As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Last Chance For Accountability In Iraq

Democrats are priming for the kill tomorrow.

After a flurry of last-minute number changes, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) unveiled a three-step process Tuesday for the House consideration of an emergency $183.7 billion wartime spending bill, possibly as early as this week.

In a press conference, Obey said the House will hold three votes related to different components: the first on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the second on conditions to be imposed on the defense funds, and the third on a set of domestic initiatives, not all of which are reflected in the chairman's price-tag.

Chief among these are an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, expected to cost between $11 billion to $12 billion over 10 years, and a landmark expansion of education benefits for veterans who have served since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Extending unemployment insurance is the most effective economic stimulus you can offer, and we need a new GI Bill for the 21st century. So the third bill is fine. But this decoupling essentially writes a blank check for military operations in Iraq, extending even into the next Presidency.

This is unacceptable and it's no secret why this is being done basically in the dark. Despite Michael O'Hanlon's pleadings, the military is broken. There are no troops left to deploy, and continuing to grind the same ones into the dirt just breaks their souls - with veteran suicides on the rise. If this destruction of the volunteer military was in service of some kind of noble goal, defending the nation from enemies or some such, that would be one thing. But they're serving in an occupation that has no military solution, one where reducing violence to then-unacceptable 2005 levels makes you a hero, one where we rationalize national resentment and resistance to occupation as part of the Iraqi honor code , and one where continued involvement and even widening of the war is based on half-truths and useful fictions.

The notion of "special groups"--JAM factions that supposedly have close ties to Iran's Quds force--is, in many respects, a useful fiction. Now there is no doubt in Dr. iRack's mind that there are some JAM elements that deserve the title, but the U.S. military has made a habit of describing all JAMsters who violate the "freeze" on armed activities declared by Moqtada al-Sadr last August as "special groups." In many respects, this is useful to provide slack in the system and prevent the Sadr ceasefire from completely shattering under strain. Yet it also creates a false impression that the majority of JAMsters fighting U.S. forces take their orders directly from the mullahs in Iran (much as the use of the label "Al Qaeda in Iraq" as a catch all term for a disparate and very loosely aligned collection of Sunni insurgent groups creates the false impression that most Sunni insurgents take their orders from Bin Laden or the foreign leadership of AQI).

More than ever, as fighting has escalated in Sadr City, the fiction of special groups has seemed especially fictional. It's been clear throughout the recent conflict that rank-and-file JAM have entered the fray. Now, to be clear, some of these regular JAMsters also receive Iranian weapons, but they are not trained, directed, or controlled by Iran. They are simply opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq and are willing to take weapons from anybody who will help them fight Americans.

The war is a strain on our resources and does not make us safer. The Democrats want to deep-six any accountability until the elections. I believe that would be a fatal mistake. Things can always get worse in Iraq, and allowing the situation to muddle through for the next eight months decreases any hope for even the least worst option to succeed. This is a betrayal.

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