Be Brave, Risk Peace
With the sixth anniversary of September 11th, General David Petraeus’ report passed and with Iraq war funding up for renewal once again, it is time to reevaluate the most costly mistake the Bush administration made in its War on Terror: the Iraq war.
President Bush reportedly believes that “we’re kicking ass” in Iraq. A more subdued General Petraeus tells us that security in Iraq is improving and the Iraqi security forces are coming into their own.
These assessments are optimistic, but unfortunately, they are not accurate. Reports from independent outlets repeatedly contradict the administration’s assertions. The Associated Press estimated that the Iraqi death rate has doubled since 2006 and the United Nations reported increasing numbers of Iraqi refugees.
The Pentagon’s own data show fewer “fully independent” Iraqi brigades than at the start of 2007. An independent committee of retired military officers has also called for the disbanding of the militia-infiltrated Iraqi national police. This is especially disconcerting since it indicates that the Coalition’s mission is inflaming the civil war in Iraq, providing military training and hardware to hostile factions.
Perhaps for this reason polls consistently show that Iraqis believe the presence of foreign forces makes their country less safe and, by large margins, rate the surge a failure and oppose the American occupation. Most disturbingly, the latest poll by the BBC finds that 69 percent of Iraqis actually approve of attacks against American forces.
While the war has added to the misery of Iraqis, it has done nothing to improve the US’ security. Recently, The New York Times described how American intelligence and Special Forces were diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq. The latest National Intelligence Estimate reported that al-Qaeda is as strong as it was before the War on Terror. Even some of those running the war may be giving up the ghost. When Senator John Warner (R-VA.) asked General Petraeus if the Iraq war is making America safer, Petraeus eventually admitted, “Sir, I don’t know actually.”
Maddeningly, the war continues despite the will of the American and the Iraqi people. It is time the Democratic leadership in Congress corrects this travesty. Avoiding confrontation, as many chose to do in authorizing the war and again in passing the previous funding bill last spring, is wrong on the merits and the politics.
Given the public’s sustained hostility toward the war and the projection of that frustration onto public figures associated with Bush (with even General Petraeus scoring a favorability rating of 24%), there is little political risk in opposing the war. Just the opposite is true, with Congress’ low approval rating to a large degree reflecting frustration with its inability to change course on Iraq. A “moderate” stance will do nothing to prevent Republican criticisms (and voters who will believe these criticisms are not going to vote Democratic), but it could critically weaken support among those who would otherwise be devoted supporters.
Those cynical enough to hope that the war continues and further drags down the Republican Party should realize that by some reverse miracle the next president may be a Republican, in which case nothing at all is achieved. If a Democrat takes office in 2009, after many thousands more die in Iraq, the war may have metastasized in ways we have not even imagined and ruined his or her presidency before it begins.
If George W. Bush’s failure has taught us anything, it is that in spite of that latest developments in spin and manipulation, policies have consequences and these consequences do matter. Ultimately, that is why the war must end: because it is wrong. If you feel like your representatives need reminding of this last point, please, help them remember:
Senator George Voinovich
Senator Sherrod Brown
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur