Friday, December 15, 2006

The Waiting Game

Here's a piece of mine in the new issue of The Nation that looks at the congressional Democrats' plans regarding Iraq....

The Waiting Game
[from the January 1, 2007 issue]
The Nation

First, Washington waited--and waited--for the Iraq Study Group report. Once the bipartisan panel issued its verdict (the war is nearly lost) and unveiled its not so impressive seventy-nine recommendations (withdraw combat troops by early 2008 if conditions permit; boost training for an Iraqi military yet to demonstrate coherence, competence or loyalty to a working government; lean on that fractured Iraqi government to achieve national reconciliation; talk to Iran and Syria), the capital redirected the waiting game at George W. Bush, who promised to offer his own plan after New Year's. But few policy-meisters within the Beltway expect a major shift from the White House. (Incoming Senate majority leader Harry Reid met with Bush and concluded, according to spokesman Jim Manley, that Bush is "not interested in any dramatic change.") So Washington could soon be waiting for another set of players to weigh in: the Democrats. Come early January, the party will have the power to do more than grouse about the war. But anyone anticipating quick and decisive action from the Dems will have to keep waiting.

In the new Congress there will be much Iraq-related activity, but the Democrats will present no master plan to remove America from the debacle. They will mount a flurry of hearings, scrutinize the war budget and introduce differing bills. Senators Carl Levin, Joseph Biden and Jay Rockefeller--incoming chairs, respectively, of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees--plan an array of hearings. Levin aims to examine the military strategy in Iraq. He might continue his quest to dig up information on the Pentagon cell, created by former Under Secretary Douglas Feith, that funneled misleading intelligence to the White House before the war. Biden, who has proposed turning Iraq into a federation of three autonomous regions, intends to examine alternate policies. Rockefeller is looking to complete the long-delayed Phase II inquiry of the Administration's use (or abuse) of prewar intelligence.

On the House side, Jack Murtha, who will take over the defense appropriations subcommittee, wants to probe misuse of reconstruction spending. Henry Waxman, next chair of the Government Reform Committee, will zero in on fraud, waste and abuse in military contracting. Tom Lantos, incoming chair of the International Relations Committee, also wants to probe the reconstruction failure. And Ike Skelton, in line to head Armed Services, has vowed to examine the strain the war has put on the military and the adequacy of assistance to the troops.

Although Reid and Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi are trying to coordinate the hearings on their respective sides of the Capitol, they could become a hodgepodge. "At the moment, we are focused specifically on the first two weeks, which will be the 'Six in '06' priorities," says a Pelosi aide, referring to legislation on domestic issues Pelosi hopes to pass immediately. It might have been wise for the Democrats to plan one prominent set of joint hearings, a series that would focus on all Iraq matters. But that's not how a Congress full of hard-to-control chiefs tends to operate.

Before, after or during this blitz of hearings, the Dems may introduce legislation pressuring Bush to start disengaging from Iraq. Senator Levin, who advocates a troop withdrawal starting within four to six months, estimates that there are at least fifty senators who would vote for such a measure, and he says several Republican senators have expressed interest.

Levin, Biden and Reid are all touting the possibility of a bipartisan resolution urging Bush to change course--a prospect enhanced by several Senate GOPers who recently broke with the White House: Chuck Hagel called on Bush to "begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal"; Gordon Smith decried Bush's Iraq policy as "absurd," noting that it "may even be criminal" and urging a withdrawal "quicker rather than later"; Sam Brownback demanded that Bush lean on the Iraqi government to achieve a "political equilibrium," even if that entails partitioning the country.

Legislators can pass resolutions demanding that Bush remake his Iraq policy, but the Decider in Chief is free to ignore them. Congress has power only over the war's financing. This spring the Bush White House is expected to ask for another $100 billion or so for the war. But Democratic Senate and House leaders have said they have no interest in compelling a withdrawal by choking off funds. Representative Jim McGovern, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, has been pushing legislation for the past year that would defund the war. The House leadership, he says, "does not have a lot of sympathy for this. Some Democrats do not want to be blamed for losing Iraq." McGovern, whose bill has drawn only nineteen supporters, notes that many Democrats still hope Bush will disengage so they don't have to do the heavy lifting of forcing a pullout. "But," he adds, "the Bush strategy is to push the war on to the next Administration. There will be action [by the Democratic-controlled Congress], but not enough to extricate ourselves."

