Although it does not appear that the congressional democrats have acted in the noblest manner while this latest round of Iraq funding has been debated, they may actually be doing the right thing. The case for a democratic failure on this issue has been made by Glenn Greenwald on Salon.com, Kos at dailykos.com, Keith Olbermann and others. However, it is important to remember that this debate is being negotiated with an incompetent party on the other side, namely President Bush.
The release of the pre-war CIA intelligence report today detailed the potential dangers of invading Iraq, which the Bush administraion summarily ignored. Criminal negligence? Perhaps, but also a big reminder of exactly who is "putting our troops in harms way". In fact, the report predicts much of the boodshed and difficulties we face in Iraq today. Therefore, the blame for the current situation rests with one side of this funding debate, President Bush, and the debate over funding is now occuring only because of his negiligence. With the President's incompetence in mind, this debate is not as simple as it appears.
With regard to the funding bill, granted, the dems have not taken the principled stand and fought Bush for every dollar of funding he has requested. I concede that in an ideal world, they should have done that. However, they are not operating in an ideal world. They are operating in a world where no one actually knows the best solution in Iraq and any withdrawal is going to require diplomatic finesse and strategic planning. Two areas you do not want delegated to President Bush.
An interesting position is the one taken by Congressman Andrews. Congressman Andrews (D-NJ) released a statement explaining why he voted yes on the funding bill yesterday. explains the tension felt by each democratic member in this vote, and why he chose the realpolitick approach of providing the funding. Principly the vote was intended to avoid the debate over "cutting off funding to the troops". As cliched as that argument has become, it is an enormous distraction that would require educating 50 percent of the American public, a task not possible in a short time frame. Representative Slaughter also provides a thorough explanation of the vote and why democrats could not, and should not, have blocked the bill.
Obviously, any thinking person knows that whatever happens to the troops is Bush's decision, and his alone. If the troops are stranded on a battlefield, that is Bush's decision. Congress will be more than happy to spend whatever it costs for a safe, or safe as possible, withdrawal from Iraq. Therefore, the "cutting off funding" debate, althought totally irrelevant, will actually take the political pressure OFF the republican congresspersons who are needed for the veto-proof majority.
In addition, any withdrawal precipitated by a funding debate will not be well planned and organized, but rather, will be hapahazard and dangerous. Remember that a withdrawal, even if precipitated by Democratic resistance in congress, will be implemented by Bush. Will he be capable of formulating a wise and strategic withdrawl, without a veto-proof congressionally-designed withdrawal plan? Something to think about.
In contrast, if the dems provide the funding, as they have decided to do, and gaurantee a re-assessment of the situation in September, then the debate stays focused on the ground in Iraq. Support will build for a phased withdrawal and a veto-proof majority will likely coalesce around a sound withdrawal plan. I would much rather a withdrawal plan organized and thought through by Congress than one put together by a reluctant Bush because he doesn't have enough money to continue his reckless war.
My heart is with the democratic critics who are sickened by the thought of funding this war another day. However, the reality requires a more complex strategy than simply forcing a withdrawal as soon as possible. This is like negotiating with a demented bus driver, when you are on the bus, and he has control of the wheel. It may be wiser just to wait for him to run out of gas, rather than wrestle the wheel from him! Its easy to say simply cut off the funds, but if you actually had to vote and think about the realities associated with such a vote, you might want to come up with a better plan. Maybe I am wrong, but I see why this is a very difficult vote for democratic members of Congress trying to end this war in a responsible manner.