"There's simply no evidence that the escalation is working. Conditions are deteriorating...Waiting until September is not the answer. Holding out blind hope — blind trust that progress will appear out of thin air, that is not the answer." — Sen. Harry Reid, in a Wednesday floor speech.
"It has absolutely not failed... And the first and foremost thing we have to do is to knock down al Qaeda. And with them alienating so many Iraqis, they're [al Qaeda] almost doing it for us. It takes military might to finally wipe them out of Baqubah, but it's working. I sense that the surge is working. Reid is just wrong." — excerpts of remarks made by former U.S. Special Forces soldier Michael Yon, currently embedded with U.S. military forces in Iraq, in an interview with radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday.
Sadly, these statements only illustrate the surreal, nonsensical direction congressional debate over the Iraq war has taken. Legislators of both parties are preoccupied with focus groups and public-opinion polls showing what is natural and obvious, that the public is frustrated with war. The public is always frustrated with war; it's one of the strengths of a democracy. Every wartime president since George Washington learned that. But as evidence of genuine progress mounts, politicians of both parties compete with one another to see who can come up with the most imaginative surrender plan, always leaving themselves wiggle room to deny they ever said it if a precipitous retreat of American troops from Iraq reprises Rwanda in 1994 or Cambodia in 1975.
Put yourself in the place of a jihadist with access to the Internet and/or satellite television, constantly probing for signs of weakness and opportunities to undermine the American war effort. How could a jihadist be anything but emboldened by the misbehavior of Congress? In the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership forced through a measure, supported by 219 Democrats and four Republicans (Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, John Duncan, Jr. of Tennessee and Walter Jones of North Carolina), demanding withdrawal of U.S. troops by next April. In the Senate, 56 members, four short of the 60 necessary for cloture, voted for an amendment by Sen. James Webb of Virginia, a Democrat, to guarantee a minimum respite between deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. To be sure, the demands on the troops, particular on National Guard units, have been onerous. But Mr. Webb's scheme would make it difficult to ensure enough men to conduct combat operations against al Qaeda, Taliban and other jihadist terrorists. This kind of micromanagement of the war could well be an unconstitutional infringement on the president's authority as commander in chief.
This week the Senate will consider a proposal by Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, both Democrats, calling for troops to begin leaving Iraq in less than 18 weeks. Sens. Richard Lugar and John Warner, both Republicans, want President Bush to submit a contingency plan to "narrow" the mission in Iraq by Oct. 16. Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, a Democrat, and Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, both Republicans, want to implement the Iraq Study Group's proposed talks with Iran and Syria over the future of Iraq, and to set a March 31, 2008 target date for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops deemed not necessary for counterterrorism operations or "force protection." This would be a rush to the exits that would demoralize allies and destabilize Iraq.
While members of Congress advertise U.S. weakness for the television cameras, bloggers like the Special Forces' Mr. Yon make the point that in the real world of Iraq, large parts of Anbar province that were no-go areas for American troops until six months ago have become stable because Sunni fighters have taken up arms against their onetime al Qaeda allies. Now the same thing is being duplicated in Diyala province in northeastern Iraq. The violence in Diyala, which shares a 250-mile border with Iran, has been fueled by Iranian arms shipments and the fact that al Qaeda terrorists driven out of Baghdad and Anbar by U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken refuge there. A week ago, in the Diyala town of Buhriz, Mr. Yon joined an Associated Press reporter to interview Abu Ali, a member of the Sunni militia called the 1920 Revolution Brigades. Abu Ali described how, after killing many American soldiers, his group reversed course three months ago and is now fighting with U.S. forces against al Qaeda. (Mr. Yon's encouraging dispatches are available at michaelyon-online.com).
Defeatist congressmen and surrender-happy media elites have conspired to mislead, intentionally or not, public opinion about the changing reality on the ground in Iraq. That's important to keep in mind when debate on the pander-lympics of surrender resumes on Capitol Hill.