Monday, May 7, 2007

Poison Pills, Iraq War Funding and the Factually Challenged NYT

If you want to know the likely Democratic strategies for Iraq, they usually get floated first in the opinion section of the New York Times. And what appears there today is a prescription for putting barely disguised poison pills into the supplemental appropriations bill.

This is now a race to defeat. General Petraeus has promised to brief our elected leaders in September (assuming Murtha and Pelosi can make that briefing) on the status of counter-insurgency operations in Iraq. It seems a reasonable bet, based on all that has occurred since February, that General Petraeus will be reporting significant progress.

This leaves the Democrats in a quandry. In what must be the craven low point of partisan politics, Harry Reid and Jack Murtha have already begun attacking the honesty of General Petraeus. But that will be nowhere near enough. The far left of the party is demanding an outright end to the war, irrespective of the President's veto. And given their stranglehold on Democratic politics today, they have touched off a bidding war among Democratic presidential candidates to see who can surrender the fastest - with Ms. Clinton submitting the latest bid.

There is of course no chance of such legislation passing into law, but it greatly complicates what Democrats in Congress will seek to put into the bill. The NYT tells us today that it will be benchmarks tied to penalties. There is nothing wrong with crafting reasonable benchmarks that are grounded in reality and take into account on-going hostilities. That is not what the Democrats have in mind. In articulating this strategy, the NYT attempts to deligitimize Maliki, falsely painting him as inept and partisan, unable and unwilling to do what is necessary to govern Iraq:

Whether out of blind loyalty or blind denial, most Congressional Republicans are prepared to back up President Bush’s veto of the Iraq spending bill. It is now essential that the revised version not back away from demanding that Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, finally deliver on the crucial national reconciliation measures he has spent the last year dodging.
In the last year, Prime Minister Maliki has broken ranks with the Sadrists, overseen the adoption of a major security effort targeting al Qaeda, ex-Baathists and Shia militants, he has submitted an oil sharing law that is now with Parliament, he has drafted a law to restart pensions for retired Baathists, he has proposed a de-Baathification law that is now in the cabinet, and he has travelled to Anbar province to meet with Sunni leaders. Does that sound like dodging? Ah, but one cannot expect the NYT to evince intellectual honesty. Broad slanders are more their style.
What Mr. Maliki needs to do to slow Iraq’s bloodletting is no mystery. Iraq’s security forces must stop siding with the Shiite militias.
Today, U.S. and Iraqi forces are permanently encamped in Sadr City, Sadr is in hiding in Iran, and splinter groups of his militia are being pummled from Diyala to Sadr City. All of this is occurring with the explicit approval of Maliki and has been ongoing for months. Again, the NYT does not let facts get in the way of argument.
Iraq’s oil revenue must be apportioned fairly. . . . Then there is the endless soap opera that is one day supposed to produce a fair share-out of Iraqi oil revenues. The Bush administration prematurely popped champagne corks in February when Mr. Maliki’s cabinet agreed on a preliminary draft. Now, in May, there is no share-out, no legislation and even the preliminary agreement is starting to unravel.
The oil sharing law is with Parliament and is expected to be voted on this month. It provides for oil wealth of the nation to be centrally collected then spent on a per capita basis. You cannot get fairer then that. There is no hold up from Maliki on this. The Kurds are screaming bloody murder because they want to break away and create their own state eventually - thus, they want to control the oil wealth in their sector of the country. But, the Kurds do not have the numbers in Parliament to stop this legislation. It should be voted on in the last week of May. The NYT is trying to use this one as a bad fact while they still can. Unfortunately for the NYT, all of this negative press only insures that, when the law passes, it will be hailed as a major development. That is the danger of this type of partisan overreaching in which the NYT is engaging.
Anti-Baathist laws now used to deny Sunni Arabs employment and political opportunities must be rewritten to target only those responsible for the crimes of the Saddam Hussein era.
This is a red herring. It was long thought that a quick de-baathification would draw Sunni support for the government and winnow them away from al Qaeda. Events have overtaken this one. The Sunnis have given their support over to the government for a host of reasons, and are rueing the fact that they abstained from taking real part in the elections. For Shias, they are afraid of a quick de-Baathification because of fears of Sunnis back in power. Given Iraq's history, it would be unrealistic to ignore that the Shias hold those concerns. Pushing this really will be a poison pill. Legislation is in cabinet for de-baathification. It was submitted in March. When it will be out is anyone's guess. But to put it in perspective, how about our legislation on border countrol and illegal immigrants? We have been at that one for years now, and it is nowhere near as divisive as de-Baathification.
Without these steps, Mr. Maliki and his allies cannot even minimally claim to be a real national government.
Like it or not, NYT, this is the government voted on by millions of Iraqis. How you can claim them to be illegitimate is beyond me. Well, no, its not. This is simply another attempt at deligitimizing the Iraqi government. It makes it much easier to turn your back on them when the first opportunity presents.
With them, there is at least a chance that Iraqis can muster the strength to contain the chaos when, as is inevitable, American forces begin to leave.
That is an unusual and ominous sentence. It would seem that the NYT is laying the groundwork for a quick retreat, irregardless of the situation on the ground, does it not? They will lay the blame for the chaos on Bush and Maliki, rather then on al Qaeda, Iran and their own policies. I wonder how long that fallacious construct will stand?
Mr. Bush acknowledges that these benchmarks are important. Yet he refuses to insist, or let Congress insist, that Baghdad achieve them or face real consequences.
This is laying the groundwork for the argument that refusal to put in poison pills that Iraqis cannot meet is partisanship and unreasonableness on the part of Bush.
Consider the Baghdad security drive. Last week, The Washington Post reported that Mr. Maliki’s office had helped instigate the firing of senior Iraqi security officers who moved aggressively against a powerful Shiite militia. After betting so many American lives, the combat readiness of the United States Army and his own remaining credibility on this bloody push to secure the capital, it is a mystery why Mr. Bush would allow the Iraqi leader to undermine it.
It might be helpful to reread that Washington Post article and pick it apart. There is no claim that Maliki had any role in the firing of the sixteen officers, nine of whom were Sunni. Further, most of them were relieved for corruption and/or lack of effectiveness. There is a question about a few of the firings. But to paint Maliki as a sinister force attempting to block attacks on Shia militias because of that is just baseless slander. Or, as the NYT refers to it, objective journalism.
The leading Sunni Arab party in Mr. Maliki’s cabinet is now threatening to withdraw its ministers, declaring that it has “lost hope” that the Iraqi leader will deal seriously with Sunni concerns.
This is hardball politics, nothing more. This has absolutely nothing to do with the effectiveness of the Maliki government, and everything to do with the Sunnis in government seeing an opportunity to leverage America to get concessions. See here. This is just another NYT red herring.
Mr. Bush, by contrast, sees “signs of hope” in the Baghdad security situation, urges Americans to give his failed policies more time and seems offended that Congress wants to impose accountability on Baghdad and the White House.
Thus we are given a choice, I guess, between Bush's "failed policies" and the NYT/Democrat "policies to insure failure." I think I will opt for the former.
The final version of the spending bill should include explicit benchmarks and timetables for the Iraqis, even if Mr. Bush won’t let Congress back them up with a clear timetable for America’s withdrawal. If Mr. Maliki and Mr. Bush still don’t get it, Congress will have to enact new means of enforcement, and back that up with a veto-proof majority.
This is nothing more then the NYT floating the idea of poison pills that the Democrats are trying to put back into the supplemental appropriations bill. If there was any interest at all in actually suceeding in Iraq, the NYT would acknowledge the yeoman's effort of Maliki in leading the country and would focus benchmarks on security, reconstruction and the provision of basic services.

