If you believe the Beltway hype, members of Congress will return today to a fiery debate about whether or not the president's so-called "surge" has produced military progress in Iraq. Beltway pundits are breathlessly predicting Democrats will be thrown into disarray by claims that the increased troop levels in Iraq may have produced security results.
Don't believe the hype. First off, the data are suspect. The Pentagon refuses to share the methodology by which it arrived at the metrics used to claim success. Even if the progress is real, it is hardly encouraging when put in perspective. When discussing the alleged gains he has overseen, Gen. David H. Petraeus stated that they put us on a course to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq sometime nine or 10 years from now.
What the debate about military progress really does is serve as a distraction - a smokescreen - put forth by an administration that finds it rhetorically convenient to speak in terms of "victory" and "defeat."
It serves to obscure the basic, fundamental fact that there is no military solution to the situation in Iraq. Our troops are trapped in a civil war and occupation, a situation where there can be no "victory." Our continued presence there is not only breaking our military, it is undermining our national security and our efforts to fight international terrorism.
Members of the Bush administration understand this, just as they understand that there are no pretty or clean options for bringing a responsible end to our policy there. They are content to mouth the words of victory while they try to run out the clock, playing a cynical game of political "chicken," where whoever acts to bring a responsible end to their failed policy will be accused of having lost Iraq.
The president's latest request for an additional $50 billion to continue the "surge" - over and above the $147 billion war supplemental Congress is scheduled to consider - amounts to a call for another blank check to continue an open-ended commitment to a failed policy. Members of Congress are going to have to decide whose interests they represent: a president who has staked his legacy on an unnecessary war, or the millions of Americans who understand that ending the occupation is the first step in repairing the damage the administration has done to the security of our nation and the world.
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Despite the administration's efforts to frame it as an issue of "victory" and "defeat," the fact remains that the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq is a precondition to restoring our national security and our efforts to fight international terrorism and putting us on a path toward a foreign policy that provides real solutions for global peace and security.
Redeployment is a precondition for engaging Iraq's neighbors and the international community in a regional stability plan. We have a moral obligation to help rebuild Iraq, but neither Iraq's neighbors nor the international community will truly engage in a regional stability plan as long as they believe that the United States intends to maintain an indefinite occupation.
Redeployment is a precondition for any successful effort to combat global terrorism. The U.S. occupation of Iraq has become a rallying point for terrorist recruitment, training and fundraising, a factor that actively undermines our anti-terrorism efforts.
Congress has the power to bring a responsible end to the Bush administration's failed policy. We should not approve another penny to continue that policy. Instead, we should use our constitutionally-mandated appropriations power to provide all the money necessary to fully fund the safe, timely and responsible redeployment of our troops and contractors from Iraq.
In July, U.S. Reps. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and I, led a group of 70 members of Congress in writing to the president to tell him that we would only vote to provide funds to do two things: protect our troops and contractors and bring them home. As we return to Washington, I will continue that fight.
Last week, tens of thousands of Americans took to the streets in protests and vigils, calling on Congress to take a stand, and that is what we must do. The best way for us to do that is for members of Congress to commit to only providing funds for the safe, timely and responsible redeployment of our troops from Iraq.