The Democrats passed the House resolution objecting to the new surge strategy in Iraq even as American soldiers began to apply it in earnest. House leadership had predicted a wave of Republican support for the non-binding proposal, but in the end they could only get 17 Republicans to cross the aisle -- and managed to lose two of their own:
After four days of emotional debate over the extent of presidential powers in wartime and the proper role of Congress, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution today denouncing President Bush’s plan to send more American troops to Iraq.
The 246 to 182 vote in favor of the non-binding but nevertheless important measure set the stage for a crucial Senate debate on Saturday on how to debate the administration’s Iraq policy, or indeed whether it should be debated at all.
There had been virtually no doubt about the outcome in the House today, given the Democratic majority in the chamber and the fact that a significant number of Republicans had also signaled their backing for the resolution, which expresses support for American troops but not for their commander-in-chief.
Seventeen Republicans voted for the resolution. Two Democrats, Jim Marshall of Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi, voted against it. Mr. Marshall is the son and grandson of Army generals and was wounded in combat in Vietnam, according to The Almanac of American Politics. Mr. Taylor has a generally conservative voting record and is “strongly pro-defense,” the almanac says. Six representatives cast no vote.
This was an unprecedented move by Congress to interfere in the command of American troops during wartime. Congress has threatened to cut off funding before to end conflicts and deployments, but no one can find an example of Congress scolding the President over a specific strategy while the military implements it. It declares a military operation in its opening stages a defeat before it has a chance to succeed, a mind-boggling statement, and one entirely performed for partisan purposes.
Seventeen Republicans voted for the resolution. A new joint project, the Victory Caucus, lists the GOP Representatives who voted to declare a defeat before the Army and Marine Corps have entered the field in full. One of them comes from Minnesota -- Jim Ramstad, who can be reached at 202-225-2871 or by e-mail here.
Why are we listing these members? The Victory Caucus wants to ensure that we find suitable primary opponents for them in 2008. If you live in their districts, we need your help to find people who either support the mission or do something tangible to end it, and not to sit on the sidelines and try to run a war by complaints.
One point lost in today's vote is that the surge strategy has had an immediate impact on the situation in Baghdad, although the US underscored the fact that the operation is stil in its preliminary stages:
A total of 10 corpses were collected off the streets — apparently all victims of the city's lawless jumble of gang justice and sectarian payback. The daily body tally recently has often been 40 or more, excluding major bombings, said Brig. Gen. Qassim Moussawi.
This was the basis for an upbeat message by Moussawi, a spokesman for the joint U.S.-Iraqi security sweep that began this week and has so far faced limited resistance. But his American counterparts remain much more guarded.
"I would say that it is way too early to establish any trends," said Lt. Col. Chris Garver, a U.S. military spokesman. "We've just started to focus our operations. We have months to go to see if we are going to succeed or not."
Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, attributed the reduction in violence not only to the increased security presence but also to an apparent decision by the militias and insurgents to lay low for a while.
"But make no mistake, we do not believe ... that's going to continue, and we do expect there are going to be some very rough, difficult days ahead," Fil said. "And this enemy knows how — they understand lethality and they have a thirst for blood like I have never seen anywhere before."
The fact that the militias knew to lay low points to the reason for the surge. When we engage in strength and for a significant period of time, the terrorists know that they cannot hope to beat us. Instead, they have faded away and will watch us to gauge our level of commitment. If we remain in the neighborhoods that we clear, they will either keep out of our way or die trying to take back their turf. Either way, the residents of Baghdad will gain confidence in the security of their communities and begin to support their own security forces to maintain peace.
Unfortunately, the House just sent a huge signal to the terrorists that waiting us out is a winning strategy, one they will not have to endure for very long. I don't believe that the politicians who voted for this resolution are traitors or Quislings, and in fact I strenuously reject that characterization. I think they're idiots and fools, though, and idiots and fools can be almost as dangerous.
UPDATE: Gary Gross has Sam Johnson's speech in opposition to the resolution -- a must read:
The grim reality is that this House measure is the first step to cutting funding of the troops…Just ask John Murtha about his ’slow-bleed’ plan that hamstrings our troops in harm’s way.
Now it’s time to stand up for my friends who did not make it home, and those who fought and died in Iraq, so I can keep my promise that when we got home we would quit griping about the war and do something positive about it…and we must not allow this Congress to leave these troops like the Congress left us.
Today, let my body serve as a brutal reminder that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past…instead learn from them.
There's much more, and Gary has all of it.