Bellum Interruptus in Iraq?

George Tuttle posted an interesting group of quotes from Gabby Giffords on the Iraq war on his blog: Stand up and be counted: Will the real Gabrielle Giffords please stand up?.

His conclusion is that Gabby has been inconstant in her view of what is to be done about Iraq. I actually don’t agree. If you take a cheese parer to her words, there is some variation, but basically she says we need to get out soon as possible, but not be too precipitous.

More interesting is his claim she said that she would have voted for the war in Green Valley on March 18th. I suspect this factoid could use some context, but I do find it troubling that, even now, the favored Democratic nominee seems to be saying that she wouldn’t have done anything different than Kolbe. WTF?

UPDATE 3/24: A commenter provided the following: "A Green Valley News story, Sunday, May 19, by Jim Lamb about Congressional candidate Gabrielle Giffords said if she had been in Congress she probably would have voted to go to war in Iraq. Giffords actually said she probably would not have voted for the resolution.The News regrets the error." So, apparently this comment in Green Valley was an error by the reporter, though I don’t subscribe to the GVNews, so I can’t verify the commenter’s assertion. I can’t say I’m surprised it was a mistake, though; I don’t think saying you would have voted for the war if you were in Congress is something any Democratic candidate will be saying these days, if they can avoid it. Which is why I was so shocked when I wrote this post.


The essential premise of withdrawal is that the war was a terrible strategic mistake. Any Democratic candidate saying that they would have voted for war, unless accompanied by a caveat like "if I was buried under a misinformation campaign and was foolish enough to believe any of this Administration’s claims…", concedes the GOP’s most elementary defense of the Iraq policy – that it is Congress’ duty to line up and blindly declare war on whomever the President fingers and that anyone who doesn’t is a wimp, a coward, hates the military, is anti-American, loves terrorists, and smells bad.

I strongly believe that Democrats need to provide voters with a genuine contrast with the GOP’s candidates’ views on the Iraq war. To be blunt – if we don’t, we’re fucked. So far, I’m satisfied all the Democratic candidates I have spoken with are capable of doing that.

The great majority of Americans want us out of Iraq. Withdrawal is the winning position. There can be no debate on this point. The issues arise regarding how Americans want that goal accomplished. I don’t think any Democrat currently advocating withdrawal, regardless of their choice of words on the stump,
thinks that we can simply pull out and devil take the hindmost. Those that I have had an extended conversation with know that just getting out is going to entail a complex logistical
and diplomatic process that will incur new costs and obligations of its
own. I haven’t spoken to Gabby at any length and so I don’t know what concerns she has about the process of withdrawal; I do assume she has some. I would be happy to learn more.

I think any Democrat who makes it clear that we’ve got to get clear as soon as we can in a manner consistent with the needs of force protection is hitting the right note. Gabby seems to pass that test along with the other candidates I’ve interviewed.

That said, it has to be understood that clarity and
consistency in politics is often considered a votal measure of political
will. Those who waffle and meander can’t lead as effectively in a
crisis. That is why a clear, simple and consistent message from Demcrats is
cruicial this year. We’re already charging uphill under fire; we don’t need to be circling, too.

Many Democrats, not to mention Independents and possible cross-over Republicans, have very real concerns that we not leave a horrible mess in Iraq. They fear a failed state or extended civil strife could provide a haven for extremism that we’d just have to go clean out eventually. It’s a valid concern, and it could happen. The problem is the assumption that there is anything we can do to prevent it with ~140K troops. There simply isn’t. We really have to do a better job of clarifying this issue.

If you have any doubt about what the
proper course is for Iraq, ask yourself, would it have made any
difference to the ultimate outcome in Vietnam if we had stayed five
years more? Any historian would tell you it wouldn’t have. Would it have made a difference if we had stayed five years
less? When you realize the answer to that is around 50K American lives,
you should know the RIGHT answer in Iraq.

