Iraq: Debunking the Escalation Myths

The Progress Report

Nearly seventy percent of Americans oppose President Bush's escalation plan, as do top military leaders, Bush's staunchest international ally, and the Iraq Study Group.


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Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is “installing in her Capitol Hill office energy-efficient lights that dim in response to natural light.” At her urging, five other senators are doing the same. These efforts “could cut electricity consumption as much as 50 percent in participating offices.”


CALIFORNIA: State bans toxic dry-cleaning chemical.

COLORADO: “Colorado’s new law banning state spending on illegal immigrants has cost more than $2 million to enforce – and has saved the state nothing.”

MAINE: Maine rejects REAL ID.

EDUCATION: After Michigan’s ban on affirmative action and declining minority enrollment rates, “public universities are scrambling to find race-blind ways to attract more blacks and Hispanics.”


THINK PROGRESS: Conservative senators attempt to abolish federal minimum wage.

NRDC ACTION: Take action to help save polar bears from global warming.

DAILY KOS: Pelosi says Bush told her escalation would succeed because “I told them it had to.”

WALMART WATCH: Wal-Mart to pay $33 million in overtime wages it failed to pay to employees.


“But the biggest problem we face right now, is the danger than the United States will validate the terrorist’s strategy, that in fact what will happen here, with all of the debate over whether or not we ought to stay in Iraq. … That we don’t have the stomach for the fight. That’s the biggest threat.”
— Vice President Cheney, 1/24/07


“Oh, I’m so sorry the vice president so underestimates the people of this country. He has so little faith in this country to say something like that. … [M]aybe the vice president should tell the families of those who have lost their lives, over 3,000, and over 23,000 wounded, some very seriously for life, that they don’t have the stomach? Come on, let’s get real here.”
— Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), 1/24/07


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  January 26, 2007
Judd Legum
Debunking the Escalation Myths
Go Beyond The Headlines
Coffee and Donuts Not Included
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Judd Legum

The Progress Report team would like to bid a fond farewell to our great friend, mentor, and former editor, Judd Legum, who is leaving the Center for American Progress for the exhilarating confines of a presidential campaign. Please send your goodbye wishes to We miss him already.

Debunking the Escalation Myths

Nearly seventy percent of Americans oppose President Bush’s escalation plan, as do top military leaders, Bush’s staunchest international ally, and the Iraq Study Group. After four years in the shadows, Congress has begun to use its power as a co-equal branch of government to do something about the administration’s failed policies in Iraq. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution condemning Bush’s escalation strategy. “It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq,” the resolution said, “particularly by escalating the United States military force presence.” The Senate will debate this measure along with several others next week, and a “vote could come as early as the week of Feb. 5.” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), who strongly opposes escalation, explained why a healthy debate on the issue is crucial: “I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this. What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think?” Americans are mobilizing against the President’s plan. A protest rally has been planned for this weekend in Washington, D.C., while other groups such as Americans Against Escalation in Iraq plan to lobby members of Congress “who have spoken out against the war, but who have so far declined to pledge support for a resolution denouncing Bush’s plan to increase the number of troops.” In response, the White House and others have put out several myths they think will win support for their plan. The Progress Report debunks the right wing’s talking points:

MYTH #1 — OPPOSING ESCALATION UNDERMINES THE TROOPS: A recent Military Times poll of active-duty forces found 39 percent of those polled think troop levels should remain the same or should decrease. Only 38 percent support sending more troops into Iraq, with 13 percent supporting a complete withdrawal. “Our troops are on the Internet constantly,” Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said recently. “They know very well there’s a debate going on in this country.” Yet the administration and its conservative allies continue to push the false premise that opposition to the administration’s failed policies — which once again became painfully evident last Saturday — means a lack of support for the troops. “In Iraq, all of this undermines the morale of the military and makes their task that much harder on the ground,” the Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page said about the ongoing debate. Vice President Cheney said of Senate passage of the anti-escalation resolution, “It would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.” Hagel hit back hard against the charges. “When I hear…impugning motives and patriotism to our country, not only is it offensive and disgusting but it debases the whole system of our country and who we are,” he said. “Can’t we debate the most critical issue of our time, out front, in front of the American people? They expect it. Are we so weak, we can’t do that?”

MYTH #2 — PROGRESSIVES DON’T HAVE A PLAN: “It’s the only game in town,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said of escalation. Cheney claimed “the critics have not suggested a policy.” Tony Snow added, “If you’ve got a better proposal that will achieve success in Iraq, help Iraqis get swiftly into the lead, and will demonstrate support for American forces, let us hear it.”  Listen closely, Tony. Over a year and a half ago, the Center for American Progress released a responsible Iraq strategy that called for comprehensive strategic redeployment. The strategy, which was updated in May 2006, calls for reducing U.S. troops to 60,000 in six months and to zero in eighteen months, while redeploying troops to Afghanistan, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf to contain the threat of global terror networks. The plan also calls for engaging in diplomacy to resolve the conflict within Iraq by convening a Geneva Peace Conference, establishing a Gulf Security initiative to deal with the aftermath of U.S. redeployment from Iraq, and putting Iraq’s reconstruction back on track with targeted international funds. The American public and the Iraqi public support phased withdrawal.

MYTH #3 — WE OWE THE PRESIDENT ONE LAST SHOT: “Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq,” Bush said during his State of the Union address, “and I ask you to give it a chance to work.” “I think it deserves a chance to see if it will work,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said. “We should do everything in our power to help make it work,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said, “and that begins by giving it a chance and not criticizing it before the strategy even has a few days to work out.” This talking point ignores the fact that similar strategies have been tried — and failed — twice before. During the last six months, the United States has increased — or “surged” — the number of American troops in Baghdad by 12,000, yet the violence and deaths of Americans and Iraqis has climbed alarmingly, averaging 960 a week since the latest troop increase. This past summer, Bush announced a major effort to secure Baghdad, stating at a news conference that thousands of U.S.-led coalition troops would be moved into the city. Violence intensified throughout the country, and U.S. deaths in Iraq spiked.

