By DAN K. THOMASSON
Scripps Howard News Service
April 02, 2007
In the end, after the political charade has played out, the troops will get their funds because no lawmaker wants to be accused of denying them. But the inevitable delay has the potential of truly harming those carrying out our military mission. Telling the beleaguered Iraqi government and its enemies that there is a definite date when all support and security for it will end merely compounds the major mistakes already made in this war. Furthermore, it forces the Iraqi leaders to begin looking at political alliances that are not only threatening to American interests but also could result in a widening of the violence. For instance, the power vacuum in the entire region likely would be filled by Iran.
All this has been argued along the way as lawmakers still friendly to President Bush have tried to convince Democratic leaders that there are other ways of sending an anti-war message to the White House. But the Democrats are increasingly in a confrontational mood. They firmly believe their tiny majority for the first time in 12 years resulted from voter angst over Iraq and Afghanistan and that their fragile control of the Congress would be fleeting if they ignored that.
They clearly are determined to take advantage of a lame duck president whose approval rating is in the low 30s and who is so crippled that he is being openly defied by those who supported his re-election. There seems to be little hope, therefore, that when the lawmakers return from their Easter recess that constituents will have convinced many of them to take another course. In fact, a recent poll shows that 60 percent of Americans favor a deadline for withdrawal.
The House and Senate versions of the military funding proposal include different 2008 withdrawal dates. The Senate bill sets March 28, 2008, as a goal for ending military support while the House establishes a firm deadline of Aug. 31 of next year for U.S. troops to be on the way home. It will take some time to hash out the differences. Meanwhile, the commanders in the field are apparently supposed to keep their fingers crossed that the men and materiel needed to accomplish their assignment will be forthcoming before the pinch is really felt by early summer.
It is quite obvious to everyone that Iraq was itself a bad idea. In fact, it vies with Vietnam as the most ill advised expedition in American history. But nearly every military and diplomatic expert on both sides of the political fence has warned that to force a precipitous withdrawal and to telegraph when that would occur would increase the magnitude of this disaster exponentially. The gap that would leave and the chaos that likely would ensue would make what has gone before look mild.
The current Iraqi government and its forces are simply not ready to assume the burden and won't be for several more years no matter how much is claimed otherwise. Those who make up these forces have proven in one tragedy after another that their loyalties are severely divided, so much so they can't be counted on in the increasing warfare between the Shiites and Sunnis.
Could any of this been avoided? Probably not altogether, but leaving the balance of the Iraqi Army intact after the fall of Saddam Hussein and preserving the Baath Party political infrastructure would have made the coalition task of rebuilding the country much less traumatic. Tens of thousands of armed Iraqi soldiers wouldn't have been dumped onto the streets without means of economic support. But that is all hindsight and does nothing to move us toward the finality most Americans - and obviously the rest of the world - want.
The Democrats have any number
of other ways to pressure the president. Imposing questionably
constitutional deadlines by using the threat of withholding necessary
funding for men and women in harm's way isn't a viable one.
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