We have all been waiting for the President to present his new Iraq strategy, a way forward out of Iraq. We have seen him make personnel changes, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of defense, U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command and Army Gen. George Casey, commander of Multinational Force in Iraq, have all been replaced. Both generals were seen as not supportive of the plan to surge troops into Baghdad to escalate the war. But we have yet to see the President change direction, to identify a way forward out of Iraq. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid, are not waiting for Bush to announce his plan before offering their opinion, they have sent a letter to the President.
They start the letter off the letter, letting the President know that, as the death toll now exceeds three thousand, they consider Iraq the most important issue confronting our country. They let him know that they consider the results of the November elections as a mandate, by the people, for a change in direction. They suggest that his address to the American people next week on the Iraq war strategy be an opportunity to for a long overdue course correction. They express concern that with our troops at their breaking point, news reports lead them to believe that the President is considering a policy that as previously failed, that of surging troops. They, along with former and current military leaders, believe that surging troops once again would be a mistake. The solution in Iraq cannot be purely military; it must be a political solution. That the increase in troops would endanger Americans without a strategic gain, and undermine efforts to get the Iraqis to assume responsibility for their own future.
Pelosi and Reid tell the President of the testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by General John Abizaid stating that, “I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey. We all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It’s easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.”
They tell the President that the way forward is to begin a shift in the mission from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terrorism, while beginning a phased redeployment of our troops over the next four to six months. They call for a new diplomatic strategy within the region and beyond, to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement. It is time to make it clear to the Iraqis that they must find a political solution to stabilize Iraq. That Americans have already sacrificed a lot, nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars; it is time to bring the war to a close.
Pelosi and Reid ask the President to reject any plans to get American soldiers in deeper in Iraq, that like many senior military leaders they do not believe that adding more troops will contribute to success in Iraq. The President likes to surround himself with people who agree with him. The careers of those who have voiced disagreement have not fared well. I doubt that he will take the advice of Pelosi or Reed anymore than he has any other dissenting voice. The power of Congress is limited when it comes to war. Cutting off funding could endanger the troops on the ground. Restrictions on funding are likely to be ignored by a President famous for his signing statements declaring he will not follow the mandates of Congress. The one power Congress does have is that the subpoena, they can conduct hearings, highlighting the failure of the President’s policies. Keeping them in the nightly news until the public gives voice to the fact that they are not satisfied with the President’s policies. While he chooses to ignore Congress, he must still answer to the people, the people who voted for a change of course in the last election and that surging troops is not a change in course, it is an escalation of the previously failed policy.