the mean streets of Iraq where they are targets for Shia, Sunni, Al Qaeda and every other hostile entity that we helped to create. May fails to mention how overstretched our military is. We need to rebuild. What is worse than looking weak? Looking weak and stupid as we do now allowing this situation to continue.

  10. Carl Nemo

    Great rant Stoney and your are “spot-on” concerning their Bushista “Wizard of Oz” schtick; i.e, a little man, dubya, hiding behind a shogi screen, rattling his sheet of tin and going “boo”. America needs to realize we are being governed by “evil” village idiots! Enough is enough! It’s a damn shame that recall efforts as well as impeachment are so byzantinely complex and slow. It’s like watching “paint dry” unless our elected reps get some fire in their collective bellies and become motivated to make the necessary sea-change. They are all sleeping in the same bed together sharing the fleas of corruption!

    Carl Nemo **==

  11. Stoney13

    What is WRONG with all you Neocons!!! What strange thing crawled up your collective asses, and ate your brains?

    How much plainer could it be? WE SCREWED UP BIG TIME!!! Don’t give me that sad, old “We must fight them there, or we will have to fight them here!” shit! We’ve heard it all before, and we’re sick of it!

    FDR said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”

    Bush said, and continues to say “Be afraid!!! Be very very afraid!!!” Well fuck fear!!! We’re sick of his self righteous crap! We’re sick of sending our young people over to a place that nobody feels we have any business being for the glory of Haliburton, and the majesty of Exon-Mobil! Do you and the rest of your type think we can’t see that you’re funded by Big Oil? Do you think we are so stupid? Do you think we don’t know about “The Thirty Year Plan” that gives all the oil in Iraq to Bush’s buddies in the oil business?


    Stoney Browning

  12. Carl Nemo

    Based on Cliff May’s editorial I get the impression he ascribes to a modern day version of “Head East young man…head East!” Thet thar oil is r’s fer the takin’…!

    Carl Nemo **==

  13. jverner

    Mr. May says: “No serious person doubts that America is at war with Islamist movements that seek the West’s destruction. Among those movements, none is more threatening than al Qaeda. And al Qaeda’s most active and lethal combatants are in Iraq.”

    Let’s pick this apart. America at war with Islamist movements? “At war” I cannot buy – what’s happening is that America is occupying oil-rich lands and to hell with the inhabitants. As my ‘winger brother-in-law once told me, “our oil is under their sand.”

    Sentence 2: Actually, I agree. So why are we funding a military presence (I can’t call it a war – we’re being shot at by everyone, so there’s really no other side) in Iraq? Al Qaeda originated in Afghanistan, and that’s where they still are. But Afghanistan has no oil. QED.

    Final sentence: I’m a serious person and I strongly doubt this supposed “fact.” It’s a heck of a reach from the first two sentences.

    All these statements smack of “everyone knows that [fill in the blank],” a technique in argument that no serious person would leave unchallenged.

    What are your sources, Mr. May? Are we to base United States foreign policy on what “everyone knows?”

  14. bjiller

    Maybe the Dems did the right thing, maybe not. But Mr. May’s argument that they did raises many questions.

    Since all of our military might is tied down in Iraq (except for the two divisions tied down in Afghanistan), how are we to “shake” Iran’s confidence and prevent them from developing the bomb? Air strikes will not be effective to destroy Iran’s nuclear program–Iran has undoubtedly buried their plants below bunker buster depth. Why do you think the Feds wanted to have that huge test blast in Nevada recently? Are we to lose what remains of our international legitimacy by using nuclear weapons in a first strike? If we have to go in on the ground, where do we get the troops to send in to seize Iran’s nuclear plants?

    What do we do if we simply do not have the troops available to simultaneously “stay the course” in Iraq and invade Iran? What is more important, avoiding a tactical defeat in Iraq, or preventing “Death to America” Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons?

    The “we can’t lose face” argument is what got tens of thousands of soldiers unnecessarily killed in Vietnam. We didn’t end up fighting the Commies on the beaches of San Diego.

