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Iraq - Finally, the Democratic Position

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The March 10-12 Gallup Poll, found that 32 percent of Americans felt that President Bush "has a clear plan for handling Iraq, " but only 25 percent thought that the Democrats did. On Wednesday, March 29, Democratic leaders finally unveiled their plan for Iraq, as part of Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World. Will the public now be able to tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans? Probably, if the Dems get some media time.

The GOP is afraid that this will happen. First, Karl Rove switched the time of President 's news conference so that it would eclipse the Dems news briefing where they announced Real Security. Then, the Repugs went on offense. One GOP Senator said there was no difference between what the Dems suggest and Bush 's plan, "It 's taken [the Democrats] all this time to figure out what we 've been doing for a long time. " Next, Dick Cheney hit the airwaves and called the Dem plan "a strategic retreat. " Hmmm. Real Security can 't be identical to what Bush suggests and also "a strategic retreat. " What does the Democratic plan actually say?

Real Security addresses five subjects: Iraq, the War on Terror, homeland security, the state of the US military, and energy independence. The authors note that these are interconnected. For example, they imply that the US invaded Iraq because of oil and we need to wean ourselves from foreign oil with a real plan for energy independence.

The Democrats ' plan for Iraq addresses withdrawal, Iraqi governance, and Bush culpability. On the key subject of withdrawal, Real Security states, "Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces. " It stops short of proposing a definite timetable for withdrawal. This represents a compromise between the position of Dems, like Congressman John Murtha, who want a firm schedule for withdrawal, and others, like DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel, who say President Bush must establish "timetables for success. "

A careful parsing of the Dems new Iraq position finds three key elements: 2006 must be the year when significant changes occur in Iraq. In other words, if at the end of the year there are no clear signs of progress, there must be a significant change of American policy, such as a schedule for withdrawal. This is distinct from the Bush doctrine that America stays in Iraq until we "win; " that steadfastly refuses to propose a timetable; that doesn 't see 2006 as being all that different from 2005. The White House position is "stay the course; " that we 'll be involved in Iraq as long as Dubya is President. At his March 21st press conference, Dubya admitted that the date for the last of our troops to leave "will be decided by future Presidents. "

The Dems Iraq plan also states that 2006 must be the year when Iraqis take major responsible for both security and governance. Currently "Iraqi troops have primary responsibility for less than 20 percent of the country overall. " One would expect that at the end of 2006 they would have responsibility for more than half. Again, the White House doesn 't have any concrete expectations; for good reason, as the Iraqis currently can 't get it together enough to form a government.


The third element of the Dems plan is "responsible redeployment of US forces. " This follows the Murtha logic that withdrawal doesn 't mean that all our Iraqi troops should leave the Middle East, rather that a quick reaction force should be maintained nearby in Kuwait or a similar location.

The key verb in the Democratic plan is ensure. Suppose, for a moment, that in the November elections Democrats regain control of the House or Senate. What would they do to "ensure " that there is a change of direction in Iraq when the 110th Congress convenes in January 2007? Real Security doesn 't say. But, it 's obvious that the President isn 't going to renegotiate his position -- "stay until we win " --so the logical conclusion is that a Congress controlled by Democrats would begin to turn off money for the occupation. The Dems position represents a significant difference from the Bush "endless war " scenario.

Regarding Iraqi governance, Real Security says, " Insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency; promote regional diplomacy; and strongly encourage our allies and other nations to play a constructive role. " This assumes that Congress plays a role in the formation of a stable Iraqi government, which it doesn 't. And the Dems strategy doesn 't address the question of what should be done if Iraqi slides into the abyss of civil war. Nonetheless, the implication is that Dems are drawing a line in the sand. If "2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, " then if Iraqi governance collapses, we 're out of there, regardless.

Finally, Real Security addresses the matter of White House responsibility for the Iraqi debacle. "Hold the Bush Administration accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. " They tie this to the larger theme of ethics reform that will play a major role in the November elections.

Obviously, there will be no real investigations into issues such as whether or not Dubya and Dick massaged pre-war intelligence to deceive Americans about Iraq, unless Democrats control the House or Senate. Under the current arrangement, there is no accountability. George Bush acts as if he is above the law, and thanks to the Republican Congress, he is.

George Bush has painted himself into a corner. He stubbornly maintains his "stay until we win " position, while Iraq deteriorates. It may take a while for the public to figure this out, but the Democrats have a better plan for Iraq. "Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition " represents a real choice, not an echo.

 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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I hesitate to make a judgement based upon a surfac... by ardee D. on Tuesday, Apr 4, 2006 at 7:32:05 AM
For a moment let's ignore the three years of delib... by Robert Chapman on Friday, Apr 7, 2006 at 7:34:49 PM