Jeff Kropf on Iraq War Part II


This weekend shows focused primarily on the Iraq war news, nationally and here in Oregon. This last week, the US House passed the Iraq Pullout bill (my title) loaded with 26 Billion in pork (and a few good accountability measures) and a provision to force the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq in 2008.

I took the position that this sends a bad message to our troops and encourages our enemies. I also argued that Congress does not have the Constitutional authority to bring home the troops (only fund them) and have crossed the line into the responsibility of the President, the Commander in Chief.

We low and behold, the President took my advice (LOL) and went on television immediately to passionately attack the bill and tell the world that we will veto the bill if it gets to his desk. Bravo! It’s about time that the Prez found his fighter pilot spine and stood up against those who denigrate the war effort. Now if he will just do this once a week in an effort to keep America constantly updated on the latest successes in the war effort and continue to talk about winning, maybe he can turn the tide of public opinion. He will also marginalize the MSM and the D’s who only offer criticism and no real solutions to the war on terror and Iraq. This will have lasting implications for the national will to fight to win no matter how long it takes and incidentally, will influence the next election cycle in a positive manner for Republicans.

So, we decided to ask the question in the quick poll, “Should the President veto the Iraq pullout bill?” The results were more than I expected they would be as 93% agreed that he should veto the bill and only 7% said he should not. This tells me that the 30% of our audience that defines themselves as liberal and perhaps anti war also believe that Congress is overstepping its boundaries.

This is an interesting dilemma for the Congressional Democrats as they risk deeply offending their antiwar base by pushing a supplemental war funding bill in exchange for trying to hurt the President and Republicans with the time line for withdrawal. This is often the conundrum in politics that you try to do something in public policy with the big picture in mind, yet the means to achieve that goal often alienates many of your supporters. It is never easy to find the balance in these circumstances to be sure and I always tried to weigh in the balance the best results for the people I served vs my principles and what is fair for all. I suspect that this is really a subjective point as what I may choose to do, may not fall in line with others viewpoint or principles. The most important thing here is to be true to yourself and stand your ground when you know you are right.

The President must lay down the gauntlet and dare the Congress to cut off funds for the troops after he vetoes the bill. As of this writing, the US Senate just voted unexpectedly to pass the bill which also calls for the withdrawal of most of our forces in Iraq by March 08. I predict that for political reasons, the Democrats and antiwar Republicans will not dare risk the tremendous anger that will arise quickly of the people of this country by cutting off funds for troops who volunteer in a military and choose to go fight the enemy of foreign lands.

This is not Vietnam where an unpopular war was coupled with an unpopular draft and produced an enormous societal backlash. Today, what is fresh in most thinking American’s minds is the reality that we were attacked on our soil by terrorists from the Middle East on 9/11. Like it or not, Iraq is part of the broader war to defeat terrorism in the area where it is most likely to be supported in the future. Politicians will find it very hard to explain to the general populace that you support the troops, yet you vote to cut off the funding to keep them alive and fulfilling the mission, which incidentally 99% of those troops believe in.

Now, if Karl Rove will just shut up and let Bush be Bush the cowboy/fighter pilot, then Americans will start feeling confident that they have a leader who will have the cahones to lead and we can win this thing. I can only dream!

So for Sunday, I decided to bring this subject home to Oregon by asking the question “Does the legislature’s Iraq pullout resolution send the wrong message to our troops and enemies?” Here the numbers were slightly different, with 89% of respondents agreeing that it does send the wrong message, with 11% saying it did not.

This was a result of the vote earlier in the week which I witnessed on the House floor, in which the majority voted to send a message to Congress that they want our troops to come home. The arguments were indeed interesting with a wide range of opinion. There were many antiwar folks in the building along with many veterans. Republican Rep Gene Wisnant, a Vietnam veteran made a passionate and very long argument (by reading the names of each soldier killed there interrupted twice by the anti war nuts) that this vote was a disgrace to their sacrifice (my paraphrase). Conversely, Republican Rep Brian Boquist, as Special Forces Reserve Lt. Col who spent 9 months in Iraq argued that most troops were mature and knows that this is part of our tradition of debate. He said that it doesn’t hurt morale and that he opposed going to war in Iraq from the beginning.

