Republican Death Trap: Bush Wants Iraq Escalation Well into 2008

Today's Washington Post makes it clear that Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) are either leading Republicans and our troops into an Iraq death trap deliberately, or are again being misled by President Bush, who has zero intention of any evaluation of Iraq policy this fall, or even this year, as they suggest.

Let's quote General Odierno verbatim from the Post today. "What I am trying to do is get until April so we can decide whether to keep it going or not," he said.

Let's be crystal clear. This should no longer be called a surge, which is not a description, but a deception, about what is truly going on.

This is a long-term military escalation that will not be reevaluated in September, as Republican leaders claim. It will not be reevaluated in December. It will not be reevaluated until April of 2008, at which point Bush may well want to continue the escalation far beyond April 2008.

Every Republican in Congress should put General Odierno's exact words at the top of his or her desk and read them every day. If they support the pending Lott-Boehner position, they are voting to continue the escalation of the war well into 2008.

This is a death trap for the Republican Party at both the congressional and presidential campaign level. To Republicans: You have aggressively supported this failed policy in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

At every stage, you've touted the hot new commander who would be a savior. For the last five years, you've touted the next six months.

Every year you've applauded alleged progress, progress that turned out to be fantasy and fiction. You've supported policies that led troops to preventable casualties, policies that forced upon wounded troops indignities and scandal. Throughout 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 almost all of you voted for all of this, every time, on every vote, every year, year after year.

Even when the Joint Chiefs, Iraq commanders and every Republican on the Baker-Hamilton group opposed this long-term escalation last year, you've supported that, too, with your deeds, whatever your words.

Senator Lott, Minority Leader Boehner, you are honorable men who have been tragically and catastrophically wrong. Now, on the front page of the Washington Post, your words and claims are being mocked and disrespected with a policy whose purpose is to escalate this war until April 2008 and probably beyond, whatever you claim.

Senator Warner, you are the one person in Washington who can put a brake on this madness. You are a war hero of the first order and a statesman of the first magnitude.

You are a good and honorable leader who deserves better than a legacy of being the Great Enabler of policies you know have been disastrous and wrong. Please, sir, please, take a stand.

What follows below is a bipartisan proposal that, in some form, is the only alternative to a tragic and catastrophic escalation well into 2008 that Republicans are being asked to support, yet again.

Before reading this proposal, I pray every member of the House and Senate will keep two things in mind.

First, George Washington would indeed be outraged and sickened at what has been done to our troops throughout this war. The plan below is the true pro-troop, pro-military and pro-military family proposal in a city that has given new meaning to the term dereliction of duty in the damage that been done to our troops and vets that is escalating even today.

Second, think about former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who resigned in protest against disastrous policies that he tried to prevent, by putting his principles ahead of his power.

Had the American government had wise and courageous leaders like Robin Cook, which sadly and tragically we did not, there might be 3,000 fewer Gold Star Mothers today.

The past is past, but need not be prologue.

If you want to repeat the mistakes of 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 you can vote for the escalation through 2008 that is described in the Washington Post today.

If you want a better way, the proposal below appears in The Hill newspaper this morning and offers a way to win the war against al Qaeda, without continuing the deadly morass that escalates every hour, in Iraq.

The alternative to continued disaster begins with this:

George Washington must be banging his fist in heaven at the damage inflicted from home on American troops in Iraq.

Enough. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can change American history by standing hard for a 60-90 funding for the war, requiring a new vote by August and leading a landmark new policy supporting troops and vets.

Let me assert categorically that if allowed to testify truthfully, Secretary Gates, Gen. Pace and Gen. Petraeus would view this policy shift as an outstanding opening for the first genuine bipartisan policy in the history of this war.

Forcing a new vote creates hard pressure on an Iraqi government that every commander believes is disastrously uncommitted to political solutions.

Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity to change the calculus of national security politics for a generation by making a historic stand that ties any continued Iraq funding to historic new support for troops, and honorable outreach for genuine bipartisanship for the broader policy.

This proposal can win. The president gets funding for months while congressional leaders champion historic support for troops and vets.

The current escalation inherently requires abusive practices of extended tours of duty, deployment extremes and deadly equipment shortages that destroy the lives, safety and mental health of our troops.

A major new Pentagon study makes exactly this point, but was shamefully withheld from November until May. The Joint Chiefs and Iraq commanders knew this when they opposed the surge last year, because they understood it would require extreme and deadly abuses of deployment practices.

Scandals about treatment of wounded troops and grossly shortchanged veterans' programs continue unabated.

The long-term needs for veterans and troops that are unmet, unplanned and unbudgeted could be $700 billion.

This is a moral, military and patriotic dereliction unprecedented in American history.

Incredibly, troops still suffer preventable deaths because inadequately made Humvee doors lock them in death traps.

Every hour, the destruction of the mental health of our troops increases. Vet centers fall further behind. Treatment for post-traumatic stress and brain injury fall far short.

Long-term costs for veterans' health skyrocket to stratospheric heights.

If Reid and Pelosi demonstrate the courage to fight for time-limited funding, and use the time to mobilize landmark initiatives for troops and vets, Democrats gain the high ground, apply maximum pressure on Republicans, and open the door to genuine bipartisanship.

The war now escalates ad nauseum for the political convenience of Republicans in Congress who privately do not believe in the policy but vote for it, every time. They desperately want to give the appearance of change while giving the president the power to continue the disaster.

If the movement among some congressional Democrats succeeds for another vote by August, Iraqis would understand: Time is short, enforcement is real. No longer can Iraqi leaders use American lives to prolong sectarian wars and Iranian agendas.

Democrats should initiate historic hearings and bring in military leaders, advocates for veterans, the Joint Chiefs and Iraq commanders and prepare a plan for troops and vets that is courageous and comprehensive.

Congressional Democrats should hold town meetings including leaders such as Gen. Clark, Bob Kerrey, John Glenn and Sam Nunn. Democrats should have the courage to ask the American people to support a Soldier's Bond, a voluntary patriot surtax, or whatever it takes. Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid can change America by showing that we need not be trapped in endless war, without rational end.

Remember: When the Speaker made a bold move to Syria she was decried by a president who said he would never do this, and then sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to meet with Syrians. The Speaker was right, the policy changed, and it can happen again.

Democrats can become the party of highest support for troops and military families and lift the spirit of Americans with the first rays of hope and optimism. We can offer the beginning of the end of what historians will condemn as dark days of partisan bitterness and disastrous policy.

If Democrats lead, the public will applaud us, and many Republicans will ultimately join us.