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.