So I reflected on my own experiences to make up my mind on this issue. I have spent a lot of time with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and gained many of their confidences and I never met a soldier in theatre who didn’t believe in the mission. I also asked many of them if the dissent at home hurt their morale and most said they did not like it and did hurt morale. They are all aware of the Vietnam experience in the American psyche (some of the guardsmen I was with were Vietnam veterans) and want to believe that we at home support what they and their families are sacrificing.

It does also send the wrong message to our enemies, as we have witnessed by many communiqués from terrorists during and after the election expressing delight and affirming that dividing American opinion will cause the US to ultimately lose the will to fight. These words from those who hate us should not be marginalized by anyone, and clearly demonstrate that symbolism has a powerful effect on morale, both our soldier s and that of our enemies. This also was something that surfaced once again during the last election where John Kerry’s antiwar comments during Vietnam were referenced (along with protests and Jane Fonda) by numerous North Vietnamese historians, communist leaders and generals as giving them encouragement to fight on.

Every time a vote like this goes forward, I firmly believe it does hurt troop morale and ultimately destroys our effectiveness in winning this or any other war. I chatted with some of my veteran friends present during the debate and after the vote I must say that every one of them thought it sent the wrong message. Intuitively, I think most people know that even if they don’t support war, fellow Americans who willingly choose to fight to defend the rest of us deserve our great respect and support. I hope that our anti war friends in the legislature and back in Congress will remember and appreciate that fact and not send purely political and symbolic messages to those who serve and protect us during war. If they have their way, then our nation will never again have the resolve to defend ourselves and remain free. I cannot and will not accept that direction.

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  • Bob Clark

    Jeff-

    I know this is probably foolish. But why couldn’t the foot soldier and other U.S. military be asked to vote, via secret ballot, on whether to continue the Iraq peacekeeping mission or withdraw posthaste? These are the folks who are actually making the human sacrifice and who are in the best position to weigh the pros and cons of continuing the peacekeeping mission in Iraq. There is significant resource and human cost to the mission but at this point maybe we consult the genuine opinion of those actually involved.

    • Wayne Floyd

      Bob and Jeff – I dont agree with the voting idea but I do believe we should encourage them to write their Representives and express their concerns as this Sargent did – “Posted from PowerLine.com”

      Sergeant Stephen Krueger writes from Iraq to Speaker Pelosi with a message that bears on our post “To our readers in Iraq.” Sergeant Krueger writes:

      How can you even think of pushing forward legislation to set a withdrawal date for US forces from Iraq? Do you know how much you embolden the insurgency here in Iraq? YOU ARE JEAPARDIZING THE LIVES OF US SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN WITH YOUR ACTIONS. You and your fellow Democrats are causing the Al Qaeda supported insurgency to use more catastrophic attacks against us and Iraqi forces. You will see more SVBIED’s with chlorine gas, more VBIED’s against civilians and security forces every time you and other Democrats open your mouths. You will have to live with yourself and try to sleep at night knowing all the defeatist propaganda you have spewed forth is nothing more than ammunition for Islamic extremist groups around the world and more US deaths. The unsuspecting people who support you know nothing of what goes on over here; you fill their heads with nonsense and talk of pullout to appease them. The only thing that will happen is the establishment of an extremist Islamic state where sharia law is the law of the land and no one is safe.

