Democratic Senator Harry Reid (of Nevada), thinks the war in Iraq is already lost unless we pull out now, according to a statement he made on Thursday. From the Senate floor, Reid made the claim that “as long as we follow the president’s plan in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course — and we must change course.” Reid also said in a news conference that the Iraq war “can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically, and the president needs to come to that realization.”
These statements were immediately called into question by White House spokesperson Dana Perino, who said it was “disturbing that some on Capitol Hill believe they know more than the commanders on the ground.” She went on to say that Reid’s comment was “in conflict with the senior military advisors who are implementing the Baghdad security plan, working to calm the violence and to protect the innocent men, women and children of Iraq who are being victimized by a vicious enemy.”
According to Reid, his statement was intended to persuade President Bush to recall former President Lyndon B. Johnson who – during the Vietnam War – sent literally thousands more troops overseas even though he knew the gesture would not help win an already unwinnable war.
Bush argued that this was a flawed idea and said an early withdrawal from Iraq could lead to similar events as happened when we left Vietnam only to see Saigon fall shortly thereafter.
“After Vietnam, after we left, millions of people lost their life,” Bush said on Thursday at a speech in Ohio. “My concern is there would be a parallel there. This time around, the enemy wouldn’t just be content to stay in the Middle East, they’d follow us here.”
In addition to President Bush, other Republicans were quick to dispute Reid’s charge that only a move away from the current plan could lead to victory. “I can’t begin to image how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that the Democratic leader in the United States Senate has declared the war is lost.” This from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.
All this back-and-forth comes on the heels of a meeting on Wednesday, a last ditch attempt to come to some sort of compromise on the bills currently in the pipeline. Both Democrat-sponsored bills would attach a timeline to U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq; President Bush has already vowed to veto any bill that crosses his desk that includes such binding timelines.
“It’s a delicate thing,” said John Murtha, the Democrat from Pennsylvania who heads the House Military Appropriations committee. “You’ve got to be able to pass a bill.” His comments refer to problems within the Democratic caucus, which is finding it tricky to navigate between the far left wing of the Democratic party, which has so-far refused to budge from its demands of immediate and complete withdrawal, and the so-called “Blue Dog” democrats who are fairly pro-military.
One of those Blue Dog Democrats is Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat who says the hard date the House attached to their spending bill is “a nonstarter,” that would not have enough votes to pass. “It goes from there to see what compromise is possible.”