Saturday, September 08, 2007

Welcome To The Party, Pal!

For the record, let me state that, generally, I like Dick Durbin, bad hair and all. He was one of the few Senators to stand up against the Iraq war when the vote to authorize came up (in 2002, when he was running for re-election). However, he has voted to fund this war at every opportunity since. I don't think it's unfair to say that, with a re-election campaign on the horizon in 2008, Durbin's comments yesterday could be construed as a grandstand play:
"This Congress can't give President (George W.) Bush another blank check for Iraq," said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, who has always opposed the war but until now voted to fund it.

"I can't support an open-ended appropriation which allows this president to continue this failed policy," he said in a speech at the left-leaning Center for National Policy.

Durbin, from Illinois, said he and Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin were working on limits that could be attached to the next war funding bill, such as limiting troops to conducting counterterrorism operations and training Iraqi security forces.
Baby steps, to be sure, but a limit would be a step forward nonetheless.

Is it enough, though? Given that General Petraeus has already revealed that a major condition for the troop surge, the consolidation of the Iraqi government, is woefully behind any schedule benchmark, shouldn't this bill call for at least defunding the surge, since it's clearly not achieving its goals? After all, this Iraqi reconciliation was cited by Bush himself as a key, if not the key, to the troop surge.

Bush is asking for $200 billion for the Iraq invasion and the Afghanistan war, 70% earmarked for Iraq. By my calculations, about $25,000,000,000 will go towards supporting the surge (which comprises roughly 17% of the troops in Iraq). That should be cut immediately as a first step, with the immediate withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Iraq.

Next, we can redeploy remaining troops to secure the Anbar province, where it's generally agreed there may be some small measure of progress against the benchmarks that were established for Iraq as a whole. Those troops would be there strictly in a role of protecting Iraqi civilians and keeping the peace. Across the rest of Iraq, we would have limited troops deployed in training and counterterrorism details, which would greatly cut back our needs for personnel in country. We could likely pull another 50,000 troops out by next Spring, thus cutting American forces in half in the region.

Durbin's proposal appears to merely draw down some funding, keeping troop levels about constant but re-tasking them...sorry, that's right wing Pentagon them to policing and training details.

That hasn't exactly worked in Baghdad, and I don't see much hope for that tactic to work in too many other places.

Senator Durbin, you and Russ Feingold have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking a stronger stand now. Representative Murtha was hammered two years ago for speaking his mind precisely because he didn't have the weight of history on his side. Yet. While many of us who saw where the doomed Iraq invasion was heading could elicit that history would soon stand foursquare against the aggressor nation, the nation itself hadn't woken to that.

Now we have. Now we can set aside the chattering children of challenged intellect, who are about as relevant to this discussion as whether Pluto is a planet or not, and start to fix a problem that has been brewing since the invasion was announced, five years ago: how the hell do we get out of this mess?

Do it, Senator. You need to.