Congress must clean up mess in Iraq

The great specter of Iraq overshadows this nation. Our challenge in this troubling time is not simply to implement the best policy for us and the Iraqi people; it is also to recognize the moral burden our generation faces.

Most people now realize that no amount of American troops can ameliorate the political differences that lie at the heart of the Iraqi civil war, and that to send more Americans to do the Iraqis’ job for them will not bring long-term security to Iraq.

Sending more American forces may slightly and temporarily improve the security in Iraq – such a claim is doubtful considering that more Iraqi civilians have died this month in Baghdad than last month – but any improvements experienced now will be short-lived once the escalation abates.

And then, oh wise president, what will we do? What is our plan for this time next year, when the escalation is over and the violence is just as horrific – if not worse?

Despite the overwhelming and bipartisan criticism of the escalation, the administration pleads with us to “give it a chance,” as though we have nothing to lose by making a last-ditch effort. The president is blunt in his criticism and so I shall be blunt: What we have to lose, Mr. President, are the lives of our brothers and sisters in uniform. To send more of them to die in an Iraqi civil war for a strategy which doesn’t have a reasonable chance of success is deeply immoral.

What is also deeply troubling is the continued prevarication from the president. In recent weeks, he has begun questioning the patriotism – big surprise – of those who propose exit strategies. But for the president to claim that Congress seeks to undermine our troops because it suggests implementing a timetable to bring our troops home shows his increasing desperation.

Since when did it become “patriotic” to blindly applaud those who wish to further deepen America in a military quagmire? And when did “supporting the troops” become equivalent to wanting to send more of them to die?

The Congress that bears responsibility for getting us into this war bears responsibility for extricating us from it. Now is not the time for Congress to be intimidated into acquiescence or to equivocate by passing watered-down legislation that does nothing to help our troops. This is the time to serve our troops as well as they have served us. This is the time to stop their needless and grotesque slaughter in Iraq.

If the president vetoes Congress’ spending bill, which includes ample resources for our troops, he will be the one responsible should they not receive the funding they deserve. He will be the one “undercutting” our troops; he will be the president remembered for seeking a military solution to a war which had none, and for refusing to accept that only a political solution – one involving all of Iraq’s neighbors – is the only realistic long-term conclusion to our involvement there.

Congress must work with the Iraqi government and, if possible, this administration to formulate an exit strategy to end this indefinite war.

We must continue to do everything possible to support the Iraqi government and we must begin implementing what the Iraqi government has already called for: a reasonable exit strategy that begins handing over Iraq to the Iraqis.

Congress should compromise on its policies, but it should never compromise its principles or morals. Congress should have the courage to stand its moral high ground without relent. Congress may have its patriotism attacked by the White House should it refuse to parry, but the pages of history will say that during this time Congress helped end one of our darkest hours – and in so doing had one of its finest.