This last Saturday Senator Maria Cantwell was a surprise speaker at the 46th Legislative District Democratic Caucus. She once again said that this was “the year of transition in Iraq“and that we needed “to bring the troops home.”
On April 17, 2006 in the Seattle Times she is quoted as saying the same thing:
“2006 needs to be a year of transition, and I’m fighting to get the Iraqi people on their feet and get our troops home,” she said.
Did you think we needed to get rid of Saddam Hussein? “Yes, and on the resolution I haven’t changed my mind. I’m going to talk to them [anti-war Democrats] about what I think we need in 2006, and they can make the judgment on that.”
The “Bring the Troops Home” statement has also previously been reported on twice by the NPI Blog. So it is not a new statement but it appears to be Cantwell’s official position. She also has met with representatives of groups opposing the Iraq War. You can read some lengthy observations by others of that meeting at WashBlog.
When I had a chance to question Senator Cantwell after her speech to the Democrats, she again stated that her position under Bush on getting rid of Saddam Hussein is consistent with her position in 1993 when Clinton was President.
Regarding her vote giving Bush authority to go to war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein, however she also told me, “If we knew then what we know now there probably never would have been a vote by Congress to go into Iraq.”
Regarding Iran, Cantwell deplored Bush’s “saberrattling” and said “he needed to ratchet things down.” Rather than starting at the highest level of confrontation, she said he should “drop talk of a nuclear weapons strike“ and start with direct contact, talking and negotiation to try to reach resolution.
Cantwell’s current position on Iraq is based on a resolution passed by Congress called the Warner Frist Amendment, Amendment 2518. A press release by Senator Karl Levin dated Nov 15, 2006 presents a small amount of discussion on the issue when it was before the Senate. It passed by a vote of 79 to 19. Levin had proposed stronger wording in an initial version.
Thirteen Republicans voted against the watered down amendment which set no specific timeline for withdrawal. Senator John McCain of Arizona, who is also running to succeed Bush, was one of those. Senators Cantwell and Murray voted for the amendment.
The Senate Resolution represents a significant turning point in the Iraq War. A good discussion of this is presented at the Council for a Liveable World’s Withdrawal from Iraq Blog.
…the reality of the symbolism is that most of the media and the political establishment view the Senate votes as a watershed. Most in both camps say that the Senate is abandoning Bush’s “stay the course” policy. Senators have read the polls and the election results. The President’s policies have been repudiated.
…it is now perceived wisdom that Bush is losing both parties on the war. It is now virtually impossible to turn the clock back. This widespread interpretation also brings the war’s end a bit closer by fueling the drive to exit.
Some argue that the vote only gave Republicans and potential Democratic presidential candidates cover. Whether that it true or not, many such candidates are now on record for a phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq and for telling the Iraqis that the U.S. will eventually depart.
Cantwell and the Democrats are shaping the issue and moving forward by declaring 2006 as the year of transition in Iraq. Reports required by the resolution on progress in getting out of Iraq are to be given to Congress.
Nevertheless I think it is important that more specific goals and dates be set. This is the way you run a successful operation, just like a business plan and without more specifics no one’s feet are held to the fire.
There is a more specific plan that looks appealing to me. It is titled “Strategic Redeployment – a Progressive Plan for Iraq Against Violent Extremists” and was written by Lawrence Korb, a Reagan administration assistant defense secretary and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress.
First published on Sept. 29, 2005 Brian Katulis last month published a commentary in tPhiladelphiapha Inquier as a followup, entitled Strategic Redeployment Best of All. I think the basic thesis of the plan is sound and deserves serious consideration.
As Karulis points out:
President Bush’s “stay-the-course” message offers nothing new to an impatient American public. It merely restates a failed policy that only further increases the burden on American taxpayers, weakens U.S. ground forces, serves as a rallying cry for al-Qaeda, and fails to stabilize Iraq.
The Strategic Redeployment Plan is pretty straight forward:
The plan calls on the Bush administration to encourage Iraqi leaders to take control of their country by saying the U.S. military is going to leave Iraq and set a timetable for doing so. The proposal says the United States should draw down its troop presence from its present level of 136,000 to 60,000 by the end of the year, the remainder to virtually zero by the end of 2007. It also encourages more vigorous diplomacy in the region and in Iraq, to bring the country’s factions together.
The gradual drawdown would allow U.S. troops to continue providing crucial support to the nascent Iraqi security forces. But the plan also clears the way for a political solution and recognizes that current troop levels are unsustainable without a draft. If we still have more than 130,000 ground soldiers in Iraq a year from now, we will destroy the all-volunteer Army. Keeping such a large contingent of troops there will require the Pentagon to send many units back to Iraq for a third time and to activate reserve and Guard forces a second or third time.
The United States can not impose its will on an unwilling country. We need to acknowledge that we have successfully removed a despot from running Iraq but also realize that the future depends on Iraq citizens taking responsibility for their future. At this point the longer we stay without an end point, the more likely that ultimately a civil war will split Iraq into opposing religious factions.
As Katulis states:
The key to strategic redeployment is that it acknowledges up front that Iraq’s problems cannot be solved by American boots on the ground. A timetable for withdrawal will spur Iraq’s battling factions to try harder to reach a compromise before U.S. troops leave.