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Friday, March 30, 2007

Eric Black & I Agree, Sort Of ...

Eric Black of the Star Tribune and I agree … well, I agree with his analysis but not his conclusion. Let me go thru it step by step from Black’s Trib Blog the “The Big Question”, entry Question: What's Binding about the deadlines in the Senate Iraq bill?

Note these various excerpts from Black’s article with his commentary on the Senate Dem’s Bill (emphasis is his, not mine):

The president must do something, within four months (let’s say by August) that could be described as the commencement of a phased redeployment from Iraq. Exactly what would meet this requirement is not defined.

Even at that, when the redeployment is declared to be complete, a number of U.S. troops — the number is not specified in the bill — will remain in Iraq to accomplish three fairly ambitious missions which, depending on how you define them (and the legislative language does not define them with any rigor) could require quite a large number of U.S. boots to be on the ground in Iraq for the indefinite future.

I don’t really get why Bush would threaten to veto a bill that provides so much funding and puts so few limitations on his ability to run the war as he sees fit.

Notice how many times Black admits from his own analysis that the bill has no or fuzzy requirements: What is required for a “phased redeployment”? How many soldiers make up a “redeployment”? And my personal favorite: “… puts so few limitations on his [President’s] ability to run the war as he sees fit”. The Senate Dem’s bill is toothless.

Now, note these additional excerpts (emphasis is his):

And why have Senate Democrats settled on such a non-binding strategy? Well, for starters, the reployment language passed by only 50-48 on Tuesday. They didn’t lose any votes from people who wanted faster or firmer deadlines. And they were apparently worried about losing their most moderate members. So apparently, this was about the toughest language that could pass.

The message I got from Manley [Jim Manley, Sen. Harry Reid’s spokester] was that the Dems know that the overhyped “mandatory withdrawal” langauge [sic] on this round isn’t going to change things much on the ground in Iraq but could be one more step toward the time when they will be able to change them more. Stay tuned. They apparently have further steps in mind.

Note that within Black’s question is that the Dems know this is a non-binding strategy and the phrase “isn’t going to change things much on the ground in Iraq”– it will do nothing to bring the troops home sooner even if the President signs it. This was about getting something passed, not about something that could (in their minds) make a difference (bring the troops home) even if the President signs it. That’s political motivation.

If you’re not convinced, here’s the beginning of Black’s article as he quotes from the bill (the bold is his, not mine):

“The President shall commence the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, with the goal of deploying, by March 31, 2008, all United States combat forces from Iraq except for a limited number that are essential for the following purposes:

· Protecting U.S. and coalition personnel and infrastructure.

· Traning [sic] and equipping Iraqi forces.

· Conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations.”

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this what the US military is doing now? Engaging in protecting personnel and infrastructure; training Iraqi military and police forces; and routing out terrorists. Couldn’t the current “surge” be described as a “targeted counter-terrorism operation”? In other words, the current wording would “limit” our troop involvement to what they are doing now? This is not a course change.

After agreeing with all of Black’s analysis, I am truly baffled by his inference: that President Bush is being political by making so much noise about a do-nothing bill that he plans on vetoing but the Dems are being noble because they are creating momentum to bring the troops home.

So what is Black’s advice to the President (emphasis is his and mine this time):

By August the president could do something that some might view as a token first step toward redeployment, perhaps, for the sake of illustration, the movement of a small number of U.S. troops from Iraq to Kuwait or Afghanistan or perhaps to a troop ship in the Persian Gulf. It could be a larger number. The troops could actually come all way home. The bill simply doesn’t specify what would be the minimums necessary to meet the requirement that something that could be called “phased redeployment” be “commenced.” But that is the toughest requirement in the bill.


The March 31 date for redeployment to be completed is explicitly described as a “goal.” Goals can be missed; many are. The administration has already missed just about every temporal goal for its Iraq mission since the“MissionAccomplished” banner was displayed behind Pres. Bush on the USS Lincoln on May 2, 2003. There is no “what if” in the bill for missing the next goal either.

Did you catch that? If President Bush just moves a small number to Kuwait – not home – by August, he can claim that he is meeting the “phased redeployment”. Or, just set a goal – any goal – and then just not meet it.

To paraphrase, this is Black’s advice to the President: Sign the non-binding bill, move some troops to Kuwait by August, and make-up a goal – it doesn’t even matter even if it’s a realistic, achievable goal. So, Black’s advice is that the President should be more political but that is also what he is critical of the President for not signing the bill now!

Read the whole article. It’ll leave you scratching your head as well.

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