Our military has not and will not lose this war. Only our government can do that for us. And if that is the goal, then they should do it up front and take responsiblity for it, not by trying to sneak poison pills in the backdoor.


Dinah Lord said...

Thank you for reading the NYT so I don't have to, Scott.

I'm reading all of these things the Dems are saying, Petraeus is a liar, Maliki is inept, and our troops are losers. Projection, anyone?

You really have to wonder at the inner world of liberals, don't you?

BTW, I have just listened to Kansas Gov Kathleen Sebelius (D) asserting that she has no National Guard equipment, "no front loaders, no hummers, no dozers" because they are all in IRAQ. She then went onto say that she and the other Governors had tried to tell George Bush about this. Oh, and the troops need to come home to protect the US - it's a matter of homeland security.

Will this be the next poison the Dems will try to inject into the dialogue?

Thanks for a masterful connecting of the dots, sir.

HillbillyPolitics said...

I'm beginning to find a place of watchful complacency. No matter what the newspapers say, no matter the news stations say, the results that are felt directly by the constituents truly tells the tale.

When the claims of the elite don't match the experiences of those who actually live it,people start looking around for the proof in their immediate surroundings and find none.

I find it ironic that none in the primary elections campaigning really have a clear majority through their political party. I mean for the Dems, Clinton has about 30%, for the Repubs, Guiliani has about 30%. What that says to me is that the People who have "spoken" have almost zero confidence in the government as a whole.

I believe there will be a lot of surprises come the primaries... if we can last that long with the present government. The blame game has gotten out of hand and no one seems to be capable of acknowleding responsibility for anything. It's always someone else's fault. Well, the American people don't want to hear that anymore and it's the polls and the apathy. They don't vote these people in to blame problems on someone else. They vote them in to fix it. Instead they get more of the same.

Democrats are masters at the blame game but the Republicans are catching up fast.


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