Pelosi, Reid, Levin, Murtha and most Democrats advocate withdrawal in some form. The question is, How hard will they push? "We're going to continue to hold the President's feet to the fire," says Manley, Reid's spokesman. But, he adds, "at the end there's only so much we can do." Which means the waiting--and the war--will likely continue.

Posted by David Corn at December 16, 2006 12:11 AM


capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

" But anyone anticipating quick and decisive action from the Dems will have to keep waiting."

Absolutely true.

Additionally we all know IF we started pulling troops out now it would take 18 months and that is too inconvenient to have the complete collapse of the middle east 6 months before a presidential (s)election.

They will hem and haw and drag their feet - and I am not talking about the remaining GOPhers.

Thanks for all of your work and here's to hoping your personal blog will allow comments soon!


Hajji said...


Hajji said...


Anyhoo, these delaying tactics for political reasons remind me of the way many corporations behave when the officers know that a collapse, or "takeover" is about to occur.

I liken it to a quick coat of paint on the house, a few strategically placed rugs on the scarred wooden floors, cheap prints hung over the holes in the walls, etc, just before a potential buyer comes to check out the house you're trying to sell.

Then, some other suckers get stuck with the crumbling foundation, the rotted joists, the leaky roof...

I'm not sure I'd be handyman enough to take on this "fixer-upper" that the nation has become. Question is...who will be our NORM?


corky said...


corky said...

I can't believe they are going to give the troops the shaft again. Unreal. It's almost like they want the United States to stumble around with its pants down.

Saladin said...

"Some Democrats do not want to be blamed for losing Iraq."

And just what is that supposed to mean? These idiots are positively contemptible! They are playing political football and cover your ass with human lives. All the meetings and yaking in the world will not change the outcome, we are there to stay, losing Iraq is "off the table" because that loss includes all that fabulous oil, not to mention some very pissed off neocons in Israel who want us to stay and have ways of making us do it.

Saladin said...

testing. OK, now my google passwords are working again, HMMMM?

Saladin said...

Looks like my spider escaped the sharp eyes and pointy beak of the notorious Ivory Bill! That was close.

capt said...


How are you?

Saladin - the spider returns!

Hajji - as always.


A new thread!


Saladin said...

McCain Bill Is Lethal Injection For Internet Freedom
Exploits fear of sexual predators and basic misunderstanding of Internet to attack blogs critical of the warmongering agenda he fronts for

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Friday, December 15, 2006

Republican Senator John McCain has introduced legislation that would fine blogs up to $300,000 for offensive statements, photos and videos posted by visitors on comment boards, effectively nixing the open exchange of ideas on the Internet, providing a lethal injection for unrestrained opinion, and acting as the latest attack tool to chill freedom of speech on the world wide web.

McCain's proposal, called the "Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act," encourages informants to shop website owners to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who then pass the information on to the relevant police authorities.

Comment boards for specific articles are extremely popular and also notoriously hard to moderate. Popular articles often receive comments that run into the thousands over the course of time. In many cases, individuals hostile to the writer's argument deliberately leave obscene comments and images simply to sully the reputation of the website owners. Therefore under the terms of this bill, right-wing extremists from a website like Free Republic could effectively terminate a liberal leaning website like Raw Story by the act of posting a single photograph of a naked child. This precedent could be the kiss of death for blogs as we know them and its reverberations would negatively impact the entire Internet.

Under the banner of saving the children from sexual predators, McCain is obviously on a mission to stamp out the influence of the burgeoning blogosphere and its increasing hostility to the warmongering agenda that he fronts for.

"This constitutionally dubious proposal is being made apparently mostly based on fear or political considerations rather than on the facts," warns Kevin Bankston, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.

McCain has publicly expressed his distaste for blogs in the past and this is why any protestation that he is simply aiming to "protect the children" with this legislation falls on deaf ears.

In a May 2006 speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, McCain attacked the blogosphere as a refuge of those only infatuated with self-expression. He was trying to minimize the importance of the last true outpost of freedom of speech, the Internet, and portray it as nothing more than a swap shop for egos and hyperbole.
I knew they'd figure out a way to do this sooner or later. The truth will be crushed regardless of what anyone thinks, it's just a matter of time.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

I begin to regret that McCain survived the Vietnam War.