Democratic members of the House and Senate wrote George Bush Monday, urging a redeployment of US troops before the end of 2006 and the firing of Donald Rumsfeld.
Some excerpts from the letter signed by the Democratic leaders, as well as ranking members from key national security committees, include: "... this current path--for our military, for the Iraqi people, and for our security--is neither working, nor making us more secure"; "... our troops are caught in the middle of a low-grade civil war that is getting worse"; "consider changing the civilian leadership at the Defense Department....While a change in your Iraq policy will best advance our chances for success, we do not believe the current civilian leadership at the Department of Defense is suited to implement and oversee such a change in policy."
This comes on the heels of Senate Democrats' plan to offer a resolution demanding Rumsfeld's resignation after the Secretary's incendiary comments in which he compared war critics to Nazi appeasers.
Of course, the Republicans remain in denial--witness Sen. Mitch McConnell who said on Face the Nation, "I think Secretary Rumsfeld has done an excellent job. He'll be remembered as one of the great secretaries of defense."
Sure, and George Bush will go down as the People's Choice for whom to turn to when a hurricane hits.
And, no surprise here, the Republicans are pulling out their favorite election-year tactics of "scare the hell out of Americans" and "demagogue whenever possible." So that Democrats' calls for a new course represent "retreat" or "waving the white flag," and will "leave Americans more vulnerable."
Here is the truth, separated from the election year spin and hyperbole: This is about Bush's failed policy, not Rummy's incompetence. It's about a fundamental, illegal war and occupation that has killed more than 2,600 American men and women, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Incompetence does not capture the full horror or tragedy that is the Iraq War and its ethno-sectarian strife.
Instead of calling for Rumsfeld's resignation or pushing through a resolution that may, in fact, allow some GOP candidates to put distance between themselves and the President--without much consequence because this vote will fail--legislators who truly care about learning what to do next and how this occupation is failing should contact members of the platoon profiled in the New York Times on Sunday.
Based in Hit, Iraq, in Anbar Province--a "tough assignment," as the Times puts it--several of the men quoted are unsparingly outspoken. Their words are infused with a kind of despair as they question what they are doing in Iraq. One sergeant talks about how "the great majority [of Hit's people] want us to go home." "No one understands why we are here and what our mission is," another Sergeant tells the Times reporter. "This war is lost. We aren't helping these people. We are just dying and getting injured."
These are the people Rumsfeld needs to listen to; these are the people Congress should listen to; these are the people who deserve a hearing. The resolution on Rumsfeld will occupy center stage this week--and there is indeed a need for a reckoning, for accountability--but it is time to find an exit strategy from this Administration's policies which created this quagmire.