If you think that comparison
too facile, ask yourself if we had stayed in Lebanon five years past
1983 – when Reagan pulled out after the Marine barracks bombing – or possibly even have increased our military commitment there, would
that have made a difference to the outcome in Lebanon? Lebanon would have likely have just melted down faster, been more deadly, and claimed more American lives. Lebanon is the sort
of agonizing, low-intensity sectarian civil war we are likely looking at in Iraq. Will
it do any damned good to have our troops dying in the middle of that?

things, like the collosal strategic fuck-up of invading Iraq, once done, cannot
be undone. Some pottery cannot be mended or replaced. In fact, the
premise of the ‘Pottery Barn’ rule is the huge conceit that everything we
fuck up is within our power to fix. Anyway, ask any Pottery Barn employee – better yet, go break something – the actual rule is that you don’t have to pay for breakage, you are just embarrassed and feel bad. No one ever died of embarrassment; plenty have died trying to avoid some politician experiencing it.

Iraq has its own destiny
and will be ruled by the choices Iraqis make, not Americans. We can work to
ameliorate their suffering and help them in any way we can, and we absolutely have an ethical duty to so, but sacrificing our children on the altar of the
Bush Administration’s hubris (and/or stupidity) is not part of that duty.

How’s this for a simple statement about Iraq:

Bush fucked up. Don’t make our troops die for it any longer.

0 responses to “Bellum Interruptus in Iraq?

  1. kralmajales

    I’m constantly amazed that if a person is not “your” type of Democrat, then they are a Repug…

    It amazes me that peace loving people could feel so bitter and angry at what the repugs did that they would rather leave and have the Iraqi people kill each other…your answer to peace is to get out Americans and turn your head as the the rest of the world looks at us for some alternative leadership in Iraq. If this is the answer, then the repugs are going to have a field day. Americans want us out…YES…I do too…but they don’t want to see the result of it to be death on a massive scale…like in Rawanda.

    Again, my brother served there and was wounded…my father has been in Iraq for two yars now. You have no idea how angry I am about this manufactured war. I do not support the war, and hated it well before most of the Democratic party finally got around to opposing it.

    I DO wish we could have spent the $400 trillion on education, but I also recognize that the time has passed for us to just say cut our losses and that we now have no responsibility for what the
    Republicans have done here.

    If Democrats are to govern, they must offer real solutions to this mess. If Gabby, Duckworth, or any of the other Democratic candidates get slammed for seeing this as a bit more complex than some of you, then so be it…hell they actually look a wee bit intelligent and frankly more courageous then those of you following the polls.

    I guess I am just not ready to leave without some kind of international peace-keeping mission…something like Clinton did in Bosnia. I would at least like the world to see that the Democratic party can take the mistakes of the Republicans and show that we actually are a party of compassion and leadership in the world.

  2. Saudi Arabia is suppose to be a close friend ,yet had us leave, Vacate-Vamouse Prince Sultan Air Force Base ,which they had just built new facilities to house our men and WOMEN. The problem was our Women Air Force personel were not allowed off base because Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, put that one in your thinking cap and move a 100 miles North to Iraq!

    Also while on base no one could drink Beer., only near-beer! They finally got cable T.V. in before they left! The joke was the Arabs said we “LOVE YOU,” because you die for us,and we do not want to fight,so please stay,we will build you nice buildings and give you favors.

    These people are Thieves and Liars dating back to the time of Jesus Christ and Mohammed, and are proud of tricking people into all kinds of things,by playing mind games!

    F.D.R. shook hands with King Sauad and said as long as you provide us with oil we will protect you. Then came Isreal after that statement as a State. Now this is a Biblical Event that is written , as one step closer to a final War, than one step away from the final War. You do not have to believe in The Bible , but whom in that day and age would be able to see what President Bush can’t see, 2000 years later?

  3. I have said this before and I will say it again,from experience , I have found that when anyone is associated with the Military,its Contractors or as an adviser finds it very hard to stop forward motion on anything ,as with Hughes-Raytheon Candidates now in this Congressional race,both Democrats and Republicans call to continue the fight,as we just see new contracts given to Raytheon at 1 trillion dollars in defense contracts. Can you imagine a Candidate for Congress going against a Company with a TRILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT, and if elected would be a new Congressperson getting a phone call from these guys?

  4. Don’t anyone say the world has come to an end, but I agree with Godzilla on this, its time to go!

    Its hard when dealing with the Families of the fallen,but don’t let that grief take down even more.

