July 6, 2007

Domenici Wavers

George Bush's efforts in Iraq took a blow yesterday when Republican Senator Pete Domenici announced that he wants American troops out of combat areas in Iraq by early next year. Oddly, he insisted that he didn't want a withdrawal, leaving his vision of American involvement unclear:

White House efforts to keep congressional Republicans united over the Iraq war suffered another major defection yesterday as Sen. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) broke with President Bush and called for an immediate change in U.S. strategy that could end combat operations by spring.

The six-term lawmaker, party loyalist and former staunch war supporter represents one of the most significant GOP losses to date. Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Albuquerque, Domenici said he began to question his stance on Iraq late last month, after several conversations with the family members of dead soldiers from his home state, and as it became clear that Iraqi leaders are making little progress toward national reconciliation.

"We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress," Domenici said. "I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home."

Strategically, Domenici sounds a little incoherent. Where in Iraq would he like the troops moved to get out of "combat operations"? If so, why not just opt for an immediate withdrawal instead of just leaving them as sitting ducks, a la Beirut 1983? They're safer engaging the enemy on their own terms, rather than waiting for the enemy to attack them.

Politically, however, he sounds more coherent. He joins other Republicans, like John Warner and George Voinovich, who want Iraq off the table for the 2008 elections. He has endorsed a bill that would require the implementation of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations sponsored by Ken Salazar and co-sponsored by Republicans such as Robert Bennett, Judd Gregg, Susan Collins, and John Sununu. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee was the original co-sponsor of the bill.

All of this adds up to a real problem for Bush when the Senate reconvenes. Clearly his party caucus has begun to collapse on the war, and not even Joe Lieberman can save him through a cloture vote on some demand for change. The Salazar bill would not require an immediate withdrawal, but a quick perusal of the ISG's recommendations makes it clear that the bill would force some fundamental changes, some of them fairly divorced from reality. Given its reliance -- as a prerequisite for other actions -- on the benevolence of Iran and Syria, it's a plan that cripples the US and Iraq from the start.

The ISG billt will have quite a bit of opposition, however, and not just from the Republicans determined to remain firm on the war. Democrats will likely form a majority of opposition to it as well, thanks to the ISG's warning on precipitate withdrawal, which it notes would "almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions." It would create a clear propaganda victory for al-Qaeda, and even more importantly, leave them Iraq as their new base of operations. If Salazar's bill actually follows the ISG recommendations, then it means American troops will remain in Iraq for quite some time, if not in the numbers presently seen -- and Democrats will not agree to that. It would kill them in the next election, possibly splitting the anti-war activists off to support third-party candidates.

This sounds like a recipe for stalemate. In fact, it looks like another immigration-reform debacle, with the center getting squeezed by both sides. If that happens, the President may get his extension by default, as Congress runs out of time again for retooling the war before the funds for the deployed troops run out.


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Comments (22)

Posted by ted in bed | July 6, 2007 8:00 AM

I normally would support the President on the war but he has lost my support. He can blame his open borders strategy .... Amnesty/Legalization .... increased immigration from Muslium/Arab countries .... failure to enforce existing immigration laws ..... and his Religion of Peace mantra.

Posted by nosupportthistime | July 6, 2007 8:04 AM

I think you've hit the nail right on the head with this post.

Our efforts in Iraq are no longer considered a matter of national security. They are mere political matters, and so now ... it will be up to George W. Bush to muster the political will in Republicans and Democrats to continue our efforts there.

It's too bad President Bush spent the bulk of his political capital trying to force bad immigration law down Republican "bigots'" throats.

Now that he really needs us "bigots," we won't be rushing to his side.

Actions have consequences. Mr. Bush, and especially Mr. Lindsey Graham's actions during the immigration debacle, will now set the stage for handing the Jihadists their first victory as American troops are forced to tuck tail and run from the field of battle.

Heck of a job, Georgie!

Posted by TW | July 6, 2007 8:14 AM

What is missing here is discussion of that 500 million dollar embassey and those five permanent military mega-bases we are building there. All the newly-minted 'opponents' to the war know that those facilities will be there for a very long time. Talk of 'over the horizon' deployment of US forces is alluding to those bases. So it's now easy to talk about "withdrawing" without really withdrawing, since our forces will just move to those bases.

We've made a long term investment of two trillion dollars to keep our hand on the oil spigot. We ain't "leaving" any time soon. At least the Australian defense minister was honest enough to say what we all know - it really is all about the oil.

