That Was an Antiwar Vote?
Has the end of America’s war on Iraq been brought closer by the recent vote in the House of Representatives? On March 23 the full House voted 218 to 212 to set a timeline on the withdrawal of US troops, with September 1, 2008, as the putative date after which war funding might be restricted to withdrawal purposes only. It’s not exactly a stringent deadline. It only requires Bush to seek Congressional approval before extending the occupation and spending new funds to do so.
On Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi’s website we find her portrait of what US troops will be doing in Iraq following this withdrawal, or “redeployment,” should it occur late next year on the bill’s schedule. “US troops remaining in Iraq may only be used for diplomatic protection, counterterrorism operations and training of Iraqi Security Forces.” But does this not bear an eerie resemblance to Bush’s presurge war plan? Will the troops being redeployed out of Iraq even come home? No, says Pelosi, as does Senate majority leader Harry Reid. These troops will go to Afghanistan to battle Al Qaeda.
So the bill essentially adopts and enforces Bush’s war plan and attendant “benchmarks” as spelled out in his January 10 speech. On March 27 the Senate voted 50 to 48 to start withdrawal in March 2008, said schedule being nonbinding on the President. At any rate, Bush has promised to veto all schedules for withdrawal coming out of Congress. Meanwhile, the war goes on, with a supplemental, Democrat-approved $124 billion, more than Bush himself requested. As Congress considers the half-trillion-dollar FY 2008 Pentagon budget, there is no sign that the Democratic leadership will permit any serious attack on further war funding.
Thus when it comes to the actual war, which has led to the bloody disintegration of Iraqi society, the death of up to 5,000 Iraqis a month, the death and mutilation of US soldiers every day, nothing at all has happened since the Democrats rode to victory in November courtesy of popular revulsion in America against the war. Bush’s reaction to this censure at the polls was to appoint a new commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, to oversee the troop surge in Baghdad and Anbar Province. The Democrats voted unanimously to approve Petraeus, and now they have OK’d the money for the surge.
Although nothing of any significance actually happened on March 23, to read liberal commentators one would think we’d witnessed some profound upheaval, courtesy of Nancy Pelosi’s skillful uniting of the various Democratic factions. What she accomplished in practice was the neutering of the antiwar faction. In the end only eight Democrats (plus two Republicans) voted against the Supplemental Appropriation out of opposition to the war. The balance of 202 no votes came from Republicans who opposed Pelosi’s bill as anti-Bush and antiwar. So, in Congress 420 representatives officially have no problem with the war in Iraq continuing until the eve of the next election. Ten are foursquare against it, which is more or less where Congress has always been, in terms of committed naysayers.