Editorial / San Francisco Bay Guardian – 2007-01-02 23:16:54
Stop the Iraq Escalation
Editorial / San Francisco Bay Guardian
The more the evidence shows the war in Iraq is a failure that’s only getting worse, the deeper the denial seems to be at the White House. Earlier this month President George Bush made clear that he wouldn’t follow the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations for a withdrawal deadline.
Now he’s going a huge step in the opposite direction: he’s suggesting the United States send as many as 30,000 more troops to Iraq. This is insanity and another good reason why Congress needs to begin hearings on impeachment.
Almost everyone who is paying any attention to the situation thinks more US troops would be at best a waste of a lot of lives and money and at worst a cause of further instability in the region. General John Abizaid, the senior military commander in the Middle East, told the New York Times that bringing more soldiers into Iraq from abroad would only increase tensions.
“[Abizaid] argues that foreign troops are a toxin bound to be rejected by Iraqis, and that expanding the number of American troops merely puts off the day when Iraqis are forced to take responsibility for their own security,” the Times reported Dec. 19. General George W. Casey Jr., who commands the ground troops in Iraq, agrees with that assessment. According to the Washington Post, the Joint Chiefs of Staff do too — and are arguing against expanding the US force.
The clear majority of military leaders agree that the armed forces are stretched too thin by this war; that units being forced into repeated, longer deployments are coming unglued; and that there simply aren’t enough available troops to meet Bush’s goals. That means existing deployments would drag on even longer, more reservists would be called up, more National Guard units would be sent into a war they were never trained to fight — and it means more and more soldiers will be coming back in body bags.
But Bush (who has argued in the past against “politicizing” military decisions) doesn’t seem to care. He has asked the Pentagon to look at adding between 15,000 and 30,000 more troops to the quagmire and will likely announce in early January that he will escalate the war instead of moving to end it.
Not all the Democrats are standing in his way either: Sylvester Reyes, the new head of the Intelligence Committee, told Newsweek recently, “We’re not going to have stability in Iraq until we eliminate those militias, those private armies. We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq…. I would say 20,000 to 30,000 — for the specific purpose of making sure those militias are dismantled, working in concert with the Iraqi military.”
That nonsense has to stop. The Democrats control the Senate and House today for exactly one reason: people in this country are sick of the war. If the Democratic Party wants to remain in power for more than two years and have any chance of recapturing the White House, incoming speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid need to immediately make clear that they won’t allow Bush’s plans to go forward.
Fiscal sanity alone makes a compelling argument: Bush’s escalation would bring the total cost of the war in Iraq to $600 billion — more than the United States spent in the entire Vietnam War (even adjusted for inflation).
The quickest way to end this madness is for Congress to cut off funding for any additional troops — and for the leadership to allow articles of impeachment to be introduced, debated, and voted on.
Impeachment Is Now the Only Option
Editorial / San Francisco Bay Guardian
(December 12, 2006) — We can all stop hoping and pretending now: the facts are in. No matter what anyone right, left, or center says, no matter what the truth is on the ground, no matter how clear and powerful public opinion has become, President George W. Bush isn’t going to change anything about the war in Iraq.
That’s what we saw from the president’s press conference with British prime minister Tony Blair on Dec. 7 and from his statements since. He’s not going to start withdrawing troops, and he’s not going to negotiate with other regional powers.
The Iraq Study Group report has its flaws. It talks about diplomatic discussions with Iran and Syria, but it stops short of describing the real reason the United States is bogged down in the Middle East (the lack of a coherent energy policy that doesn’t rely on foreign oil). It suggests that the United States should leave the job of rebuilding Iraq to Iraqis but fails to state that the country responsible for all the problems should play a role in paying for its solutions. And it would leave thousands of US soldiers in Iraq as advisers for the long term, putting them in serious jeopardy.
Still, it’s at least a dose of badly needed reality. The report acknowledges that the Bush administration’s current policies have made an awful mess of Iraq, that the situation is deteriorating, and that continuing the current path isn’t an acceptable option. And it recommends that all combat forces leave Iraq by 2008.
That such a broad-based, bipartisan panel would reach that conclusion unanimously isn’t really that much of a surprise.
Everyone with any sense in Washington and around the world these days agrees that the United States needs to set a timetable for withdrawal. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist who initially supported the war and has long argued that some good could still come out of it, wrote Dec. 8 that the group’s recommendations “will only have a chance of being effective if we go one notch further and set a fixed date — now — for Americans to leave Iraq.” Even conservative syndicated columnist George Will noted the same day that “the deterioration is beyond much remediation.”
As long as the United States retains combat troops in Iraq, they will be the target of sectarian violence and the focus of that war. When they leave, the Iraqis will have no obvious villain, and there might be an actual hope for a long-term resolution.
The notion of an all-out Kurd versus Shiite versus Sunni civil war isn’t going to make anyone in Damascus or Tehran happy, since those two governments will be caught in the middle. And a clear statement from the United States that American troops will be leaving on a specific date not too far in the future is, the majority of experts agree, the only way to bring all the parties to the table for a serious and meaningful discussion.
And yet Bush and Dick Cheney remain alone, aloof, refusing to acknowledge that military victory in Iraq is utterly impossible and that the old mission of establishing a US client state in the Middle East will never be accomplished.
The death toll for US troops is approaching 3,000. The cost is running at $250 million a day. This simply can’t be allowed to continue. If Bush and Cheney refuse to begin a withdrawal program, then Congress needs to act decisively on two fronts.
The first is to inform the president that under the Constitution, Congress has the sole power to declare war and this Congress will no longer pay for Bush’s military adventure in Iraq.
But there’s a larger problem here. Bush and Cheney have lied to the American people, taken us into war on the basis of fraudulent information, and violated their oaths of office. Back in January we called on Congress to begin debating articles of impeachment; the GOP-controlled House wasn’t about to do that. But things are different now. The voters have made it very clear that they don’t like the president’s war, and the Democrats have a clear mandate for change.
Impeachment is serious business, but Bush has left us no alternative. We can’t simply allow the war to continue as it has been, year after bloody year, until Bush’s term expires.
The only thing holding up impeachment hearings is the word of the incoming speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who said during the campaign that option was “not on the table.” Well, it ought to be on the table now. Pelosi should publicly inform Democratic leaders in the House who support impeachment that she won’t block an impeachment effort. And her constituents in San Francisco need to keep the pressure on her to allow Congress to move forward on its most important responsibility in decades.
This isn’t going to be easy. Even the San Francisco Chronicle now acknowledges that Pelosi is governing like a moderate. It will take a reenergized peace movement and a huge new national mobilization to put pressure on her and every member of Congress. But the stakes are too high to wait. It’s time to start, today. SFBG
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