    During Viet Nam it was hell as I was being called to Phoenix,every 6 months,being in school, being 1a,Drafted in 1966 into The Army and was being lead by a President who was a Democrat from “Texas” who did not want to appear weak in the eyes of the World. But who today would have said that we were any weaker if we had left in 1965 when President Johnson knew he was not going to win the War in Viet Nam,in recent tapes released by The Presidential Libraries, with conversations betwen Johnson and Kissinger?

    My Cousin was a Prisoner of War for the longest of all the POW’S David Rehmann, a Fighter pilot paraded in Hanoi with his broken arm casted up and featured in Life Magazine. He was there before John McCain was shot down, none of these guys would have even been in theater if Johnson had not let 200,000 more die because of not changing course.

  5. Fine Kralmajales, go join the Repugs since your so in line with them and I’m sure that the Army would love to have someone as motivated has you. Maybe even KBR has a hooch for you in Iraq. Your perfect, poster child for the repug cause.

    Your narrow minded if you think things are going to get better with us there. The history proves otherwise.

    I’m glad someone is recording the candidates, they all should be recorded for consistancy. To bad your candidate has problems with this, that is, consistancy. I wouldn’t want to be recorded either if I had problems keeping the same message.

    Nice flight suit by the way, Dub would be proud.

  6. Now…on responses to Iraq…and why some may appear wishy washy. It is a difficult issue. The republicans got us into this mess…but if Democrats are going to govern later, they must consider the enormity of the consequences to staying and leaving. It appears that Latas favors the Murtha plan of a timed withdraw of our troops. Great, but is that the best response to this problem. Other thoughtful Democrats have attacked the administration for what it has done, but recognized that pulling out means a vast sectarian cleansing on the scale of maybe Rwanda and Serbia. America must admit its mistakes in Iraq and then good Democrats must work to solve the problem with minimal bloodshed.

    I hate the war. My brother was there, was shot, and ended his military career because of the things he had to do. But he also found the people amazing…he tells me stories of families that just want to be safe and to educate their children. My father is there now as a contracter. No work here…so he took the risk.

    As an American people we have created a horrible problem for the world…we owe it to the world to be human, take responsibility, and fix it…or we look as callous as the Republicans…four, five years later.

  7. Ok…what a bunch of completely lame attack artists you all are here Godzilla…etc. etc. Do go read George Tuttle’s piece, which you all seem to be celebrating. Now it appears that some of you are even flat out lying about Giffords positions.

    Let me say this, now and loudly…the fact that you all actually record the other candidates in an effort to find inconsistencies is pathetic, Rove-ian, and Machievellian. It says a lot about some Latas supporters…and it says a lot about your desperation to get your candidate’s message out.

    I admire Blog for Arizona for fact checking.

    See my next post.

  8. “Everything that needs to be known is now known: The reasons the Bush Administration gave for the American war in Iraq were all falsehoods or deceptions, and every day the US occupation continues deepens the very problems it was supposed to solve. Therefore there can no longer be any doubt: The war–an unprovoked, unnecessary and unlawful invasion that has turned into a colonial-style occupation–is a moral and political catastrophe. As such it is a growing stain on the honor of every American who acquiesces, actively or passively, in its conduct and continuation.

    “The war has also become the single greatest threat to our national security. Its human and economic costs are spiraling out of control, with no end in sight. It has driven America’s reputation in the world to a historic low point. In the meantime, real threats suffer terrible neglect. These include more terrorist attacks, jeopardized oil supplies, rising tension with China, the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and even natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. All are pushed aside as this Administration pours the country’s blood, treasure and political energy into a futile war. In short, ending the Iraq War is the most pressing issue facing America today. Until it is ended, a constructive national security policy cannot be forged.

