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Democrats lead on Iraq

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Since the media’s "Operation Ignore Democrats" continues, and because I think it’s important to recognize Democratic leadership on national security issues, this intrepid blogger went down to the US Capitol Building to check out a hearing on Iraq yesterday.

"The Mounting Costs of the U.S. Military Occupation of Iraq" was organized by Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who heads the Progressive Caucus. It covered a variety of Iraq issues, and was a poignant reminder that Democrats are tackling the problems as Republicans continue to stuff their heads in the sand. It’s crucial to recognize that Democrats are the only party seriously addressing – and exploring solutions for – Bush administration disasters.

The event was headlined by General William Odom, retired Army and former head of the NSA, and it’s hard to imagine a more credible voice on these issues than General Odom, a Reagan appointee and career intelligence and military professional. The costs of the Iraq war are myriad, and he chose to specifically address the strategic expense.

By way of introduction, he explained, "It is difficult to appreciate [the costs] outside the context of critically important facts that are either ignored or grossly distorted in most discussions of the war." He elucidated, in a measured and persuasive way, how our invasion and continued presence in Iraq harms American interests and serves those of our adversaries.

To understand the costs of being in Iraq, we must look back at whose interests were served. The interests of Iran and al Qaeda have been hugely advanced. Toppling Saddam avenged Iran’s grievances for his invasion of that country [and] the inevitable Shiite dominance in any successor Iraqi regime greatly enhances Tehran’s influence there. […] Al Qaeda is no less grateful to the United States than Iran. Our toppling of Saddam opened Iraq to al Qaeda cadres and placed Americans there where they would be vulnerable.
One of the lessons in Political Science 101 is that policy decisions always have secondary and unintended consequences. Sometimes they’re unpredictable, but in the case of Iraq, all the evidence was there, and nobody who understands the Middle East should be surprised by these results. Further, in addition to the dubious underlying strategy, the mission was obviously engaged in a way that virtually guaranteed a variety of appalling results. What we should do next is a question that Democrats are rightfully trying to address, while Republican leaders ignore the issue. General Odom put it succinctly:
Once these two facts are recognized – that we are fighting in the interests of our enemies in Iraq and that we cannot improve things in the larger region until we withdraw – we can begin to talk sense about what to do next. In the meanwhile, the costs go up every day. We squander American lives and money, and lose allies and the moral authority we need and used to effectively during the long course of the Cold War . . . The longer we remain bogged down in Iraq, the closer we come to the destruction of these institutions that have served us so well, financially, militarily, politically, and morally.
Congresswoman Woolsey deserves great credit for bringing this kind of information and expertise into the debate. There is occasionally a tendency among some Democrats to call for some kind action without actually doing what they’re demanding, but Rep. Woolsey is stepping up to the plate. She doesn’t have a big megaphone, and you won’t read about it on the front page of the Times or the Post, but she’s doing, not just talking. She summarized the facts, in closing:
We’ve mortgaged our future on a failed policy. And in this case, failure is measured in lives lost, security diminished, a world endangered. And that’s the read tragedy of Iraq. We’ve sent Americans to die, we’ve ripped Iraq apart at the seams, we’ve spent all this taxpayer money; and the problem we set out to solve is worse than it was before . . . worse, in fact, than it’s ever been.
If you support Democrats not only speaking and voting the right way, but calling hearings, seeking out the opinions of experts, and leading on issues of national security the way many of us want them to, let Congresswoman Woolsey know it. Give her office a call, at 202-225-5161. We always tell reps when they screw up; let’s also reward good behavior. And I hope there’s more of this kind of leadership over the next 40 days and beyond.

(P.S. I'll have the intelspeak-to-English translation and analysis of the Iraq/terror NIE this afternoon. Stay tuned . . .)

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