Posted by onlineanalyst | July 6, 2007 8:15 AM

Sen. Domenici appears to be influenced by his empathy toward families that have lost loved ones in the battlefield in Iraq, but his rationale is short-sighted. His plan would actually escalate the numbers of vulnerable troops. Someone on his staff needs to direct Domenici to the Michael Yon report so that he understands the implications of troop drawdown at this critical point and that his decisions are based on more than day-to-day numbers of casualties.

I would expect that a conscientious legislator would think long-term. With the escalating saber-rattling by Syria and Iran and their roles in destabilizing the ME, the Hamilton-Baker ISG push for alliances is hardly a model of prudent policy.

Why are these senators not waiting for Gen. Petraeus's September report?

The haste to disengage themselves from the Iraq committment smacks of personal concern for their incumbency and not the safety of our troops and our national security in the long term.

Posted by syn | July 6, 2007 8:34 AM

Let's be honest, our military went to war while the American people tuned out.

Over the years, how many of you attended pro-troops rallies or counter the anti-war brigades, or personally sent care packages.

I attended numerous pro-troop rallies over the last couple of years but attendance was low. The excuse always given for low attendance was that Conservatives are too busy working or that they had more important things to do like decorating their homes, tuning onto IPods or going to the movies.

If America pulls out of Iraq don't blame the politicians, they just go with the flow. The blame lies squarely on the American people who were too busy liven the good life to bother standing up for their country.

That said, if we do pull out a second time (GUlf war 1 was the first) this will demoralize our soldiers to the point that there won't be anyone left to defend us. And I wouldn't blame our soldiers for giving a big FU to the American people for being so useless.

Posted by NoDonkey | July 6, 2007 8:41 AM

I watched the Rolling Stones 1969 concert in Altamont the other night.

It was a vision of Congress when they were young.

Stoned, stupid, naked and gyrating to music stolen by jackasses from real musicians.

The Stones hired the Hells Angels to handle security. And paid them in all the beer they could drink. Good plan.

So soon the Angels were beating on the kids in the crowd who were so hepped up on bad acid, they were rushing the stage.

And all "rock gods" Mick Jagger and Grace Slick could do was to say "why are we fighting?", while the stoned hippies looked on dazed and the Angels killed a man.

This is our Congress. Impotent, ineffectual, stupid, worthless, overpaid, arrogant and stoned - and standing by like Jagger in his stupid costume, and doing nothing to help out the situation.

Posted by nosupportthistime | July 6, 2007 8:45 AM

"If America pulls out of Iraq don't blame the politicians, they just go with the flow. The blame lies squarely on the American people who were too busy liven the good life to bother standing up for their country."


Americans have been doing exactly what their leaders have urged them to do: "Go about your daily lives ... otherwise, the terrorists win."

Going to a rally is one way to demonstrate support for the troops' efforts - it's a way to visibly show that you care.

Going to work and paying five figures in income taxes is another way to support the troops, since my tax dollars pay for their body armor and bullets.

If we fail in Iraq, it will be the direct result of our political leaders ... not our military leaders.

Our political leaders, mostly Republicans, have been too busy feeding at the No Bridge Left Behind trough and too busy calling Republicans "bigots" because we want our laws enforced.

They lost my support, and so I suspect they have lost the support of a lot of regular Joe Americans.

Posted by Lew | July 6, 2007 8:49 AM

The butchers' day is just over the horizon, now. And Domenici is only doing what Moderates ever since Pilate have always done; survive....at ANY cost.

Everybody likes peace and everybody wants their career to prosper and grow. The difference is "What will you pay to get there?" Domenici and the other nervous Moderates, will sell out their country and sacrifice people, as long as they are outside their constituency, by the millions. When the butcher's bill comes due, they'll wring their hands and say "Who knew?" while the bodies pile high and the blood runs in the gutters. They'll blame George and every one else in sight, but they WILL survive!

We've been here before and we've done this before. But don't worry, the media will cover for you and you won't have to feel too bad for too long. Besides, the state fair is coming and football season starts in just a few weeks. The loss of honor is quiet and only hurts for a moment. You won't feel a thing! Don't worry, be happy!

Posted by nosupportthistime | July 6, 2007 8:55 AM

Hey Syn ...

Take a look at this photograph:


That's your Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Townsend, attending a mosque dedication.

Our chief couterterrorism expert ... inside a mosque ... submitting.

Why not just wear a burka?

If we lost, it's because people with the intellect of Frances Townsend work for us.

American troops see these photos and wonder why they are fighting a war against Islamist extremists when their leaders back home are willingly submitting to the mysogony of Islam.

