There's something happening here. What it is - well, it's not exactly clear.
On Friday, the House erupted in pandemonium when Republican Representative Jean Schmidt suggested that Democratic Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine who had proposed a resolution regarding withdrawal, was a coward who wanted to "cut and run." Democratic legislators, imagining they were MPs in the British House of Commons or in the Indian Lok Sabha or someplace where politicians take politics personally, nearly came to blows with Republicans.
Murtha, who voted for the Iraq war and is a close friend of the Pentagon and fan of ever higher military spending, had decided that the cost of the Iraq war to Americans is enough and proposed a resolution with three clauses:
Termination of the current deployment and withdrawal of forces at the "earliest practicable date."
Deployment of a new quick-reaction U.S. force to the region, presumably much smaller and not based in Iraq, along with a continuing regional presence of Marines.
Attempts at diplomacy, although with whom he does not say.
This is not quite immediate withdrawal and indeed holds out the possibility of continuing U.S. air strikes and lightning raids to back up political demands it may make at the negotiating table.
But it goes far beyond previous resolutions, and represents what the mainstream would consider a serious proposal. Apparently, too serious - the House Republicans "rewrote" Murtha's resolution by eliminating it and replacing it with an abrupt call that "the deployment of United States forces be terminated immediately."
This was an attempt to head off a serious debate and also a trap to get Democrats to vote yes and then be Swift-boated during the upcoming election. As a result, 403 voted against immediate withdrawal, with only three voting for and six voting "present."
A little earlier, the Senate had approved, 79-19, an amendment to the military spending bill called the "United States Policy on Iraq Act," that requires the administration to provide regular reports to Congress on progress in the war. As the New York Times said, this is a vote of no confidence in the administration. The Democratic version, which failed, had called for a tentative timetable for phased withdrawal.
These events show simultaneously the strength and weakness of opposition to the war. The fact that withdrawal is finally being debated in Congress is an important sign, as is the fear of the Republicans to debate a supposedly "politically serious" withdrawal resolution. At the same time, the rewriting of Murtha's resolution could only be seen as a trap because immediate withdrawal is seen almost universally, even by many progressive Democrats, as politically non-serious.
Only four incumbents in the entire House lost re-election in 2002 and five in 2004 -- there are far more than three progressive Democrats with safe seats, who could have placed their heads in the jaws of this trap if they thought it made sense.
Some of them probably refused out of anger at the stupid Republican maneuver. But for most, there were two other reasons. First, they have come under very little pressure from activists and constituents. That really matters. Remember August 2002, when Bush was clearly going to war on Iraq, but prominent Democrats were entirely silent. Starting in mid-September, we drowned Democratic politicians in a flurry of phone calls, letters, and emails. Instead of the 25 or 30 no votes one might have predicted, 60% of House Democrats and almost half of Senate Democrats voted against the war. It was our pressure that did it.
Second, and even more important, is the fact that many of them don't believe in immediate withdrawal. To make the case, one must go beyond a Murtha-like desire to wash our hands of Iraq and an obsession with the mounting American body count and recognize that the key is an understanding that -- and I state this very strongly -- the United States has proved itself incapable of playing even a marginally positive role in anything to do with Iraq. No rosy scenario for Iraq's future is necessary or believable; what is needed is an understanding that, even if it wanted to, the United States could not salvage anything or improve any prospects by its efforts.
The antiwar movement has yet to promulgate this understanding. Finally, now, the political situation is ripe for an intervention. This is the time to go beyond the call for immediate withdrawal and make the case.
Rahul Mahajan teaches at New York University. He has been to Iraq twice and reported from Fallujah during the siege in April. He maintains a blog Empire Notes
we can not just cut and run he he he
if we are not gonna fight them there, we gonna fight them here :).
they hate our freedom, they hate our freedom, they hate our freedom, they hate our freedom...
we gonna free the people of Iraq from tyrany.
once you gather this words, you gonna understand there will be no withdrawing in Bush's time.
but let's hope something happen? that's all what we can do :).
"Allah doesn't change what's in people untill they change what's inside their souls"
America has to face this reality and get out with a face saving formula at the earliest.
The sooner the US politicians recognize this the better for America, Iraq and rest of the world.