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War Party in the Catbird Seat

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'Are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch? Are you tearing up the pea patch? Are you hollering down the rain barrel? Are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel? Are you sitting in the catbird seat? -- Thurber


Republicans are masters at deflection. How else to explain how their War Party can escape unscathed in the press for their hypocricy in denouncing the Democrats as little more than treasonous cowards for suggesting that it's time for our troops to begin to leave Iraq, after defeating their amendment calling for the withdrawal, then silently accepting the Bush regime's plan, revealed days later, that would have our troops . . . begin to leave Iraq?

With the majority of Americans supporting a timetable for withdrawal, the republican party placed themselves and their votes at odds in the past weeks with a public increasingly anxious about the mounting costs of the continued occupation, both in lives and resources. With the midterm congressional elections just over the horizon, the republicans have fallen dutifully behind the only issue they own outright; to the member, republicans have chosen their war on Iraq and the open-ended occupation as their political platform.

First the republicans imposed a non-binding resolution on the House calling for more war and an open-ended occupation without any hint of when they would exit Iraq. The script of the resolution was an updated version of their autonomic allegiance to the White House, with repeating stanzas of 'stay the course' and 'cheers for our war president'.

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Democrats were not allowed to introduce any alternative resolution in opposition to the republican measure. Theirs would have called for a staged withdrawal and redeployment of U.S. forces, much like the initiative authored by Rep. Murtha. There were 140 Democrats who stood against the republican war resolution. In doing so, they stood squarely with the majority of Americans who are watching the same numbers of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq - soaring well above 2500 - as they are watching.

In the Senate, as the Democrats held the floor with their own non-binding resolution, republicans hid behind the hope they could just portray the Democratic senators as anti-American, pro-terrorist as they railed and voted in bloc against it. The amendments both called for a measured, staged withdrawal from Iraq, Sen. Kerry's going a step further in demanding a timetable for the exit; not at all unlike the proposals that the Iraqi prime minister had been floating this week calling for a scheduled drawdown of forces.

Although the Iraqi PM set no date in his subsequent amnesty proposal, he has already called for a staged exit with troops out within 18 months. A date certain for the exit of our soldiers is all but forthcoming from the Iraqis, frustrated with the tightening occupation in Baghdad and Ramadi and exasperated with the 'collateral' killings..

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Vice-President Cheney, nonetheless, used a fundraiser Friday for a republican midterm candidate to rail against the Democratic amendments. He singled out John Kerry's prescription of a timetable:

"We've reached the point where a number of well known Democrats, including their most recent presidential nominee, talk about setting a firm deadline for withdrawal." Cheney told the wealthy republican benefactors. "You might recall that Senator Kerry was for the war before he was against it. (Laughter and applause.) Somebody should do him a favor and tell him the election's over so he can stop flip-flopping." (Applause.)

"Seriously, he continued, "Senator Kerry's prescription -- giving up and setting a hard deadline -- is a terrible idea, and the Senate was correct in knocking it down yesterday. It got 13 votes." (Applause.)

'Giving up', and setting a 'hard deadline' were not part of any Democratic proposal, but, truth never gets in the way of the republicans' demagogic smears. More platitudes followed in Cheney's use of his bloody war and occupation as a political brickbat:

"Americans and our allies need to know," he said, "that decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our military commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C." (Applause.)

It just so happened, however, that his 'commanders on the ground' were set to unveil just the type of exit plan that the Bush regime and their congressional minions had been railing and campaigning against. Gen. George Casey, the head commander in Iraq, had drafted a plan which would reduce the U.S. forces in Iraq by two combat brigades by September.

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The NYT reported that Pentagon exit plan envisioned eventually cutting U.S. forces from the current 14 brigades to five or six by the end of 2007. Troop reductions with a target date. Suddenly 'giving up' becomes the strategy of the 'commanders on the ground', and presumably (if their word means anything), it's now the strategy of the paper officers in the WH who had ducked behind the real generals to throw their political firebombs in defense of their party members' hapless political campaigns..

The much demonized amendment from Sens. Kerry and Feingold of Wisconsin, would have required a U.S. withdrawal by July 2007, much like the Casey plan, leaving a contingent in place which would be in a position to defend the new regime against outside interference. Sen. Feingold wondered aloud today, "what all this talk was this week in Washington."

"The majority of the American people support a timeline for bringing our troops out," Feingold said. "The only people who don't get it are the politicians and the pundits in Washington. It's time to end the military mission in Iraq."

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price

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