Feature

The Fight Over the Senate’s Iraq Resolution

Resolutions regarding the 'surge' continue to trickle in.

What happened
The Bush administration's Senate allies this week tried to head off a resolution opposing Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, offering several less critical resolutions in its place. Supporters of the war, including Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, proposed five different nonbinding resolutions that express some dissatisfaction with the administration's execution of the war but stop short of opposing the troop 'œsurge.' Their goal was to siphon off enough votes to prevent passage of a resolution explicitly opposing the troop surge, which they said would undermine U.S. troops and encourage insurgents.

Democrats were also divided among several resolutions. One condemns the surge as 'œnot in America's interest,' and another demands that most troops be withdrawn in 180 days. 'œResolutions are flying like snowflakes around here,' said Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter.

In Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces engaged in a fierce firefight with a group of 400 insurgents outside the city of Najaf, killing an estimated 250 members of a shadowy group called the Soldiers of Heaven, led by a renegade Shiite cleric. The group's heavily armed soldiers—some of them chained together at the ankles so they couldn't flee a battle—were preparing to attack Iraqis converging on Najaf to mark Ashura, a major Shiite holiday, and assassinate Shiite religious leaders including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric. Only with U.S. reinforcements were the renegade Shiites defeated.

What the editorials said
The Senate isn't debating Iraq war strategy; it's muddling it, said The Washington Post. Days after endorsing Gen. David Petraeus as the new commander in Iraq, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted against giving him the troops he asked for. 'œSenators need a better way to act on their opposition to the current policy than the passage of nonbinding resolutions that may cover them politically but have no practical impact.'

That's assuming the folks in Congress are serious about their duties, said The Wall Street Journal. They're not. 'œBy passing 'nonbinding resolutions,' they can assail Mr. Bush and put all the burden of success or failure on his shoulders.' That's why the Constitution puts war powers in the hands of the president. The last thing our troops need is a crowd of wannabe generals micromanaging our military strategy.

What the columnists said
You don't support the troops by sending them into a deathtrap, said James Carroll in The Boston Globe. It's a terrible paradox of the war that no matter how bravely our soldiers fight, 'œthe actual combat situation worsens by the day.' The sectarian violence has metastasized to the point where U.S. troops often don't know who's shooting at them—Sunni insurgents, Shiite militias, or even defectors from the Iraqi army. 'œOur young people are surrounded now by killers united only in the will to kill them.'

Bush's new strategy will finally address this problem, said Dennis Byrne in RealClearPolitics.com. Instead of clearing the bad guys from a neighborhood and then pulling out, the U.S.—bolstered by extra troops—will now hold territory so insurgents and militias can't return. 'œThis is a quantitative difference in strategy, something Bush's critics constantly and frustratingly ignore.'

The overwhelming majority of Americans can now be counted among Bush's critics, said John Nichols in TheNation.com, and they've had enough of his brilliant strategies. More than 100,000 marched in an anti-war rally in Washington last weekend. It's time Congress listened to them—and to the millions of voters who kicked the Republicans out of Congress in November. In a democracy, it's the people who are 'œthe deciders,' not Bush, and we've decided we've lost enough lives in a war that can't be won.

What next?

The Washington Post

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