Following George W. Bush's call to escalate the war in Iraq on January 10, supporters of the President immediately challenged Democrats to present a more convincing alternative. "Where's their plan?" read a ticking clock on Fox News directly after Bush's speech, insinuating that the President had a strategy and the opposition did not.
Today leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus decided to go "mano a mano" with the President, introducing a detailed plan to bring the war to a close. The "Bring Our Troops Home and Sovereignty of Iraq Restoration Act" would withdraw all US troops from Iraq within six months of its enactment, ban the building of permanently military bases and use the money saved by ending the war to fully fund veterans' health care. It would rescind the original war resolution passed by Congress and "prohibit any further funding to deploy, or continue to deploy US troops in Iraq."
"We come here not out of a sense of obligation to the President, but out of a sense of obligation to the millions of Americans who went to the polls in November to register their rejection of the failed policy in Iraq," said Rep. Barbara Lee, who along with Reps. Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey, introduced the legislation at a press conference this afternoon.
Unlike Bush's escalation, such a withdrawal strategy has majority support in both the US and Iraq. A new Gallup poll found that 56 percent of Americans want the US to leave Iraq within a year. In a survey last September by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, 71 percent of Iraqis wanted the same and 80 percent said the US military is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing."
The official policy of the Democratic leadership calls for the phased redeployment of US troops in four to six months without a firm timetable for bringing them home. The legislation introduced today goes further, by supporting a date for withdrawal and using the power of the purse to bring that about. Rep. Waters calls her legislation "the centerpiece of advocacy for all the peace groups."
Rep. Woolsey introduced the first Congressional plan calling for withdrawal back in May 2005. Since then, the war has only grown more and more gruesome--and the opposition of the American people stronger and stronger. A non-binding resolution expressing Congress's displeasure with escalation, while a clever PR move, is insufficient to bring the war to the close, says Woolsey. "While we're doing that, our troops are dying," she says. "We need to go beyond statements."