    “Americans are well on their way to a full appreciation of the dimensions of this debacle. In an October CBS news poll, 59 percent of citizens surveyed and 73 percent of Democrats now want an end to US military involvement in Iraq. But this growing majority has made its judgment with virtually no help from our nation’s leaders. Most shameful has been the Democratic Party’s failure to oppose the war. Indeed, support for it has been bipartisan: A Republican President and Congress made the policy, and almost all of the leading Democrats–most of the honorable exceptions are members of the House of Representatives–supported it from the outset and continue to do so. To their credit, would-be presidential candidate Senator Russell Feingold and former Senator Gary Hart have recently made strong antiwar statements. More recently two other presidential contenders, Senator John Kerry and former Senator John Edwards, have begun to call for a shift in policy, though still in vague and reticent terms. More typical, however, are the other presidential hopefuls, Senators Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Evan Bayh, who continue to huddle for cover in ‘the center.’ They offer little alternative to Bush’s refrain ‘We must stay the course!’ Nor do the party’s Congressional leaders and its head, Howard Dean, once a leader of antiwar sentiment. Can such politicians, who cannot even follow a majority–in the Democratic Party, a large majority–really be considered leaders?

    “The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, but we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of Bush’s disaster should not be permitted to excuse the creation of a worse disaster by continuing the occupation.

    “We firmly believe that antiwar candidates, with the other requisite credentials, can win the 2006 Congressional elections, the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and the subsequent national election. But this fight, and our stand, must begin now.

    “In the coming weeks and months The Nation will help identify–and encourage support for–those candidates prepared to bring a speedy end to the war and to begin the hard work of forging a new national security policy that an end to the Iraq War will make possible.

    “There is no other way to save America’s security and honor. And to those Democratic “leaders” who continue to insist that the safer, more electable course is to remain openly or silently complicit in the war, we say, paraphrasing the moral philosopher Hillel: If not now, when? If not you, who?”

    –“Democrats and the War,” The Nation,, November 28, 2005

  9. Also, I may be accused of arming the Republicans with what they need in a general. I don’t have to tell them this, they know. I will also be accused of tearing down the party. I only tear down one of them, the rest seem to be honest and principled. Just remember she was a republican until she ran her first state rep. race. I for one would NOT back Giffords if she wins the primary, there are a couple of Independents that stand for more then her.

    Our Democratic party is in shambles because of people like Giffords, backed by the high and mighty elitist. I ask you who feel left out to fight for your rights and not be scammed by this attempt to gain more power for those who are already represented in Congress. Look closely at our progressive candidates and see what they stand for.

  10. This line didn’t change, “she said she thinks America needs to stay until stability in achieved” and this is way we should NOT (just for the record so no one is confused) vote for her!

    How many more dead soldiers need to die for “stability” Ms. Giffords? How many more leg and arms and eyes need to be blown of our American bodies Ms. Giffords? How many more families need to suck it up for KBR and Halliburton Ms. Giffords? How many more dollars do we need to pack up Cheney’s ass Ms. Giffords?

    Let me tell you a story about someone I know. He was alerted to break a door down to hunt “suspected terrorist” in a two story house outside Baghdad. The soldiers entered the house and moved into the rooms. One of the rooms two men were waiting. Behind the door the first made his move, my friend fired his gun directly into his chest and guts. The man died, not instantly, but quickly and that image is frozen in my buddy’s mind. The other turned to run and was shot in the back. How many more soldiers need to carry that with them for the rest of their lives, Ms. Giffords before “stability” is had? Stability is a Republican term to keep that pipeline of oil open. That’s the stability they mean, is that what you mean too, Ms Giffords?

    I agree with azpol, she seems to be out of touch and out of date. Her rhetoric should have been used two years ago. If she is so convicted on this issue and wanted such change, why didn’t she have the conviction of Francine or Jeff Latas? WHY — Opportunist.

  11. Francine Shacter

    Azpoljunkie says – quite correctly – “There is no chance in hell that a freshman congressperson will be able to broker a deal with our allies to get into this mess. I’m sorry, that’s just not realistic or even rational.” For the electorate, however, it is important to know how their representative would have voted. Also, even though a first term congressperson could not broker a deal, that person can find and work closely with those like minded and more senior members, thus leveraging her/his one-ness. When I speak, I always make the very necessary point that there is little lower in the Congress than a freshman congressperson. At the same time, that person is important, as I said above, since the one thing they absolutely can do is leverage themselves through constructive associations with more senior members. A bit redundant statement, but I think you get the point.

  12. Here’s the context on that Green Vally News & Sun quote:

    “On Iraq, Giffords said if she’d been in congress, she probably would have voted to go to war there.
    “And she said she thinks America needs to stay until stability is achieved.
    “She said other countries need to step up and help in Iraq.”

