Iraq war divides Democrats too

The Democratic presidential race is starting to hinge on the question of who really is in the driver's seat when it comes to setting a new course in Iraq.

On the surface, there wouldn't appear to be much disagreement about what Democratic contenders think should happen next.

All of them, from the "top tier" on down, say they want U.S. troops to start coming home — and soon — so the next president isn't saddled with the predecessor's quagmire.

But there's a growing rift between current congressional office-holders and the candidates from outside Washington, D.C., about whether the Democratically controlled Congress is doing enough to force President Bush's hand.

The four U.S. senators in the race point fingers at the White House. They say they are trying to increase pressure on Republican lawmakers to help Democrats overcome Bush's threats to veto anything resembling a firm withdrawal timetable.

But that's not good enough for candidate rivals outside of Congress, who score applause in war-weary crowds by saying Congress has the power to end the unpopular war — and now.

In recent days, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and even long-shot candidate former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel have all turned up the volume in challenging their rivals to flex more of the muscle that voters gave Democrats in the 2006 midterm elections.

"I believe the Congress has the responsibility to force this president to end this war in Iraq," Edwards said Saturday night at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Celebration in Cedar Rapids.

On the stump, Edwards often raises his voice when calling for Democrats to show more "backbone" in dealing with Bush on Iraq and other issues.

That puts the onus on Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York, Barack Obama of Illinois, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Joe Biden of Delaware to back up their end-the-war rhetoric with real action.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson goes further, calling for Congress to pass legislation before summer ends to revoke the war powers resolution it granted Bush in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

Iraq was a hot topic during Sunday night's televised Democratic debate from New Hampshire. Biden directed one of the evening's loudest sound bites at back-seat drivers trying to steer Congress' approach on Iraq.

"I love these guys who tell you they're going to stop the war," Biden said.

Back in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where about a dozen Obama backers gathered at the Irish Democrat Grill to watch the telecast, Obama supporter Josh Linehan said there's a reason that governors get elected president more often than sitting members of Congress — because members of Congress can't just talk about ending the war, they have to keep casting controversial votes and trying to get things done.

"That's one reason it's tough as a senator to get elected (president)," Linehan said. "It must be nice from the cheap seats to say that, but we need to have a plan."

When congressional Democrats — including Sens. Dodd, Clinton, Obama and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio — failed to muster enough votes to cut off Iraq war funding recently, "they missed a good opportunity," Richardson said Saturday. "They've got to do more."

Meanwhile, Gravel told the Rocky Mountain News last week that if he were still in the Senate, he would filibuster if necessary to force senators to debate the war every day until they got the two-thirds majority it would take to overcome a presidential veto threat.

Biden addressed the advantage outsiders have in being able to demand immediate action without having to deal with the realities of vote-counting in Congress.

"I think there are a lot of people in the press and in the country who have not understood (that) we only have 50 votes in the Senate," Biden said before Sunday's debate.

Biden was the only Democratic presidential contender who voted to approve funding for troops in Iraq without the withdrawal timetable that anti-war activists demand. Even so, he has said he supports revoking the congressional war powers resolution, and he has been pushing for all the candidates to accept an in-depth debate focused exclusively on Iraq policy.

Last month, Clinton announced she would join with Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and propose legislation revoking the war powers resolution on its fifth anniversary in October.

"Are you ready to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home and restore America's reputation around the world?" she asked Saturday night in Cedar Rapids.

She got a rousing cheer of "Yeah!" from a crowd of about 1,000 die-hard Iowa Democrats.

But Clinton also injects a dose of political realism, saying the change might not happen until there's a new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"We're going to have to dig ourselves out of a big hole when we take back the White House," Clinton said.



    More than likely we will fill up a small part of the big hole and then call that a great victory. As long as corporate mafias can dictate policy through the government and the media, we just don’t stand a chance.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  2. Ken Hill

    Even if Democrats win the White House and control Congress, I never see the US leaving Iraq completely. We have built 5 or 6 huge bases there and the worlds largest embassy. What–we will abandon those bases and leave them for looters? I do not think so.

    And what about that mega embassy? Sounds like we intend to remain there forever. And what if “terrorists” take over the oil fields? The Democrats will have a hard time explaining to the American public that they left Iraq because it was the right thing to do, when the American public is faced with the prospect of paying $6+/gallon for gasoline. In the long run, the American public does not care how we get cheap gasoline, as long as we do indeed get it.

    We went there to secure oil for US interests. We are not giving that up no matter who is in the White House.

  3. KayInMaine

    As far as I’m concerned, we never did and our troops are over there fighting in an illegal occupation thanks to ole George W. Bush and his Band of Warmongering Thieves. Yep, our country is currently funding an illegal occupation. Great. Just great.

    2008 is going to be one hell of an election year, that is if our lunatic president doesn’t do something desperate before then to anoint himself King. *gagging myself with a spatula*

  4. jrj

    June 6, 2007
    The following is excerpted from an article in the Boise Weekly written by Ted Rall

    Remember, this isn’t about war—it’s about logic. Cutting off funding would do nothing to jeopardize U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. That’s obvious. It would, of course, endanger the war itself. Without Congressional appropriations, Bush would be forced to bring them home. Which would make them, despite the reductionist and false 2003 GOP talking point that the streets of some U.S. cities are more dangerous than Iraq, safer. A lot safer.

    Both parties, with the media playing along, have painted a bleak, transparently ridiculous portrait of besieged American soldiers, surrounded by rabid insurgents. It’s The Alamo 2007, or maybe 2008, and our brave young men and women go down, fighting to the last man (or woman) until they run out of ammo, cursing Washington politicians for failing them. Save the last bullet for me, buddy!

    It is baffling that this fiction prompted any response from the media, or Democratic polls, beyond dismissive laughter. The fact that it carried the day in a congressional vote, without even a word of comment from national barometer Jon Stewart, stands as testimony to the triumph of what Mike Judge termed “idiocracy.”

    “Thank goodness we are finally here,” Republican Congressman John Boehner said in reference to the Democratic agreement to support the war, “choking up” for C-SPAN. “Three and a half months [the time spent on the debate] to respond to our troops and their families is too long,” added his colleague Roy Blunt. What are they talking about? The troops don’t need or want the appropriation. They get a paycheck whether they’re stationed in Iraq or here in the States. The congressional appropriation in question goes to weapons manufacturers, contracting firms such as Halliburton and Iraqi tribal sheiks in the form of bribes. The troops don’t see a cent, much less their families.

    What puts our troops in harm’s way is the war. No war, no worries. Sure, Iraq falls apart (faster). Sure, Iraqis die (faster). But lost in the malarkey is the brutal truth: Voting for more money for the war means more troops get killed and wounded. Again, there are valid arguments for subjecting them to these risks. But there is no logical basis for the claim that the money will make them safer.