After four days of emotional debate over the extent of presidential powers in wartime and the proper role of Congress, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution today denouncing President Bush’s plan to send more American troops to Iraq.
I'm sorry, but what I saw and heard wasn't 'debate', it was a series of statements of position. There was no debate - something which Democrats claim is so necessary. Instead we were treated to rationalization after rationalization, from both sides, designed to justify their vote.
On an interesting note, the vote was 246 to 182, with 17 Republicans joining Democrats. That's far fewer than had been estimated (some as high as 45) by many of the talking heads. And there were two Democrats (Jim Marshall of Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi) who voted against it.
So in essence you had, pretty much, a party-line vote for a meaningless resolution. But, as I've pointed out, while it has no teeth, and despite the claims of Democrats and even Sec. Def. Gates and CJCoS Pace, it will have an effect on troop morale.
Rep. Sam Johnson from Texas best sums up my thoughts on all of this:
A 29-year Air Force veteran, Johnson served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Johnson spent nearly seven years as a Prisoner of War, more than half of that time in solitary confinement. Coincidentally, this week in 1973 as one of the longest held captives, Johnson finally left Hanoi on February 12, 1973 and returned home to Texas on February 17, 1973.
Earlier this week on Monday, Johnson spent the anniversary of his release pleading with a House panel to accept his amendment to support and fully fund the troops for the 36 hours of debate on the troop escalation in Iraq.
"You know, I flew 62 combat missions in the Korean War and 25 missions in the Vietnam War before being shot down.
"I had the privilege of serving in the United States Air Force for 29 years, attending the prestigious National War College, and commanding two air bases, among other things.
"I mention these stories because I view the debate on the floor not just as a U.S. Congressman elected to serve the good people of the Third District in Texas, but also through the lens of a life-long fighter pilot, student of war, a combat warrior, a leader of men, and a Prisoner of War.
"Ironically, this week marks the anniversary that I started a new life - and my freedom from prison in Hanoi.
"I spent nearly seven years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, more than half of that time in solitary confinement. I flew out of Hanoi on February 12, 1973 with other long-held Prisoners of War - weighing just 140 pounds. And tomorrow - 34 years ago, I had my homecoming to Texas - a truly unspeakable blessing of freedom.
"While in solitary confinement, my captors kept me in leg stocks, like the pilgrims... for 72 days....
"As you can imagine, they had to carry me out of the stocks because I couldn't walk. The following day, they put me in leg irons... for 2 ½ years. That's when you have a tight metal cuff around each ankle - with a foot-long bar connecting the legs.
"I still have little feeling in my right arm and my right hand... and my body has never been the same since my nearly 2,500 days of captivity.
"But I will never let my physical wounds hold me back.
"Instead, I try to see the silver lining. I say that because in some way ... I'm living a dream...a hope I had for the future. "From April 16, 1966 to February 12, 1973 - I prayed that I would return home to the loving embrace of my wife, Shirley, and my three kids, Bob, Gini, and Beverly...
"And my fellow POWs and I clung to the hope of when - not if - we returned home.
"We would spend hours tapping on the adjoining cement walls about what we would do when we got home to America.
"We pledged to quit griping about the way the government was running the war in Vietnam and do something about it... We decided that we would run for office and try to make America a better place for all.
"So - little did I know back in my rat-infested 3 x 8 dark and filthy cell that 34 years after my departure from Hell on Earth... I would spend the anniversary of my release pleading for a House panel to back my measure to support and fully fund the troops in harm's way....and that just days later I would be on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives surrounded by distinguished veterans urging Congress to support our troops to the hilt.
"We POWs were still in Vietnam when Washington cut the funding for Vietnam. I know what it does to morale and mission success. Words can not fully describe the horrendous damage of the anti-American efforts against the war back home to the guys on the ground.
"Our captors would blare nasty recordings over the loud speaker of Americans protesting back home...tales of Americans spitting on Vietnam veterans when they came home... and worse.
"We must never, ever let that happen again.
"The pain inflicted by your country's indifference is tenfold that inflicted by your ruthless captors.
"Our troops - and their families - want, need and deserve the full support of the country - and the Congress. Moms and dads watching the news need to know that the Congress will not leave their sons and daughters in harm's way without support.
"Since the President announced his new plan for Iraq last month, there has been steady progress. He changed the rules of engagement and removed political protections.
"There are reports we wounded the number two of Al Qaeda and killed his deputy. Yes, Al Qaeda operates in Iraq. It's alleged that top radical jihadist Al-Sadr has fled Iraq - maybe to Iran. And Iraq's closed its borders with Iran and Syria. The President changed course and offered a new plan ...we are making progress. We must seize the opportunity to move forward, not stifle future success.
"Debating non-binding resolutions aimed at earning political points only destroys morale, stymies success, and emboldens the enemy.
"The grim reality is that this House measure is the first step to cutting funding of the troops...Just ask John Murtha about his 'slow-bleed' plan that hamstrings our troops in harm's way.
"Now it's time to stand up for my friends who did not make it home - and those who fought and died in Iraq - so I can keep my promise that when we got home we would quit griping about the war and do something positive about it...and we must not allow this Congress to leave these troops like the Congress left us.
