After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to “transition to a more limited mission” in the war-torn nation.
With the midterm elections three months away, and Democrats seeing public discontent over Iraq as their best chance for retaking the House or Senate, a dozen key lawmakers told Bush in a letter: “In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained. . . . We need to take a new direction.”
The 12 Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), include liberals and centrists who have differed over Iraq in the past. The signers included the top Democrats on the House and Senate committees dealing with armed services, foreign relations, intelligence and military spending. Their action puts party leaders on the same page, and it helps clarify the Nov. 7 election as a choice between a party seeking a timeline for withdrawing troops from an unpopular war and a party resisting any such timetable.
Clarity is a very, very good thing. Democratic majorities in either the House or the Senate will compel the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq whether or not the country’s young government can survive such a withdrawal, whether or not such a withdrawal will be followed by a triumph of the Iranian surrogates or the entrenchment in Anbar Province of al Qaeda or both, whether or not confrontation with Iran over a nuclear program is imminent.
The Democrats would rather lose Iraq than lose an election; capitulate to Iranian ambitions than concede that George Bush’s understanding of the evil we face is correct.
The stakes could not be higher.