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.