Posted by Labamigo | July 6, 2007 9:03 AM

Posted by: Lew at July 6, 2007 8:49 AM

A great post.

Posted by Lew | July 6, 2007 9:19 AM

Thanks Labamigo,

I hope the reference to Pontius Pilate doesn't get lost on everyone, because I think its central to what's happening in Washington right now. Domenici and the Moderates in the Republican Party are one by one "washing their hands" of the Iraqi people whom we encouraged to stand with us and fight for freedom. And as I posted on another thread quite a while back, there is special corner of Hell for the twisted and desiccated souls of people like that.

What we have to decide now is whether or not to reward them for the betrayal?

Posted by Mike Hendrickson | July 6, 2007 9:40 AM

The United States Congress is becoming like the United Nations: corrupt, self-serving and irrelevant.

Semper Fidelis.

Posted by Frogg | July 6, 2007 9:44 AM

It should be noted that Dominici was against the troop surge strategy from day one (this is not new).

On the very eve that Bush was to announce his troop surge plan six months ago, this is what Dominici had to say:

"We should throw 'surge' out the window."
-Sen Dominici 1/9/07-


I still find it odd that those who have invested in being against the surge are coming out and calling it a failure two weeks into it (even though it shows signs of progress). Why can't they wait for Patraeus to give his status report?

Posted by David M | July 6, 2007 10:05 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/06/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by Chris | July 6, 2007 10:15 AM

They may be in a hurry because if it turns out that the new strategy is working, come the primaries they will be vulnerable to their right, based on their opposition to the strategy which may well be perceived as leading to victory

Posted by Scott Malensek | July 6, 2007 10:23 AM


...the words that best describe the end of the surge in Iraq. They call it the surge because the Pentagon is temporarily increasing the number of troops in Iraq-surging deployments there. Um, HELLO, the surge is a temporary offensive. It is not indefinite. When it is over, troop levels will be reduced, and then the most colorful and publicized front of the war shifts. The political war.

Republicans will be torn between screaming that the surge offensive was a success, and screaming that Americans can't have a premature evacuation from Iraq.

Democrats will be torn between screaming that "they were right/the war is lost" and that's why the troops are coming home while at the same time trying to pretend that the troops are coming home with victory and honor and it's all because of Dem calls for leaving Iraq.

Best part about this little opera....it'll all take place over the holidays and peak just before both Dems and Republicans have their primaries (ie decide who the next President will be) on Feb 5.

Me, I think it's time to look at the bigger picture: Iraq-not the "I told you so" political game of half truths, misquotes, and cherry picked facts, but the real deal.

Fact, the surge will end
Fact, when the surge ends, troops will come home/levels will drop
Fact, when troop levels drop, both political parties will claim success.
Fact, for either party to look "tough" on Nat Sec, they cannot be seen as having advocated an action that IS defeat.

Gonna be interesting to see how Dems dance with their base (claiming American victory vs party defeat, or party victory vs American defeat). Gonne be interesting to see how Republicans convince their base that, yeah, it finally is time to bring large numbers home.

Posted by flenser | July 6, 2007 10:36 AM

In fact, it looks like another immigration-reform debacle, with the center getting squeezed by both sides.

Unless you really believe that Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and Jon Kyl represent "the center" and that Gordon Smith and Claire McCaskill are "the extremes", this makes no sense.

The reality is more interesting and more complex. The immigration bill pitted the corporate wing of each party against its populist wing. Remarkably, the Democratic party has a larger corporate wing than does the Republican. At least it's remarkable if you ignore the business interests of the leading lights on the left.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 6, 2007 12:12 PM

I have an idea. If congress pulls funds? Let the Iraqis sell oil to fund our troops. Because they're not gonna want our troops to go home! Believe it. Or not.

Of course, when "lotion boy to the Soddies" exits on January 20, 2009 ... guess whose gonna face some problems? What are they gonna do? Threaten to send in the big JUMBOS just bought by the Emirs in the Emerates, as tools they can use to bomb us?

I think this last week has given the Soddies some pause. Given you couldn't find a worse way to alert Americans to the troubles from islam, without those terrorists, who had such a clean pass! In London and Glasgow; really showing us what they can do when they put their "minds" to it ... And, we're not even clued in to the threats.

Well? Show me a war where the losing side didn't make the most mistakes?

The Bonkeys? You can date their mistakes back to the Civil War.

And, who know? Somebody's got to pay for affirmative action and PC. Seems like the Bonkeys have all the candidates, necessary, in position, now, for a blowout loss. Hang a sign in the window. See how much business they attract?

