Obama: For Redeployment Before I was Against It
by bedobe, Mon Dec 25, 2006 at 02:33:34 PM EST
I'm not steeped in the minutia of legislative amendments, counter amendments, nor parliamentary rules that affect passage of one bill over another. I understand that often, in close legislative combat, the name of the game is not to outright kill a bill, but to load it with poison pills, etc., so that the opposition is less likely to vote for a benign sounding bill. I write all this to indicate that I know that there's often a lot more going on behind the passage of a bill or amendment than what at first meets the eye -- I know that.
That said, lemme ask a question: back in June of 2006, why would a reportedly anti-Iraq war Senator, which had the foresight to oppose the war when he was a state legislator, oppose an amendment that stated the following?
To require the redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq in order to further a political solution in Iraq, encourage the people of Iraq to provide for their own security, and achieve victory in the war on terror. [link]
The above is the text of the Kerry Amendment, calling for phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, which the junior Senator from Illinois opposed -- now, granted, many others opposed the amendment as well, including HRC.
In his defense, the junior Senator from Illinois, Sen Obama, offered the following excuse:
[L]et's say that a phased withdrawal results in fifty thousand troops in Iraq by July 19, 2007. If, at that point, our generals and the Iraqi government tell us that having those troops in Iraq for an additional three or six months would enhance stability and security in the region, this amendment would potentially prevent us from pursuing the optimal policy.
It is for this reason that I cannot support the Kerry Amendment. Instead, I am a cosponsor of the Levin amendment, which gives us the best opportunity to find this balance between our need to begin a phase-down and our need to help stabilize Iraq. It tells the Iraqis that we won't be there forever so that they need to move forward on uniting and securing their country. I agree with Senator Warner that the message should be "we really mean business, Iraqis, get on with it." At the same time, the amendment also provides the Iraqis the time and the opportunity to accomplish this critical goal.
Essential to a successful policy is the Administration listening to its generals and diplomats and members of Congress - especially those who disagree with their policies and believe it is time to start bringing our troops home.
The overwhelming majority of the Senate is already on record voting for an amendment stating that calendar year 2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security, creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq. The Levin Amendment builds on this approach.
I quoted a length because I didn't want to be accused of taking the junior Senator's remarks out of context. Now for a translation of what I think he was saying:
1. Let's not commit to a firm phased withdrawal of US troops out Iraq, since we're not quite sure how this may really affect things on the ground; and if at some point we have to send more troops in or stay longer than anticipated, we may look foolish, er, "this amendment would potentially prevent us from pursuing the optimal policy." (How's that for 'straight talk'?)
2. We don't really need this amendment, because the "overwhelming majority of the Senate" is already on record saying that Iraqis should take more responsibility for their country; which, of course, they don't really have to do, since there's no incentive as long as they believe that US troops are not going anywhere. Basically, I'm for things as they are.
Of course, this was back in June of 2006. As for the amendment that Sen Obama supported and co-sponsored, unlike the amendment calling for a phased withdrawal out of Iraq which the junior Senator opposed, the Levin Amendment simply stated:
To state the sense of Congress on United States policy on Iraq.
Say wah!? What does that even mean? So here's my second question, please breakdown for me the parliamentary minutia that aligned Sen Feinstein, Sen Clinton, Sen Biden, Sen Obama to co-sponsor such a weasel sounding amendment, rather than support an amendment calling for the phased redeployment of US troops out of Iraq? I mean, Sen Biden and Sen Clinton I can easily understand as co-sponsors, but many that aggressively push Sen Obama's attributes as a candidate would have us believe that his so-called wisdom on Iraq (as a state legislator opposed to the invasion) should override any reservation we may about him as a politician; so, why did he oppose phased withdrawal, and support the status quo in June of 2006?
Now, of course, after being against the phased redeployment that the Kerry Amendment called for, Sen Obama -- not coincidently, after the Nov 7, 2006, elections -- has now found his voice on Iraq once more, and is now calling for something very similar to what he voted against back in June of 2006. On Nov 20th of this year Sen Obama said the following:
A few Tuesdays ago, the American people embraced this seriousness with regards to America's policy in Iraq.
These are serious times for our country, and with their votes two weeks ago, Americans demanded a feasible strategy with defined goals in Iraq - a strategy no longer driven by ideology and politics, but one that is based on a realistic assessment of the sobering facts on the ground and our interests in the region.
When I came here and gave a speech on this war a year ago, I suggested that we begin to move towards a phased redeployment of American troops from Iraqi soil. At that point, seventy-five U.S. Senators, Republican and Democrat, including myself, had also voted in favor of a resolution demanding that 2006 be a year of significant transition in Iraq.
Now, I am hopeful that the Iraq Study Group emerges next month with a series of proposals around which we can begin to build a bipartisan consensus. I am committed to working with this White House and any of my colleagues in the months to come to craft such a consensus. And I believe that it remains possible to salvage an acceptable outcome to this long and misguided war.
The first part of this strategy begins by exerting the greatest leverage we have on the Iraqi government - a phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq on a timetable that would begin in four to six months.
When I first advocated steps along these lines over a year ago, I had hoped that this phased redeployment could begin by the end of 2006. Such a timetable may now need to begin in 2007, but begin it must. For only through this phased redeployment can we send a clear message to the Iraqi factions that the U.S. is not going to hold together this country indefinitely - that it will be up to them to form a viable government that can effectively run and secure Iraq.
As a phased redeployment is executed, the majority of the U.S. troops remaining in Iraq should be dedicated to the critical, but less visible roles, of protecting logistics supply points, critical infrastructure, and American enclaves like the Green Zone, as well as acting as a rapid reaction force to respond to emergencies and go after terrorists.
In such a scenario, it is conceivable that a significantly reduced U.S. force might remain in Iraq for a more extended period of time.
To his credit, Sen Obama does say in the same speech:
Many who supported the original decision to go to war in Iraq have argued that it has been a failure of implementation. But I have long believed it has also been a failure of conception - that the rationale behind the war itself was misguided.
Now, as it is the habit of the average politician, Sen Obama peppers his long remarks with caveats, disclaimers and qualifications. But, one thing is clear, following the elections, Sen Obama seems to have remembered that he once called for a phased redeployment out of Iraq, that is, before he opposed the Kerry Amendment -- which called for a phased redeployment out of Iraq. Of course, Sen Obama did hedge his bets back in that Nov 20th, 2006, speech, reminding his audience that the ISG was still out and that (cross your fingers!) it might still produce something to save all of DC's collective butts. Unfortunately, Bush & Co. have decided to change the rules of the game and have ignored the ISG -- thus far. So, what now for Sen Obama that the "bipartisan consensus" silver bullet that he wished for, and that his brand of politics relies on, will not materialize?
Lemme reiterate my questions, because I'm frankly trying to understand how and why things played out the way they did:
1. Why would the politician with the, reportedly, best anti-Iraq war record oppose a phased redeployment out of Iraq (back in June of 2006)? Then, after the elections, why would that same politician remember that, 'Wait, I was once for phased redeployment before I was against it, so lemme tell the people of when I was for it'?
2. What were the circumstances that aligned Sen Feinstein, Sen Clinton, Sen Biden, Sen Obama to co-sponsor the seemingly status-quo Levin Amendment, as an alternative to an explicit phased redeployment out of Iraq amendment?
3. Now that the ISG has been ignored by Bush & Co., hence a "bipartisan consensus" on Iraq may not materialize, what's the way forward for politicians that make such big show of constantly seeking a middle, er, bipartisan way on the issues of our day?