The Iraq Study Group has spoken. The Washington elders, led by Bush family fixer Jim Baker III, were brought in to give Dubya a reality check. But while the eminences pointed out that Iraq is a bad situation that is getting worse, Bush is unconvinced and is seeking more input.
The Study Group reported, among other things, that it agreed with the goal of US policy, as stated by the president: "an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself." But going on four years after US forces toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, we have no confidence Iraqi forces can defend the Green Zone in Baghdad, much less secure the road downtown from the airport. Just one member (former Sen. Chuck Robb, D-Va.) dared to leave the Green Zone when the group visited in October. Bush certainly didn't risk a trip to Baghdad when he met Prime Minister Maliki on Nov. 30. They conferred at the Four Seasons hotel in Amman, Jordan, instead.
As we have said before, when the US entered Iraq, Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but he was a secular dictator who had nothing to do with al Qaeda, and he was an enemy of Iran. Islamic jihadists were isolated in northern Iraq, where Saddam couldn't get at them. But Bush invaded and liquidated the Ba'athist regime, which was dominated by minority Sunni Moslems. The Shi'ite majority, which now rules, is the same sect as Iran's majority, making them a natural ally.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who in 2002 voted against authorizing Bush to attack Iraq, called the Baker report "a classic Washington compromise," drawn up by political insiders "who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism." The report "does not do the job of extricating us from Iraq in a way that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan and in Somalia, which are every bit as important as what is happening in Iraq."
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who used to support the war and occupation, said on the Senate floor Dec. 7 that the US military's "tactics have failed" and Bush's Iraq policy "is absurd" and "may even be criminal." On ABC's This Week Dec. 10, Smith elaborated on his criticism of Bush, calling his Iraq policy a "dereliction" and "deeply immoral." Smith said the death of 10 soldiers on Dec. 6 made him go from "steamed to boiled" about Bush's failed policies.
He's only the first Republican senator to "cut and run." He won't be the last to bug out, as popular support for Bush's Iraq policies has shrunk to 21%. The only question is how many American soldiers will die before we swallow our pride.
Ted Rall gives plenty of reasons to get out on page 19. Joe Galloway, a respected war reporter for Knight Ridder Newspapers and now a columnist for McClatchy Newspapers, recently wrote, "There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there's only one way to leave Iraq: Load our people up on their trucks and tank transporters and Bradleys and Humvees and head for the border. Now."
The US military death toll has crossed the 2,900 mark, with well over 20,000 wounded, and no end in sight, he noted. Some politicians propose to send more soldiers -- as many as 100,000 more -- in search of a victory of some kind.
Even if we had those troops to send -- which we don't -- there is doubt they would do much good.
"The time to use overwhelming force, according to the Caspar Weinberger-Colin Powell doctrine, is when you launch an invasion," Galloway wrote. "Ratcheting up later is just so 1965, and so hopeless a gesture when the situation has already gone to hell."
He noted, "There's no victory waiting for President Bush in Iraq, and nothing that his father's friends say or do can save him from an ignominious end to his presidency in two years and two months, or from the judgment of history."
He added, "What we need to do is what none of the commissions and their reports dared to suggest: Begin withdrawing American forces from Iraq right now. Not in 2008. Not after the American death toll has crossed 5,000. Not just in time for a presidential election.
"If you worry about the future of Iraq, don't. It will remain what it's always been: a violent, angry land of warring tribes only occasionally beaten and bludgeoned into submission by a homegrown despot like Saddam Hussein.
"If you worry about added turmoil and instability in the Middle East, pull some of those departing American forces back to Kuwait and leave them there on standby. Then redirect thought, energy and effort into salvaging Afghanistan, finding Osama bin Laden, saving Lebanon, negotiating peace between Israel and its enemies, rebuilding the US Army and Marine Corps and, oh yes, ending the uncivil war between Republicans and Democrats."
Lawrence O'Donnell recently noted on Air America Radio that the terms Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reached with the North Vietnamese in 1973 were the same ones that were on the table when Richard Nixon took office in 1969. In the meantime, 20,501 US soldiers were killed and 102,270 were wounded.
We are faced with a similar situation in Iraq. US forces can continue to referee a civil war between Islamic factions and ethnic groups and lose American lives and limbs a Humvee at a time. Or we can stop our losses, begin an orderly withdrawal and let the Iraqis get their civil war going in earnest.
It won't do the Democratic Party any good to try to impeach the president until the Republican Party decides it can no longer afford to defend George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
The new Democratic majority in the House probably could pass articles of impeachment against Bush and Cheney, just as the Republican House in 1999 brought articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton, but conviction requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate. If all 100 senators are present, 67 senators are needed. As it stands now, Democrats would be hard-pressed to muster a majority to convict, while Republicans would unite in defense of their president. As you will recall, the Republican Senate in 1999 failed to tally a simple majority to convict Bill Clinton. Ultimately their failure discredited the Republican Congress more than it did Clinton.
Impeachment supporters note that in January 2006 a Zogby poll found that 52% of respondents said Congress should consider impeaching the president if he ordered Americans wiretapped without court approval. But Chris Bowers of MyDD.com noted Dec. 7 that at least five other polls show the public opposes impeachment by a 2-to-1 margin. Public opinion might change after Reps. Henry Waxman and John Conyers and Sens. Pat Leahy and Carl Levin have a few months to pass subpoenas around Washington and see what sort of headlines the resulting hearings create. But it will take 16 Republican senators feeling the heat back home before new Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell considers making that trip to the White House to let Karl Rove know that Bush and Cheney have to be thrown over the side.
Until then, Democrats should play down impeachment talk and concentrate on oversight of federal agencies, probing war profiteering and passing bills that actually help the working and middle class. Focus on increasing the minimum wage, expanding Medicare, renegotiating trade agreements to protect labor and health standards, enact lobbying and ethics reforms and, if necessary, cut off defense appropriations to force Bush to bring troops home from Iraq. With the success Democrats had running against Bush in 2006, after softening him up during the next two years they'll have even more fun running against Bush and his enablers in 2008. -- JMC
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