    Nobody wants to lose, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. Sometimes you have to withdraw and regroup for a strategically more important battle, even if that means a tactical “victory” for your opponent. Caesar withdrew from (aka retreated, aka ran, aka was defeated by) Pompey at Dyrrhachium, thereby saving his army to win the decisive victory at Pharsalus.

    We have broken our sword and simply do not have the military capability to go into Iran and seize their nukes. That’s true even if invading Iraq was the right thing to do, which is a highly debatable proposition.

    The saddest thing is that this was all predicted. We ignored the joint chiefs’ Iraq war plans, which, as Shinseki told Congress before the invasion, required hundreds of thousands of troops to maintain the peace after winning the war, and ignored the ICAs on what would happen after we deposed Saddam.

    You can’t blame the American people for not continuing to trust those who told them more than four years ago that Iraq would be easy and pay for itself. The GOP has only itself to blame for the loss of public support for this war.

  15. jgw

    I am constantly amazed at them that talk about ‘losing’ and ‘winning’. I have yet to see a definitive explanation as to what it all means. What, for instance, are we going to ‘win’? If we win the ‘war’ what does it mean? Those believers, that I know, tell me that it means that we will then have defeated our enemy(s). Then the question becomes; “Just who are our enemies?” and that calls up a whole multitude which all seem to fall into the terrorist camp. “terrorist”, of course, refers to those who are practicing “terrorism” which is a strategy that even the good ‘ol USA has used now and again. This means we are either are, or only sometimes, our own enemy? This all gets just a little confusing.

    On the other hand ‘losing’ becomes just as confusing. If we were to leave, right now, will we have lost? Well, maybe. Perhaps the fact that we would no longer be losing lives might mean we have won? (my head is beginning to hurt!). Oh – if we leave terrible things will happen! (life on earth ends, we get smitten, it just goes on and on. There is, however, one threat that just might be true – that Islam will turn on itself and REALLY have at it. I think what this also means is that terrorists of Islam (unlike, of course, our home growed Christian terrorists (historically, however….)) may actually wreck each other. Seems to me this means that their loss is our gain and they might even be then, responsible for ‘our’ victory?

    I have never seen a full list of terrorists (those are secret I guess). One can only wonder, however, just how many organizations fall under that umbrella. Heck, I suspect a better question might even be how many sects and cults of Islam are involved in terrorist tactics. I do know one thing. If we got the hell out of there and got out of their way, and leave them to their own devices, there are going to be a LOT fewer to deal with at the end of the day. We are simply not necessary to fight this battle!

    john white
    Port Angeles, WA

  16. geyser

    The previous posters have taken apart Mr. May’s thoughts and ideas. What Mr. May has done, perhaps without him even realizing it, but set the President and Republicans into a victory dance. It doesn’t matter that almost 80% of Americans wanted to see the fighting end, stop the killing of our troops and bring them home. Stopping the fighting would also stop the draining of American dollars, which has put Billions of American dollars into Iraq with nothing to show for it. Private Company’s and Contractors have made millions of dollars and as long as we stay, they will continue to make millions.
    Mr. May did not go further then tomorrow, what will happen when mr. bush becomes ex president, will the new president keep on staying the course? Mr. May did not say how long until we acheive victory, do we just keep on, keeping on? Will we have to bring back the Draft, it will be to that point sooner rather then later? Will this be our version if the 100 Years War?
    Up to right now there is no indication that the end of fighting is even remotely close. As we are the invading country, albiet with the wrong plans, we are not close to taking a lead in the fighting, in fact we are getting our ass beat.
    Mr. May must have little regard for human life or just enjoys playing with other peoples lives. He comes off as a very cold person, with the strike of a key he condemns hundreds of lives to a painfull death. How many lives will it take to save our face or rather the face of mr. bush, in his own mind? To me and I would think millions more, mr. bush can no longer save face, for it is the face of death.

    Taking One Day at a Time