By FU, of course I mean that most eponymous of terms fashioned during Bush era, the Friedman Unit, named after Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, the billionaire pundit who never met a deadline for progress in Iraq that he couldn’t find some reason to extend every 6 months or so. According to the Los Angeles Times, General Petraeus bought Bush another 5-6 months with his little performance the other day, promising a “progress report” on Iraq come September:
To buy time for his buildup of more than 28,000 troops to show results, Bush asked his commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, to deliver a progress report to the nation in early September.
That helped stave off Republican defections as Congress debated whether to impose a timetable for troop withdrawals. But it also established September as a deadline for clearer military and political progress in Iraq, a tactical concession for a White House that long has refused to accept any benchmarks or timetables for evaluating the war, now 4 years old.
Democratic and Republican members of Congress already are focusing on September as their next major decision point on the war — planning hearings to debate Petraeus’ findings and, in the Democrats’ case, promising new attempts to force Bush to withdraw troops.
By September, the troop buildup will have been underway for more than six months. Unless there is dramatic improvement in Iraq, public support for the war will probably have eroded further. And by September, skittish Republicans will be four months closer to starting their reelection campaigns.
Two things of note: First, how often have we heard that Republicans are ready to defect from Bush over Iraq in the last year or two? Each time after Bush weathers some storm in in Congress over Iraq funding, we get the same stories about how the Republicans are all set to abandon their President if there are no signs of progress in Iraq within the next 4 or 5 or 6 months. Usually anonymous, naturally, because of the “sensitive nature” of voicing opposition to the President “in a time of war.”
I seem to recall we heard the same sorts of noises in the run-up to the 2004 election and the 2006 election, and in each instance House and Senate Republicans fell into line whenever a public display of support of their Preznit was required/demanded by Karl Rove. Indeed, most recently on the House and Senate floors during the debate on the Supplemental Spending Bill for Iraq we heard the same old tired speeches from the Republicans about how the Democrats are destroying the troops’ morale, aiding and abetting the terrorists, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Indeed, they had a field day with Senate Majority Leader Reid’s remark that the war was lost, calling him nothing short of a traitor for daring to speak the truth about Bush’s disastrous, destructive and delusional “central front in the War on Terror.”
In short, I’ll believe in Republican defections from this President on the issue of Iraq when I see them with my own eyes.
Second, once again it appears the Democrats are more than willing to let the issue of continuing this catastrophe of a war slide, after making a largely symbolic gesture in opposition to Mr. Bush.
Let’s face facts. Too many Democrats (and I recognize there are exceptions, but as we all know it is the exceptions which prove the rule) don’t want to end this war right now. It’s too politically convenient to allow the occupation of Iraq to continue through the duration of Bush’s term so that they can hang it like an albatross around the necks of their Republican opponents in 2008. If you had any hopes of a different outcome, the MsNBC Democratic Presidential debate last week should have laid those fading dreams to rest. Only Representative Kucinich and the ancient, and practically unknown, minor candidate Mike Gravel, made any serious noises that Congress should take action to end the war now.
The leading candidates, naturally enough, all supported leaving Iraq, but none of them bothered to enlighten us as to what the Congress should be doing now to force the President’s hand. Senators Clinton’s and Obama’s answers on Iraq good examples of this dispiriting reticence on the part of the front runners to promote any real action by Congress to require a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq:
“The Congress has spoken, and now all we can hope is the president will listen,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Clinton defended her initial vote to approve the U.S. invasion of Iraq, saying she did the best she could with the information she was given at the time. “If I knew then what I know now, I would not have voted that way,” she said, insisting that “the question is, what do we do now?”
“If this president does not get us out of Iraq, when I’m president I will,” she said.
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois likewise defended his votes to fund the effort in Iraq but said that should not be interpreted as support for the military campaign.
“I opposed this war from the start because I thought it would lead to the disastrous conditions that we have seen,” he said, but he said he could not vote to cut off funding for troops once they were in the field.
These are the front runners for the Democratic nomination? “All we can do is hope the President will listen?” and “I support funding the war but I don’t support the military campaign? It was in a word, a very depressing performance.
So while we have been distracted by the melodramatic political theater starring those heroic Congressional Democrats versus the villainous White House (or vice versa if you are one of the dwindling number of Bush’s Koolaid Kids), nothing of any substance has been accomplished. The war will still be funded. Our soldiers and Iraqis of all ages will continue to die. The civil war will still rage. Suicide bombs will continue to explode. In other words, the “same old, same old” will continue and continue for as long as our media, military and political elites still have a TV monitor pointed at their faces into which they can utter the phrase “The next six months in Iraq will be critical …”
So I’ll see you in September for another FU from what passes for our nation’s political leadership. Unless, that is, you are currently serving in Iraq, in which case I pray you will still be with us come September to observe another performance in the longest running stage production in Beltway history, the tragicomic farce I like to call Dubya and the Dance of the Sugarplum Democrats. You’ll laugh ’til you cry, I guarantee it.
Democratic Presidential Debate