September 20th, 2007 07:05 EST
Iraq After Petraeus
After the early September Capitol Hill testimony from Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker defending the Bush war policy and the troop "surge," partisans on both sides of the Iraq divide largely have been confirmed in their previous positions. That is, those who already supported Bush`s war strategy found comfort in the testimony. And those who already opposed the war were convinced that whatever military progress there had been was not accompanied by political progress and that there is no alternative but a prompt and orderly withdrawal.
Not since Gen. William Westmoreland went before Congress on April 28, 1967 to assure the American people that the war in Vietnam was going well has this country witnessed so many members of Congress hanging on a U.S. general`s every last word.
It was clear that little has changed since Congress went on recess in August. House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY) captured the picture best: "The battle lines are exactly the same."
Public opinion polls provided aid and comfort to both sides . . . These inconsistent results suggest that while the November 2006 elections results may have shown that Americans are fed up with the war, believe that Bush is mishandling it, and want to get out, there is still no consensus on how or when to leave.
Senate Deputy Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) is probably correct in his prediction that, "The odds are that when the smoke clears none of the bills will get the 60 votes."
But the Iraq votes in the coming weeks are not likely to be Congress` last word on Iraq. There are still two touch points. Foremost is the November 2008 election . . . The second touch point will be votes on what is called a Supplemental Appropriations bill, a measure likely to be considered in October or November to provide close to $200 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during the next fiscal year. If the Senate Appropriations Committee attaches amendments in committee to slow or stop the war, anti-war forces will need only 51 votes to protect these provisions from Republican attempts to excise the language. With this result, Democrats gain leverage against the Bush war policy.