MYTH #4 — HAGEL IS THE ONLY CONSERVATIVE CRITIC: The White House is trying to downplay the growing discontent among conservatives about Bush’s policies. Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked Cheney recently if they were losing the support from conservatives. “Well, I don’t think Chuck Hagel has been with us for a long time,” Cheney said. Asked for a comment on the escalation resolution, Tony Snow said there had been “no real surprises” because Hagel voted for it, ignoring the fact that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was the only member of the Foreign Relations Committee to express support for the president’s plan. Other influential conservative voices — including those of Sens. John Warner (R-VA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Sam Brownback (R-KS) — have said they will not support the plan. (See where all members of Congress stand HERE.)

Under the Radar

IRAQ — ROCKEFELLER SAID CHENEY EXERTED ‘CONSTANT’ PRESSURE ON PAT ROBERTS: Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) said in an interview that Vice President Dick Cheney exerted “constant” pressure on the former chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), to stall an investigation into the Bush administration’s use of flawed intelligence on Iraq. The so-called Phase II report on the administration’s use of pre-war intelligence was delayed for over two years. Two of its five portions were finally released in Sept. 2006. Rockefeller said that he knew that the Vice President attended regular policy meetings in which he conveyed White House directions to conservative Capitol Hill staffers. They “just had to go along with the administration,” he said. During the course of the Phase II investigation, Roberts made numerous contradictory statements, stating early on, “It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done.” Later, he said it would be “a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further.” In Nov. 2005, Roberts said the report would soon be released. But the former chairman delayed the release for nine more months before it was public.

 Six months ago, Harper’s Ken Silverstein reported that “in spite of pressure from CIA analysts, intelligence czar John Negroponte was blocking a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq.” NIEs represent the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community. Despite pressure from Congress, the administration insisted it could not complete the NIE until Jan. 2007. Last week, however, an administration intelligence official told senators that the report is still not complete. According to Silverstein, Senate hearing attendees “believe that senior intelligence officials are stalling because an NIE will be bleak enough to present a significant political liability.” On Wednesday, NPR host Diane Rehm may have revealed why the NIE remains so politically sensitive. On her national radio show, Rehm said, “It’s my understanding that the National Intelligence Estimate…is going to suggest that adding troops is the wrong way to go, that it’s not going to improve the situation.” (Click here to listen to audio.) On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the House and Senate intelligence committee chairmen wrote President Bush “urging prompt completion of a national intelligence estimate on Iraq first requested by Congress six months ago.”

Social conservatives who have been longtime loyalists of President Bush are speaking out in anger about the President’s silence on divisive right-wing issues. Cultural conservatives who have become accustomed to hearing Bush cater rhetorically to their wishes found “little to cheer” in his speech Tuesday night. In a video address entitled, “A Lifeless State of the Union,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said, “I believe the president failed to challenge the new majority to advance core family and cultural issues. What will become of the culture of life, the defense of marriage and permanent family-friendly tax policies?” Bill Lowry, executive vice president of the American Conservative Union observed that he thought “the president left a lot of conservatives shaking their heads” by avoiding the issues atop their agenda. “We’re disappointed that he didn’t mention cultural issues at all,” said Rich Lowry, editor of National Review magazine. According to the Wall Street Journal, the administration is now being forced to defend itself against criticism from the right. “Yesterday morning, the weekly meeting of conservatives that is convened by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, a White House ally, was marked by ‘tense exchanges‘ with administration press secretary Tony Snow.”

Think Fast

Prime Minister al-Maliki’s presentation of a new Baghdad security plan to the Iraqi Parliament yesterday “broke down in bitter sectarian recriminations, with Mr. Maliki threatening a Sunni Arab lawmaker with arrest and, in response, the Sunni speaker of Parliament threatening to quit.” They eventually approved the plan.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday to explore whether Congress has the authority to cut off funding for the war in Iraq. “This hearing will help inform my colleagues and the public about Congress’s power to end a war and how that power has been used in the past,” Feingold said. See the witness list here.

“The word I would use to describe my position on the bench is lonely,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 73, tells USA Today. “This is how it was for Sandra [Day O’Conner]’s first 12 years,” she said. “Neither of us ever thought this would happen again. I didn’t realize how much I would miss her until she was gone.”

The White House has “authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranians who are believed to be working with Iraqi militias,” a shift from an old policy of detaining Iranians “and then releasing them after a few days, which the Bush administration felt didn’t go far enough.” 

The Bush administration is asking a federal circuit court to throw out a lawsuit challenging the legality of the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program because the government claims the issue is now “moot.” The Justice Department memo states that “the surveillance activity” being challenged “does not exist.”

Fox News said Thursday that it “planned to broadcast footage from ABC’s controversial miniseries The Path to 9/11′ that was edited out of the docudrama amid criticism that it inaccurately portrayed the Clinton administration’s response to the terrorism threat.” It will be aired Sunday night on “Hannity’s America.”

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who once worked closely with the Bush administration, has rejected President Bush’s escalation plan: “In my assessment, we do not necessarily need an increase in the strength (of US forces). We are not engaged in a conventional war against an invading army or something of the sort.”

And finally: Who are you calling ‘freshman’? That term has become the latest politically-incorrect word, according to House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). Newly elected Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) told the crowd that he “‘suspected’ it had something to do with the word ‘new’ being more appealing to the public than ‘freshman,’ which can be seen by some as derogatory.”

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