Legislation passed by congressional Democrats last week would force US troops
to abandon Iraq beginning Oct. 1. Though a presidential veto was foreordained,
the vote was great news for the jihadis in Iraq, their second such morale boost
in a week. On April 19, Senate majority leader Harry Reid had run up a white
flag, declaring that "this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing
anything" music to the ears of al-Qaeda and its allies.
Why is the Democratic Party so wedded to defeat in Iraq? What drives its
determination to see this war end in American failure?
The most generous explanation is that Democrats genuinely believe that Iraq
will be better off with the Americans gone that removing US troops will
eliminate the catalyst of al-Qaeda's butchery.
But as Connecticut's Joseph Lieberman pointed out in the Senate on Thursday,
this is sheer fantasy. US troops have retreated from Iraqi cities and regions a
number of times, yet "in each of these places where US forces pulled back,
al-Qaeda rushed in. Rather than becoming islands of peace, they became . . .
islands of fear and violence."
Lieberman quoted the grim forecast of Sheik Abdul Sattar, a Sunni tribal leader
in Anbar province: "If the American forces leave right now, there will be civil
war and the area will fall into total chaos." The most recent National
Intelligence Estimate on Iraq agrees. An American withdrawal in the near future
"almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope
of sectarian conflict in Iraq," it concludes. "Massive civilian casualties and
forced population displacement would be probable."
Some Democrats, clearly, are motivated by ideological conviction. There may be
some on the party's leftmost fringe who would welcome a US defeat on the
grounds that the only good superpower is a humbled superpower. There are
certainly Democrats in Congress, such as Ted Kennedy and Dennis Kucinich, who
almost always oppose any use of military force on principle.
And then there are those who cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the
magnitude of the stakes in Iraq or in the larger conflict against radical
jihadism. The reality of this struggle that we are in an existential war
with a totalitarian enemy that seeks worldwide dominance, celebrates death, and
cannot be appeased is too bleak and hopeless. They would rather escape into
an alternate reality, one in which Americans can choose to end the war by
quitting the battlefield.
But in the end there is no escaping that for many Democrats, this is all about
politics. Both President Bush and the war in Iraq are unpopular, and the
Democratic leadership hopes to capitalize by opposing both of them.
"We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war," Reid said
candidly at an April 12 press conference. "Senator Schumer has shown me numbers
that are compelling and astounding." To which Schumer, chairman of the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, added: "The war in Iraq is a lead
weight attached to their ankle. . . . They are looking extinction in the eye."
He spoke those words, Congressional Quarterly observed, "making no attempt to
hide his glee."
That glee is very telling. It would be one thing for lawmakers to conclude
regretfully that America's campaign in Iraq has failed and that bringing the
troops home is the least bad option left. Were that the case, voting to pull
the plug would be a sad and painful duty, one no member of Congress would carry
out with "glee."
Yet when the House of Representatives voted last month to force a withdrawal
from Iraq, Democrats were jubilant.
"Many House Democrats stayed on the floor, reveling in their victory," reported
The Hill on March 23. "House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey and
Representative John Murtha hugged each other while a smiling [majority leader
Steny] Hoyer shook every hand he could find. . . . [majority whip James]
Clyburn joked with members as [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi kissed and hugged her
The New York Times noted that in conversations with "dozens" of Democrats,
Pelosi's argument for the bill was overtly political: "Did they want a headline
saying, 'Congress is standing up to President Bush,' or 'Congress gives
President Bush free rein?'"
Senator John McCain, adamantly supporting the current "surge" in Iraq, says he
would rather lose a presidential campaign than a war. Democrats, all smiles,
prefer to lose the war and win the campaign. They're not alone. In Iraq, Al
Qaeda is smiling, too.