      Sunni Moslems here are coming to our side and joining forces with the government to defeat Al Qaeda(AQI) here in Iraq, but they need our help and they need us to stay. I have spent the last 7 months(3rd tour) in Iraq. I have watched Iraqi citizens pick up weapons and form militias in areas to join forces with Iraqi police/Army. Common citizens who fight and die because we are standing next to them. Not cutting and running or talking of withdrawal. This started after the surge forces the President sent here arrived. We have lost Marines also and it hurts more than you will ever know but we have made a commitment to these people. And I for one will not abandon them and I have of a platoon of Marines who feel the same. I have no control over what happened in 2003 and why we invaded Iraq. That is another discussion, but we are here and they need our help to rid their country of these terrorists. Yes eventually we will leave but we need to do a phased withdrawal without a timeline. At least without a timeline that is published for the world to know. The citizens of Iraq need to see some solidarity in our government, Democrats and Republicans coming together and supporting our President in this war. There is a middle ground here for both parties, you all need to come together and work towards a solution. What we don’t need is more theatrics and clashes between the parties. AQI loves to see that it causes them to do more attacks and continue with the murder and intimidation campaign against Iraqi citizens.

      Someone needs to step forward and bring the two parties together. Meet and talk about what you all can do and come to an agreement on the war. Like I said before we need a unified front to present to the world on the Iraq war. The Iraqi people need a morale boost, they need to see we are behind them and we will support them and not cut and run. The insurgency needs to see our resolve is strong and we will endure and defeat them. Extremist Islamist terror groups use our perceived weakness against us. They misunderstand our kindness for weakness. Weakness shown to the world brings more recruits to their cause; it causes more civilian deaths and violence.

      Please I implore you to not push this agenda. I have watched you on television and you seem to be using this as a steppingstone to further your political career. STOP!!! More is at stake here. Our countries word is on the line, my word to many Iraqi citizens is on the line. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines lives are at stake. We know the risks and we face them daily. Don’t make our mission more difficult.

      Gunnery Sgt. Stephen F. Krueger
      Platoon Sgt 3rd Recon Bn

      I think that says it all. We should all copy this email and send it to all of our Representives. Regards, Wayne Floyd

  • dick BARNARD

    IL think Gordon Smith may have committed political suicide wilth his vote on this resolution… and as a retire uSAF Officer I applaud Sgt….right on Sgt.!!!!!

    • Wayne Floyd

      I agree. I sent Sen. Smith an email last week. I told him how disappointed I was with his flip-flop. I have supported him in the past with my vote and with contributions. No longer. If he does not like the way things have been going then suggest a better plan for victory. Not a cut an run strategy that will leave Iraq and the world in a worse state than it is now. I suspect he did this because of the polls. But polls change all the time. We don’t need someone representing us who just goes with the flow. It just shows that some will do anything and say anything to get elected. Regards, Wayne Floyd

  • torridjoe

    Can someone tell Jeff that Congress HAS in fact funded the troops, and it appears to be the PRESIDENT who intends to deny them funding by not passing the supplemental that funds them?

    Jeff correctly notes the power to fund the war, or not. Congress has now said they will fund the war until they do not. How has that crossed a line?

    And you guys are pissing in the wind after a gallon of Guinness to think that this will redound well to the Republicans. In case you haven’t noticed, Republicans are now the fringe–barely a third of the country, where exactly half identify as Democrats. Party members are leaving the GOP in droves, and it’s because following this monumental idiot of a President only makes you look like an idiot.

    So the smart ones are recapturing their dignity and leaving the fold. Which leaves…you guys, I guess. 🙂

    Good luck with all of THAT.

    • Steve Plunk

      We’re smarter than that torridjoe.

      First of all the troops are not going to go broke while all this plays out in the political arena. That’s what it is, politics. The Dems want a set timetable for withdrawal even though they voted for the war, the Pres. wants to avoid setting a precedent of giving away the constitutional power of being the commander in chief of the armed forces. We now will see a standoff until someone blinks or a compromise can be brokered.

      The Dems knew from the get go that this bill was dead and going no where. The President made it very clear he would veto the bill if it contained withdrawal language. The Dems have also packed this with so much pork it makes sense to send it back anyway. Why did they waste this much time knowing it wasn’t going to fly?

      As for your bold predictions of who will come out looking good, I wouldn’t be so quick to crow. The President looks more like the serious one in this battle while the Dems look like they want to play around.

