We’re going to spend quite a bit of virtual ink on this bill, because it is monumentally important. It is by far the most important piece of legislation this Congress has considered to date, and it demonstrates clearly that Congress will take steps to end this war.
I want to start by stating that there’s virtually nothing that happens in Washington that is free of politics. Any accusation that one side is simply “playing politics” on an issue as important as this diminishes the importance of the debate, and insults the intelligence of the American people. The vast majority of Americans support this legislation, as John noted below. They voted to end this war in November. This is not political grandstanding. It’s quite the opposite. This is real. If the President wants to play games with this, he can. But he’ll be the one withholding funds from the troops in Iraq.
As always, we’ll turn to Lee Terry’s floor statement:
I strongly support benchmarks and high accountability for military and political progress in Iraq, but not in a manner that hurts our chances of accomplishing those goals. Under this legislation, U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq unless the President’s benchmarks for progress are met by July. This unreasonable requirement would not give General Petraeus enough time to show if the new “troop surge” is effective.
Of course, right after Bush announced the “troop surge,” Gen. Casey said that it would only take 60 to 90 days to know if we’ve made any progress, and that the additional troops could come home by late summer. Now, the administration and its enablers in Congress are moving the goalposts yet again. Just give it more time. The problem is that this strategy is no different from the strategy this administration has pursued in Iraq for the past four years. It’s “stay the course” on steroids. Look at the language Terry uses and tell me it doesn’t sound identical to the language he used in the debate with Jim Esch last October.
We are endlessly subjected to shrill descriptions of nightmare scenarios if we leave. But we hear virtually nothing about the nightmare scenarios from staying. The “debate” over withdraw now might seem cosmetically different from the one we had in 2003 over whether to invade, but the fundamentals are unchanged. The same people who drove the debate then are driving it now. The same manipulative techniques are used with little check from the national media. And that is why we’re staying — and staying and staying.
We’ll come back to that argument in a minute, but for now let’s move on to the meat of Terry’s floor statement, the patently false assertion that much needed relief for farmers across the country and victims of Hurricane Katrina somehow was meant to buy the votes of Democratic House members:
The authors of this bill are talking out of both sides of their mouths. In attempting to reach a compromise, they would fund the troop surge while dooming it to failure by not allowing enough time to see if it works. It is clear that a forthright and honest vote on withdrawing U.S. troops would fail. The Majority Party’s Leadership has instead chosen to entice Members of Congress with pork-barrel spending in exchange for their vote on this bill.
The emphasis there is mine. I want to focus on that particular statement for a moment, because it is so clearly false on its face. Take a look at the Democrats who voted against the bill. Among them: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). The Democrats who threatened to kill this bill were progressive Democrats like these, members of the House Out of Iraq Caucus, who did not feel the bill went far enough. At the 11th hour, the liberal Democrats relented, and promised to deliver the votes needed to pass the bill. They didn’t have their votes bought by pork-barrel projects, their opposition was principled: they did not want to spend another dime on this war.
Rep. David Obey (D-WI):
Speaker, yesterday a number of members on the Republican side of the aisle sought to belittle the legislation before us because in addition to funding the needs of the troops in Iraq it contains money to address a number of domestic priorities. To ridicule that legislation, they suggested — they tried to belittle items such as funding for levees in New Orleans and agriculture disaster payments . And in that they have been joined by editorial writers at papers such as “The Washington Post.”
Like The Post, the Republican speakers of yesterday indicated that their main objection to this legislation is the way it tries to create pressure to end our military involvement in an Iraqi civil war. Those speakers and the Washington Post editorial writers make no effort to understand why these additional items are there. They simply ridicule them for their own purposes…Let me submit to you the problem we have today is not that we didn’t listen enough to people like the Washington Post. It’s that we listened too much. They endorsed going to war in the first place. They helped drive the drumbeat that drove almost 2/3 of the people in this chamber to vote for that misguided, ill-advised war. So I make no apology.
A general theme is emerging, here. They have been wrong about everything. Not some things. Not a lot of things. Everything. Every prediction they made was wrong. They ignored the realities of what would happen if we invaded, and made naive predictions about the ease with which we would defeat the enemy, stabilize the country, and establish a democratic government in Iraq. They vastly overestimated the threat posed to us by Iraq, and vastly underestimated the threat posed to us by insurgents after the fall of the Iraqi government.
Now they presume to tell us that leaving Iraq would be a disaster of immeasurable proportions. What they fail to realize is that we’ve already created the disaster. That if the worst case scenario they envision – a regional war pitting Sunni against Shia – happens, the only thing that could possibly make it worse is our presence in the middle of it.
We have no credibility in the region, none at all. And because of that, we cannot broker anything resembling a peaceful solution. Our presence in Iraq only leads to more violence. There is no strategy. There is no plan for “victory.” There is simply a naive hope that somehow, tomorrow, or six months from now, or two years from now, continuing to do what we’ve been doing for the last four years will somehow result in success. Enough. It’s time to get out. Time to end the dishonest debate and engage this on its real merits.
This district sent you back to Congress in spite of your unquestioning loyalty to the President, Mr. Terry, not because of it. It’s time for you to understand that.
Related: 2nd District