Dems back off Murtha plan for defeat, try new strategy for defeat in Senate

Washington Post:

Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.

House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop-readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and from their party's own moderates. That strategy was championed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"If you strictly limit a commander's ability to rotate troops in and out of Iraq, that kind of inflexibility could put some missions and some troops at risk," said Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.), who personally lodged his concerns with Murtha.

In both chambers, Democratic lawmakers are eager to take up binding legislation that would impose clear limits on U.S. involvement in Iraq after nearly four years of war. But Democrats remain divided over how to proceed. Some want to avoid the funding debate altogether, fearing it would invite Republican charges that the party is not supporting the troops. Others take a more aggressive view, believing the most effective way to confront President Bush's war policy is through a $100 billion war-spending bill that the president ultimately must sign to keep the war effort on track.


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) began calling for a reauthorization of the war early last month and raised it again last week, during a gathering in the office of Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). Participants included Kerry, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (Mich.), Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Russell Feingold (Wis.). Those Democratic senators have emerged as an unofficial war council representing the caucus's wide range of views.

"We gave the president that power to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose Saddam Hussein," Biden said of the 2002 resolution in a speech last week before the Brookings Institution. "The WMD was not there. Saddam Hussein is no longer there. The 2002 authorization is no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq."

As usual Biden is disingenuous and wrong. The authorization included much more than WMD. What the Democrats are doing is looking for a new way to lose the war without taking responsibility for the loss.

They at least owe Chet Edwards' a debt of gratitude for saving them from the awful Murtha proposal. Edwards is a savvy Texas who has survived as a Democrat by recognizing party policies that would have no political support outside the fever swamps of MoveOn. He has been reelected twice in a district that contains the Bush 41 Presidential Library.

The latest attempt to limit the war may be enough to send Joe Lieberman to caucus with Republicans if they push it. That would tip the balance of leadership.

The Democrats appear to have slipped into a phase of throwing up proposals on the war to see if anything will stick rather than come up with a coherent plan for winning it or losing it. It is more evidence of why they should never be trusted with national security and especially in a time of war.

Charles Krauthammer skewers the senate plan devised by Carl Levin:


Levin has a different idea -- change the original October 2002 authorization. "We . . . will be looking at modification of that authorization in order to limit the mission of American troops to a support mission instead of a combat mission," says Levin. "That is very different from cutting funds."

While this idea is not as perverse as Murtha's, it is totally illogical. There is something exceedingly strange about authorizing the use of force -- except for combat. That is an oxymoron. Changing the language of authorization means -- if it means anything -- that Petraeus will have to surround himself with lawyers who will tell him, every time he wants to deploy a unit, whether he is ordering a legal "support" mission or an illegal "combat" mission.

If Levin wants to withdraw our forces from the civil war in the cities to more secure bases from which we can continue training and launching operations against al-Qaeda, he should present that to the country as an alternative to (or a fallback after) the administration's troop surge. But to force it on our commanders through legalisms is simply to undermine their ability to fight the war occurring on the ground today.

They are clever at coming up with ways not to win, but they are still not honest enough to say what they really want. Some one should ask them.


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