While just like things finally jelled for Dubya on the Libby game" ... He does seem to have the patience. It's not like he ever made Americans feel he was in a rush.

The Bonkeys, as a party, want a reputation that they don't know how to fight. See if I care that they're earning this as their legacy every day.

Posted by Okonkolo | July 6, 2007 1:21 PM

Pete Domenici (I love his real name: Pietro Vichi Domenici) is up for reelection next year. If enough in NM want the troops to come home (or at least a lot of them to come home), he resists that call at his own risk.

Posted by NoDonkey | July 6, 2007 2:59 PM

"If enough in NM want the troops to come home (or at least a lot of them to come home), he resists that call at his own risk."

Gee, if the Democrats believe the troops are moving towards the traitorous cut and run coalition, does that mean they won't send out legions of lawyers to invalidate military ballots, like they did in Florida in 2000?

That's really big of them.

Posted by Project Vote Smart | July 6, 2007 3:37 PM

Senator Pete Domenici’s voting record on military issues can be found at: http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=53325&type=category&category=47&go.x=12&go.y=10

Senator Pete Domenici’s history of speeches on the Iraq war can be found at: http://www.votesmart.org/speech.php?keyword=Iraq+War&daterange=&begin=&end=&phrase=&contain=&without=&type=search&can_id=53325&go2.x=0&go2.y=0#Results

Senator Pete Domenici’s ratings from special interest groups on military issues can be found at: http://www.votesmart.org/issue_rating_category.php?can_id=53325

For more information on Senator Pete Domenici’s position on military issues please visit http://www.vote-smart.org or call our hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART.

Posted by kindaskeptical | July 7, 2007 6:53 AM

Domenici isn't going to lose his seat. He's a six term senator, and, what, three term Congressman? His organization, friends, supporters in New Mexico are legion. He's an institution. He's also a conservative as far back as he goes. He's also been warm and sincere in his dull way. He's not counting votes or trembling about his future. He'll serve as long as he cares to.

The majority of Americans think the president lied us into this war, and the majority of Americans think it ain't worth the expense and effort, and that's even with MORE people believing Sadam was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks than believed it when we launched our invasion. Whatever "support the troops" means, the level of troops has peaked, and is said (by the military) to be unsustainable at this rate. Whether Americans track that part of the equation or not, I don't know. But Americans have been told "the next six months are crucial" every time there's been a report, an interview, a comment, a speech, or an explosion. Even if the statement was only repeated at the end of each of the six months, Americans would conclude that the prosecution of this war has been incompetent, and sometime back when those first few "six months crucial" statements were made, it was irrevocably bungled.

Telling people they were traitors for questioning what looked like lousy planning, telling people they support the terrorists if they don't shut up and follow lockstep, telling people the terrorists will follow the troops home, telling people they don't know what's right for America, telling people that a vote for Defeatocrats is a vote for Sadam or Osama, but that Nuri al-Maliki is our man with a plan worked for about three, three and a half years.

Labeling people Defeatocrats and Surrender Monkeys and all of the creative slime worked for about three years.

When the president starts vetoing all of the spending bills that cross his desk (after having funded the famous Bridge to Nowhere), will that rally support for continuing this? Is that the best idea? If the president thought we should go in with about a quarter of the troops we used in Desert Storm, and didn't even try the surge until the fourth year, and even with the surge, we still have less than a third of that troop number, how important could this have ever been? If the real criminals are in Iran, why waste all those resources in Iraq? Was it a spelling error?

I think expecting this president to make the case that this is the central battle of our generation--in a persuasive way--is a pipedream.

And if it's really the case that we should have been working on homeland security in the homeland, with border patrol, with Immigration agents, as Ted suggests, and conservatives repeating that charge, how is that going to rally anyone to this cause?

Domenici doesn't need to see a report in September that there's some incremental leverage with elevated troop numbers that can't be sustained anyway. The president has extended tours, long ago mobilized the guard and reserve, he's pirated the training machinery from stateside instead of putting money (uh-oh, can we say that on a conservative blog?) into what's been needed. The president hasn't spent a dime more now on the V.A. system when we know there will be hundreds of thousands of troops coming home with every kind of need. And if he doesn't think they deserve to have some kind of planning for their return, how important could this be? How is Domenici supposed to make the case to his constituents if he can't see anyone else doing it? Even with his callous shenanigans with David Yglasias, New Mexicans think he's an honorable man. How is he supposed to rally them if no one else is bothering to?

By the way, if someone could translate Carol's posts after she makes them, it would save a lot of time.