April 10, 2007
This morning, April 10, Senator Russ Feingold introduced an important piece of legislation on the Iraq War. But unfortunately it does not go far enough.
According to a press release from his office, the bill would “effectively end U.S. military involvement in Iraq.”
But that’s not exactly what the bill says, and it’s not, in fact, what the bill would accomplish.
Instead, the bill provides enough loopholes for Bush, and his successor, to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
“The President shall commence the safe, phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq that are not essential to the purposes set forth in subsection (d),” the bill says, and it would cut off all funds for the continued deployment of U.S. forces to Iraq after March 31, 2008, except as stipulated in subsection (d).
So let’s look at subsection (d).
It reads: “Exception for Limited Purposes—The prohibition . . . shall not apply to the obligation or expenditure of funds for the limited purposes as follows:
“(1) To conduct targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of Al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.
“(2) To provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.
“(3) To train and equip Iraqi security services.”
But Bush today could say, with only his average amount of distortion, that this is what U.S. troops are doing now in Iraq.
Of the three exceptions, the only one that seems partially defensible to me is the first: going after Al Qaeda, and even this one is too broad, since it includes “other international terrorist organizations.” This would allow Bush to claim that Muqtada Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army is an international terrorist organization because it is linked with Hezbollah, and so more than 100,000 U.S. troops would still need to be there.
The second one looks like an open-ended protective force for U.S. oil companies.
And the third one is so broad that it could encompass a lot of what the troops are doing right now.
At most, this bill would get U.S. troops out of the middle of the sectarian violence in Baghdad.
And yes, that would be a plus.
So, too, would the discussion this bill might occasion on the Senate floor about the need to get out of Iraq.
To his credit, Majority Leader Harry Reid has co-sponsored the bill, as has Barbara Boxer, Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Pat Leahy, and Sheldon Whitehouse. And Reid has vowed to bring the bill to a vote before Memorial Day.
But we who are opposed to this war must recognize that even this bill won’t bring the troops home any time soon.
We need to be mindful of the extraordinarily powerful centrifugal pull that Democrats are feeling right now, and that a Democratic President would feel in 2009. Noah Feldman, writing in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, argued that a future Democratic President “would likely end up” with an Iraq policy “looking oddly similar to the Bush Administration’s.”
(Note to the New York Times’s public editor/ombudsman: Feldman was identified as “a law professor at New York University and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.” Aren’t the readers of the New York Times entitled to know that Feldman was also a former senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq? That information would be helpful in assessing his overall prescription, as well as his un-self-reflective comment that “the U.S. has disastrously bungled its entire undertaking in Iraq.”)
To put pressure on Bush, and on his successor, we need to make clear that all U.S. troops must come home from Iraq, starting right now, except those actively engaged in fighting Al Qaeda, that U.S. troops, as of today, should not be used to patrol a civil war, that the United States must reject any permanent military bases in Iraq, and that the U.S. military should not be used as armed guards for ExxonMobil.
Otherwise, the exceptions, even in Feingold’s bill, will become the rationale for essentially the same policy that Bush is pursuing today.