      If it’s true what you say about Republicans being barely a third of the country then you must also ask yourself why do we have a Republican President and pretty much half the congress Republican? Now don’t go down the “stolen election” path because we all know that’s not true. The truth is Republicans better represent what most people think. So as for dignity, I got mine and expect to keep it.

      • Thanks for the reply, Steve. The majority wants a timetable for withdrawal to close our major involvement in a conflict we have no reasonable way to participate in. The funding bill’s explicit intent is to fund the war and declare when it will cease to be funded.

        There is no rational threat to the commander in chief’s power here; the power to frame funding under timelines and status directives has been used in just about every major conflict since Korea. Short-memoried Republicans might not remember the hue and cry thrown up by the GOP during the Kosovo conflict–and that was a SUCCESSFUL war, for God’s sake.

        As long as we’re talking about perogative and good old Gene Whisnant, here’s what he had to say about Clinton and Kosovo in 1999 to American Legion magazine:

        I STRONGLY CONCUR with your recent call to withdraw immediately from the Balkans. I served as the Defense and Air Attache to Yugoslavia from June 1990 until October 1992. I know the truth about what is happening in Yugoslavia. What my country is doing is a crime against humanity and a crime against international law and the U.N. charter. Congress has failed to provide the leadership to stop or even question our commander in chief and the State Department. From first-hand observation, portraying the Serbs as evil and everyone else as good is dishonest. This is a media-generated tragedy and to finish it may take the blood of our service men and women. Again, thank you for speaking out and asking for the true facts. Gene Whisnant, Sunriver, Ore

        As to who looks serious–the President looks serious to whom, exactly? Don’t you realize over 2/3 of the country isn’t even listening to the guy anymore? And why should they–what has he said that’s come true or been the right advice? I mean, you really have to have drunk the Kool-Aid after 6 years to not be able to admit to yourself–the guy’s not very competent. He’s not that sharp, and he doesn’t manage his people well. He’s loyal, which is good, but the people he’s been loyal to have been screwing up royally while George stood by them. He can fire well-reviewed attorneys, but people who blow intel or reconstruction or occupation strategy just keep on going. Follow the Costanza principle–eventually it becomes clear that whatever seems right to him, means the opposite is the best course of action.

        Sakaki, you skipped neatly over the “president vetoes” part. He is ALSO faced with a decision: fund the troops as Congress has directed they be funded, or delay and perhaps jeopardize funding for the bill and a host of other items like the timber payments (I guarantee you few Republicans in Josephine and Douglas County consider those timber payments pork). It is his refusal to accept the terms under which a Congressional majority has sought to fund the troops that starts the chain.

        If it comes back, more than 2 Republicans would vote to override if it came to that. It may not, because they’d need 17 (or 15 and Pryor and Lieberman of course), but Sununu’s numbers are in the toilet and he is stepping off a cliff in NH if he backs the president on a veto. Collins faces a roughly similar situation, as does Coleman. I don’t think it would singlehandedly take down Warner, but it will cost him if he runs again.

        Actually, if you really want me to I will cite a litany of studies which indicate that most Americans think like Democrats, favoring the things they favor in the main and disfavoring those Democrats disfavor. The disconnect has existed since Reagan (hence the term Reagan Democrat) that putative Democratic voters found themselves voting against their own current interests and voting Republican. Either they did it on social policy or they did it on the basis that the rules that were screwing them as poor people, would help them if they ever got to be rich people, and they didn’t want to mess that up.

        We’re talking about a big dip recently though, since 2000, in self identified Republicans. Check the Pew Center site. It’s now 50/35 D/R.

    • Sakaki O.

      Funding with a forced timeframe withdrawal. That’s not funding, that’s flippin’ russian roulette. And you, joe, should know better than that (you are supposedly enlightened, why not actually use that knowledge once in a while).

      The president vetoes, the congress is posted with 2 decisions: Fund the troops and take out the time table, or pull the funding and send the bill to the President again, without funding…

      This means the Democrats and 2 Republicans who backed them will have to make a decision, and whatever the decision is…it’s going to end up biting them in the back end.

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