Iraq: Redeployment Debate Begins Anew
Iraq: Redeployment Debate Begins Anew
The Levin-Reed amendment provides the long-overdue start of a redeployment and real "strategic reset" of our presence in the Middle East.
|JULY 16, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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Redeployment Debate Begins Anew
Today, the Senate debates a bipartisan amendment to the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill offered by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI), which would “require the president to begin reducing the number of American troops in Iraq within four months and to transition the mission of our remaining military forces there to force protection, training of Iraqi Security Forces, and counter-terrorism missions.” Currently, the President’s “New Way Forward” in Iraq — the so-called “surge” — is six months old and has only inflamed Iraq’s anarchic civil war. Casualties among U.S. forces have surged, political progress in Iraq has halted, popular support for the war has tanked, and conservative members of Congress are defecting from Bush’s failed policies in record numbers. The Levin-Reed amendment provides the long-overdue start of a redeployment and real “strategic reset” of our presence in the Middle East.
A GROWING MAJORITY: Today’s debate marks the third time the Levin-Reed Amendment or similar plans have reached the floor of the U.S. Senate. Just over a year ago, the Senate rejected a similar plan in a 60 to 39 vote. The plan would have required the President to begin a withdrawal by the end of 2006, but did not set a firm deadline for a completion of redeployment. The Levin-Reed plan was smeared in Congress as “retreat and defeatism,” and Bush referred to it as waving “the white flag of surrender.” Less than a year later — in March 2007 — the Senate approved a measure similar to the Levin-Reed plan in a 51-47 vote as part of the 2007 Iraq Emergency Supplemental. The bill required U.S. forces to leave Iraq by March 2008. Bush vetoed the bill on the fourth anniversary of his “Mission Accomplished” speech. Despite previously endorsing such timelines, Bush called the bill an “artificial deadline” that would allow terrorists to “mark their calendars and begin plotting…to overthrow” the Iraqi government. Today, bipartisan support for the Levin-Reed plan continues to grow. It is co-sponsored by conservative Sens. Gordon Smith (R-OR), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
DENYING REALITY: Last week, the President delivered to Congress his “Initial Benchmark Assessment Report,” claiming that the Iraqi government has “shown satisfactory performance so far on 8 of the 18 benchmarks.” Bush said, “I believe we can succeed and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political tract to succeed.” But as the National Security Network documented, and Levin explained yesterday, the President’s “glass half full” assessment of Iraq is really “a glass with a big hole in the bottom.” Indeed, violence in Iraq has risen — not fallen — since the beginning of the President’s escalation strategy. Close to 600 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died since January. Military assessments suggest that “the U.S. military’s plan to secure Baghdad against a rising insurgency is falling far short of its goal.” Over the weekend, “21 unidentified bodies were discovered throughout” Baghdad and today at least 80 people were killed in a bombing in Kirkuk. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) recently called Bush’s assessment “delusional, to say the least,” adding, “Nothing has gotten better.” Murtha said he sees “more and more people coming around. I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been that we’re going to start redeployment before long.”
TOOTHLESS ALTERNATIVES: Recently, the President has faced increasing defections among traditionally loyal members of Congress. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) called the president’s escalation “ineffective,” arguing that it is “prospects for success are too dependent on others who do not share our agenda.” Warner later said, “I hail what [Lugar] did.” Despite such rhetoric, many are embracing weak legislation introduced by Lugar and Sen. John Warner (R-VA), requiring the administration “to present to Congress by Oct. 16 contingency plans to switch to a narrower mission in Iraq.” The measure, Warner said, would show the world the “clear support between the Congress and the president’s mission,” but does nothing to ensure the President commits to the redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq. In fact, Lugar recently called plans to end the war “very partisan” and said they “will not work.” Other lawmakers, including Sens. Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have introduced a measure that would make the recommendations of the now-outdated Iraq Study Group (ISG) official U.S. policy but — again — without a date for withdrawal. Center for American Progress senior fellow Lawrence Korb writes, “Before going any further, Congress should reject the seductive promise of the [ISG] report.” Unlike such toothless alternatives, Levin-Reed constitutes a real alternative to the President’s increasingly poor judgment in Iraq.
DEFYING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE: The President’s continued delusions about the reality of the situation in Iraq are not shared by the American people. Since January — when Bush instituted his surge — his approval ratings have tanked. Today, just 26 percent of Americans approve of Bush, down from a high of 88 percent shortly after 9/11. His disapproval rating — 66 percent — rivals that of Richard Nixon shortly before he resigned in disgrace. A total of 68 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, and just 19 percent of Americans believe the surge strategy is working. Furthermore, as Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) explained to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “among military members and their immediate families…two-thirds said things were going badly [in Iraq]. … Fewer than half of the families and military members said the United States did the right thing in invading Iraq.”
“United Nations inspectors have verified that North Korea has shut down its sole functioning nuclear reactor, the chief of the watchdog agency said Monday, confirming the isolated country had taken its first step in nearly five years to halt production of atomic weapons.”
MISSOURI: Sex-ed supporters protest a right-wing anti-abortion and abstinence-only bill signed by Gov. Matt Blunt (R).
TEXAS: State may outsource its hurricane response plan to the private sector and away from FEMA.
CALIFORNIA: RSVP to see a free screening of No End In Sight, the first film of its kind to chronicle the reasons behind Iraq’s descent into chaos, showing in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
THINK PROGRESS: The ever changing definition of “mission” in Iraq.
COMMON SENSE: By naming their conservative channel “SIRIUS Patriot,” SIRIUS Satellite Radio implies that liberals are not patriotic.
GLENN GREENWALD: Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt somehow claims the Bush administration uses “mild, restrained secrecy.”
CATHOLICS FOR AN END: Catholics across the nation are coming together to call for an end to the war in Iraq. Sign the petition.
“We’re not in a civil war. This is just not true. American troops are attacking al Qaeda. They’re attacking some elements of the Shi’a militias. … They are not in the middle of a civil war. It’s not true.”
“It is true that we are at risk of a sectarian civil war there, and I’m extremely worried about that. I don’t quarrel about that.”
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