"Today, let my body serve as a brutal reminder that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past... instead learn from them.
"We must not cut funding for our troops. We must stick by them. We must support them all the way...To our troops we must remain...always faithful.
"God bless you and I salute you all. Thank you."
With all due respect to those who think things like this don't effect troop morale, I disagree. I know that Vietnam is now a "history lesson", and I guess that makes me a part of history, but I'm a living part of it and I remember vividly the effect of this sort of "debate" had on morale during that time. And despite the claims by well meaning people that the troops "understand this process" and "support it", that's simply nonsense on a stick. Examples of how they feel have been provided ... and ignored.
Now, as Rep. Johnson has pointed out, we will see this "debate" move toward some sort of meaningful action, and, it appears, that action will be to slowly bleed support and funding from the troops in Iraq there by leaving them incapable of accomplishing their mission. Still in doubt? Take if from the lips of the man who's the architect of the "next step":
“They won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work. There’s no question in my mind.”
I can't think of a more cynical and gutless way to proceed. And I promise you, if it leads to troops in the field getting killed because they didn't have the equipment and training or support or leads to the failure of the mission which at least seems to be making progress early, I will, in my own small way, remind everyone who's responsible for that - constantly and loudly.
Democrats who vote for such a strategy while constantly spouting the bromide that they "support the troops but not the mission" should understand clearly that such a vote does not support the troops.
And yes, I have very strong feelings about this. Just as strong as Sam Johnson's. I've seen the result of craven legislation and activity like this has on troop morale. I've also seen it's aftermath. It led to disaster and the death and oppression of millions.
Democrats controlled the Congress when it was done previously and here they are again doing much the same thing. Granted it is only the first step, but, as is obvious, there is more to come. Either they have not learned the lesson of history or they just don't care. If there is a real "sense of the Congress" as I interpret this it is, at least among Democrats, that as long as they remain viable politically and are able to retain their power, they don't mind repeating the previous disaster. Of course, this time it will be the people of Iraq instead of Vietnam who pay for their gutlessness. But if they retain power ... who cares?
Oh, and Senate Republicans? Grow a pair or become an even smaller minority in '08.
Well said. But just remember, McQ, according to Laura’s way of thinking it’s really the "right wing" who is undercutting the troops and showering them with contempt. I guess when you have your examples refuted time and again, you can spin yourself into believing anything.
And yes, I have very strong feelings about this. Just as strong as Sam Johnson’s. I’ve seen the result of craven legislation and activity like this has on troop morale. I’ve also seen it’s aftermath. It led to disaster and the death and oppression of millions.
Democrats controlled the Congress when it was done previously and here they are again doing much the same thing. Granted it is only the first step, but, as is obvious, there is more to come. Either they have not learned the lesson of history or they just don’t care. If there is a real "sense of the Congress" as I interpret this it is, at least among Democrats, that as long as they remain viable politically and are able to retain their power, they don’t mind repeating the previous disaster. Of course, this time it will be the people of Iraq instead of Vietnam who pay for their gutlessness. But if they retain power ... who cares?
Oh, and Senate Republicans? Grow a pair or become an even smaller minority in ’08.
steverino: the legal document preventing the majority from enslaving, say, people whose blog tag starts with the letter S is the Constitution, particularly the 13th amendment. While the Constitution vests substantial warmaking powers with the President, it also gives significant powers to Congress.
In this country, the majority IS always right, unless the minority has constitutional rights / powers to ignore the majority. Slavery is a clear call; warmaking not so much.
Q: Do you have to support the war to support the warrior? I mean, if you’re one of those Americans that thinks you’ve made a terrible mistake that’s destined to end badly, what do you do? If they speak out, are they, by definition, undermining the troops?
BUSH: No, she actually asked the enemy, not the troops.
But I’ll be glad to answer your question. No, I don’t think so at all. I think you can be against my decision and support the troops, absolutely. But the proof will be whether or not you provide them the money necessary to do the mission.
And I said early in my comment — my answer to her was that — somebody who doesn’t agree with my policy is just as patriotic a person as I am.
And, you know, your question is, you know, valid. I mean, can somebody say, We disagree with your tactics or strategy, but we support the military ? Absolutely. Sure.
Call us as we are, a Republic. If we can keep it. You don’t really want a democracy.
the legal document preventing the majority from enslaving, say, people whose blog tag starts with the letter S is the Constitution, particularly the 13th amendment.
And prior to the creation of that amendment the people had what? Why, that’s right, the power to own other people. The document is only as good as we make it. Amendments which are added can be removed, need I remind you. And things that aren’t THERE in the document are interpreted to BE there, hence the right of abortion, or the right of privacy, or the right to be born a US citizen by virtue of being on US soil when you draw your first breath. And something that can be interpreted to be there today, can be interpreted NOT to be there tomorrow.
And in theory your vaunted ’majority’ could vote very democratically to elect enough willing tools into office to agree that slavery is a wonderful thing, and strike down the 13th amendment, even in a Republic, but in a REAL democracy, ah, so much the quicker!
It’s not your document that protects you Francis, it’s our belief in and attempts to adhere to that document that protects you.