Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Flinch

Democrats were elected on a tidal wave of opposition to the war, especially as conducted by GW. They have now been in office for eight months, and what have they done? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Supposedly they were waiting on the Petraeus report, but suddenly the air is full of intimations of surrender. I posted on a couple earlier. There are more here and here.

Democratic leaders in Congress had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war. Instead, Democrats have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front, increasingly focusing their criticisms on what those military gains have not achieved: reconciliation among Iraq's diverse political factions.

And now the Democrats, along with wavering Republicans, will face an advertising blitz from Bush supporters determined to remain on offense. A new pressure group, Freedom's Watch, will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign today designed to shore up support for Bush's policies before the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, lays out a White House assessment of the war's progress. The first installment of Petraeus's testimony is scheduled to be delivered before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a fact both the administration and congressional Democrats say is simply a scheduling coincidence.

The leading Democratic candidates for the White House have fallen into line with the campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.

What could explain this bizarre turnabout? Glenn Greenwald offers a clue in this provocative and scary post.

Carl Levin, probably the most influential Senate Democrat on Iraq policy, just returned from a "visit to Iraq." In a joint statement with GOP Sen. John Warner, he pronounced that "the military aspects of President Bush's new strategy in Iraq, as articulated by him on January 10, 2007, appear to have produced some credible and positive results."

Greenwald calls bullshit on this one:

But Levin has not -- as his joint statement claimed and media reports recite -- "seen indications that the surge of additional brigades to Baghdad and its immediate vicinity and the revitalized counter-insurgency strategy being employed have produced tangible results in making several areas of the capital more secure." It is patently inaccurate to claim that Levin "saw" anything meaningful. Rather, he simply heard claims voiced by U.S. military officials about U.S. military progress and Iraqi troop improvement -- claims the U.S. military has been making for four straight years -- and he is now repeating those claims.

Levin is willingly serving as an uncritical spokesman here for the most dubious and sunny claims of the U.S. military regarding our great progress. But he knows that, and it is almost surely deliberate. The important point here is that Levin's statements signal the clear strategy Senate Democrats are embracing in the preparation for Gen. Petraeus' imminent visit.

Senate Democrats largely will not challenge, but rather will embrace and celebrate, the notion that The Surge Is Working and that we are making "military progress," whatever that might mean this month. To "oppose the war," they instead will follow the strategy Hillary Clinton has adopted this year -- namely, blaming the Iraqis for failing to take advantage of the great opportunities we are creating for them. Levin's demand that Prime Minister Maliki be replaced is designed to accomplish exactly that. Democrats are afraid to challenge the U.S. military's claims that we are Winning, and are even afraid to oppose the Surge, so instead, they will take the safest course -- heaping the blame on the Iraqi government and demanding that they improve.

It gets much worse.

That the Congress will do nothing -- before September, during September and after September -- to force Bush out of Iraq is not news to anyone other than our Beltway elites. The only certain political fact has long been that we will be occupying Iraq at roughly the same levels of troop strength throughout the Bush presidency. But the fact that Congressional Democrats actually seem to weaken by the day -- they actually seem, as a group, to be turning gradually more pro-war -- is extremely alarming for an entirely different reason.

An article by former CIA officer Robert Baer in this week's Time Magazine -- headlined: "A Prelude to an Attack on Iran" -- casts such an attack as virtually inevitable prior to the end of the Bush presidency, and likely much sooner than that:

Reports that the Bush Administration will put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list can be read in one of two ways: it's either more bluster or, ominously, a wind-up for a strike on Iran. Officials I talk to in Washington vote for a hit on the IRGC, maybe within the next six months. . . .

Strengthening the Administration's case for a strike on Iran, there's a belief among neo-cons that the IRGC is the one obstacle to democratic and a friendly Iran. They believe that if we were to get rid of the IRGC, the clerics would fall, and our thirty-years war with Iran over. It's another neo-con delusion, but still it informs White House thinking.

This still leaves open the question of the Democrat's fold? Can they really be that stupid? That cowardly? Maybe the latter.

Greenwald reaches into the comments for the clue:

UPDATE: As Scientician notes in Comments, House Democrats, in the face of intense AIPAC lobbying, already backed away once before from a rather mild amendment that would have required (or, more accurately, purported to require) the Bush administration to obtain Congressional approval before attacking Iran:

House Democrats, who have been divided on whether the president needs authorization from Congress to attack Iran, suggested yesterday that they are more united on the controversial issue.

But with Iran measures possibly headed to the House floor as early as today, it is unclear if Democrats have the votes to pass legislation calling for the president to seek authorization from Congress for a preemptive strike on Iran.

House Democratic leaders initially attempted to insert Iran language in their now-vetoed Iraq supplemental bill, but abandoned the plan after some New York Democrats, including Reps. Eliot Engel and Gary Ackerman, balked at the language.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential group that advocates strong U.S. ties with Israel, lobbied heavily to remove the Iran provision in the supplemental, arguing that the measure would weaken President Bush's attempts to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Israel has been the third rail of American politics. American newspapers and politicians are afraid to stand up to provocations of right-wing nutjobs who would (and regularly are) called out in Israel.

Allowing or signing on to another proxy war on Israel's behalf is not likely to end well for America or Israel - or for the Democrats involved.