A ringing silence on Iraq
Congress still can't find its voice on the war in Iraq. On Monday, Republican senators, including Oregon's Gordon Smith, blocked a full-fledged debate over a resolution challenging President Bush's decision to send more troops into the war.That last paragraph is a zinger coming from the formerly pro war pro Republican pro Smith paper.
Yes, this is Bush's war. And yes, the Democratic leaders and other war opponents are pushing only a paper-thin, nonbinding resolution taking issue with the president's most recent new strategy, sending another 21,500 troops into harm's way.
A nonbinding resolution isn't much, but it's more than the GOP-controlled Congress provided over the past four years. It sat on its hands while Iraq fell into chaos and 3,100 U.S. soldiers died, tens of thousands more were wounded, and hundreds of billions of tax dollars were wasted.
On Monday, Republican senators insisted they were not opposed to a debate on an Iraq war resolution, but wanted to force consideration of an alternative resolution offered by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. It takes no position on the war or the deployment of more forces.And they understand that it does matter.
It's tempting to write this whole thing off as a meaningless political exercise, with lawmakers trading nonbinding, "papier-mache resolutions," as one senator called them, certain to be roundly ignored by President Bush. As Vice President Dick Cheney plainly said, a congressional resolution "is not going to stop us."
Yet it does matter what the Congress thinks about the war in Iraq. It matters to the American public, to soldiers and Marines, to the Iraqi government, and yes, to the insurgents and terrorists. The White House, too, knows it matters, which explains all the political maneuvering that played out on the floor of the Senate on Monday.This sort of thing on the top page of the Oregonian editorial page should be keeping Mr Smith awake at night.
Even if it has no binding, legal effect, it is not a trivial thing for a majority in Congress to resolve in the middle of a war that the president is pursuing the wrong course. If the Congress eventually passes a clear resolution opposing the escalation -- and it should -- it will amount to more than a polite suggestion that Bush change tactics. It will be the first step in what should be a congressional campaign to press for an end to the war, or at least a major change in strategy
Yet on Monday, a day when the administration formally proposed spending another $141 billion in Iraq in 2008, the Senate could not bring itself to offer a strong statement about the troop escalation, let alone take a strong stand to stop it. Lawmakers obviously found it difficult to express their unhappiness about the conduct of the war in Iraq while expressing their support for the troops at the same time. A number of Republicans, not just Smith, who have come to oppose the Iraq war, lined up behind the GOP leadership to block debate on the resolution.
It is deeply disappointing that the Senate still cannot bring itself to openly debate and express itself on the very issue that is foremost on the minds of Americans. In time, the lawmakers are going to have to find their voices on the war in Iraq.
This silence is killing us.