    That is all there is on Iraq, three sentances. I havn’t seen the correction, but I would ask why if she said that she wouldn’t vote for it, wouldn’t she ask for a correction of the next line too. Of course they’re not exactly the same, but it make me wonder. Also the third line really bothers me. I think that the time for coalition building has gone by the wayside and it is too late for that. There is no chance in hell that a freshman congressperson will be able to broker a deal with our allies to get into this mess. I’m sorry, that’s just not realistic or even rational.

  13. Godzilla,
    Please see the Green Valley paper from March 22 —
    “A Green Valley News story
    Sunday, May 19, by Jim Lamb
    about Congressional candidate
    Gabrielle Giffords said if
    she had been in Congress she
    probably would have voted to
    go to war in Iraq.
    Giffords actually said she
    probably would not have voted
    for the resolution.The News regrets
    the error.”

  14. I read it,

    “On Iraq, Giffords said if she’d ben in Congress, she probably would have voted to go to war there. And she said she thinks America needs to stay until stability in achieved.” Green Valley News & Sun, March 19, 2006.

    Any questions on her stance. I have to agree with George Tuttle, she changes, morphs, and panders. Will the Real Giffords please stand up!

  15. Francine Shacter

    Iraq War.
    There are more than two candidates running for Congress in CD 8. I have been entirely consistent about my position on the war – from Patagonia to my most recent remarks at the Saguaro Democrats this past Monday: We must plan and execute a speedy withdrawal from Iraq. We should eat whatever crow is necessary so we can assemble an international rebuilding of Iraq.
    This is what I say on my web page: We need to plan and execute a speedy withdrawal from Iraq; staying the course is not an option. The US should coordinate planning and assist in a multi-national rebuilding Iraq.
    When Michael Bryan interviewed me, I gave the following response about Iraq:
    “We need to eat a little crow and bring in some other countries. There are enough natural resources in Iraq to bring in the money to rebuild. We broke it, we should fix it. I think we should take responsibility for coordinating with other countries to come in and help rebuild. I don’t think we should maintain any permanent bases, and I don’t think we need to lose any more human lives, and that’s been my position since the first day I spoke at Patagonia, and it has never changed.” In addition, I used the example of someone who has a gnat in her eye: it is so irritating that you can’t do anything until you get rid of the gnat. That is how we are viewed by the Iraqis – like a gnat in the eye, an irritant. We have learned nothing from history. We have learned nothing from the valiant resistance of the British to the German bombing in WW 2. the more the Germans bombed the British, the more cohesive and united the British people were against the Germans. We are the focal point of all the anger and passion of the people to regain their own country.

    Bush and the generals say if we leave there will be civil war – wrong tense! There is civil war. Say what you will about Saddam – and I have no intention of defending him or what he did. He presented no threat to the United States and he managed to maintain a sort of equilibrium in Iraq with its Sunni, Shia and Kurd factions. We destroyed a delicate balance when we invaded Iraq and through our hamhandedness, we have done nothing to establish a new equilibrium.

    Last but not least, I would never have voted to give George Bush the power to wage war – never! In fact, I said at the time, it’s so crazy – he’ll never do it.

  16. The “Anger” in The pentagon was very stark after Generals started disapearing before our very eyes,in 2002,while The Pentagon Staff was being reduced,supposidly due to the Quadrenial Review Process. The Office that handled all “Reserve Call-ups” was reduced to “Three Staff Members!” C5-A Aircraft were being dispatched to the Pacific because of pile-ups of Military personel in Guam and Hawaii, bumping seats as they flew Military Airlifts home.

    Pentagon Staff in place for 20 years were getting assignments to Korea for Christmas!

    So now not only are Generals Pissed-Off but rank and file, combined with all the mis-steps in Iraq; lead the American people to smoke and mirrors that our Allies could not think possible in a Democracy like The United States, to Re-Elect “The Policy” that got us here in the first place!

  17. George Tuttle is great,and I enjoyed his take on things; I had a good laugh at the Latas and Giffords thing, and Bush Lies; funny they are all fighter pilots,maybe we should just load them up and let them fight it out over The Barry Goldwater Bombery Range!