After Iraq Trip, Unshaken Resolve
CHICAGO When Rep. Jan Schakowsky made her first trip to Iraq this month, the outspoken antiwar liberal resolved to keep her opinions to herself. "I would listen and learn," she decided.In spite of the spin it is becoming obvious that the Bush administration's surge was a failure. The US can't maintain anywhere near current levels for the next 10 months much less the next 10 years. Will the Iraqis suffer when the US leaves? The real question should be will they suffer more when we leave. Ethnic cleansing is occurring as I write this post and will continue whether we leave or not. It's broken but we can't fix it. And we must not forget the ridiculous "but they will follow us home" meme. I'm old enough to remember they used that one during the Vietnam war as well. I live on the west coast and probably would remember if hoards of Chinese soldiers suddenly appeared on the pacific coast. The Democratic party needs a lot more Jan Schakowskys.
At times that proved a challenge, as when Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told her congressional delegation, "There's not going to be political reconciliation by this September; there's not going to be political reconciliation by next September." Schakowsky gulped -- wasn't that the whole idea of President Bush's troop increase, to buy time for that political progress?
But the real test came over a lunch with Gen. David H. Petraeus, who used charts and a laser pointer to show how security conditions were gradually improving -- evidence, he argued, that the troop increase is doing some good.
Still, the U.S. commander cautioned, it could take another decade before real stability is at hand. Schakowsky gasped. "I come from an environment where people talk nine to 10 months," she said, referring to the time frame for withdrawal that many Democrats are advocating. "And there he was, talking nine to 10 years."
The trip gave Schakowsky a good look at the challenge that Democrats face next month, when Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker travel to Washington to testify before Congress, presumably with similar charts and arguments that the U.S. military is making strides in Iraq, and that withdrawal dates would be reckless and wrong.
The lack of political progress among Iraq's rival factions and Petraeus's estimate of the time needed to stabilize the nation left Schakowsky all the more convinced that Democrats must force Bush to begin bringing troops home.