Wednesday, April 11, 2007
On this day:

Bud Cramer: "I was for a deadline for defeat before I was against it"

On March 23, Rep. Bud Cramer (D.-Huntsville) added his vote to a razor-thin 218-212 House majority in favor of a supplemental appropriations bill that would force the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by September, 2008. He defended his vote at the time by stating: "...we need to start looking at turning Iraq back to the Iraqis and this bill allows that to begin."

If only it were that simple. The major problem with the House bill is that it would impose a strict deadline for the unilateral withdrawal of American troops from Iraq with little consideration for whether such a scheduled retreat would serve the nation's interests. There are many reasons why it wouldn't, and Sen. John McCain hit on just about every one of them in a speech he delivered today at the Virginia Military Institute. Quoting from Sen. McCain:
America has a vital interest in preventing the emergence of Iraq as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11. By leaving Iraq before there is a stable Iraqi governing authority we risk precisely this, and the potential consequence of allowing terrorists sanctuary in Iraq is another 9/11 or worse. In Iraq today, terrorists have resorted to levels of barbarism that shock the world, and we should not be so naïve as to believe their intentions are limited solely to the borders of that country. We Americans are their primary enemy, and we Americans are their ultimate target.

A power vacuum in Iraq would invite further interference from Iran at a time when Tehran already feels emboldened enough to develop nuclear weapons, threaten Israel and America, and kidnap British sailors. If the government collapses in Iraq, which it surely will if we leave prematurely, Iraq’s neighbors, from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, will feel pressure to intervene on the side of their favored factions. This uncertain swirl of events could cause the region to explode and foreclose the opportunity for millions of Muslims and their children to achieve freedom. We could face a terrible choice: watch the region burn, the price of oil escalate dramatically and our economy decline, watch the terrorists establish new base camps or send American troops back to Iraq, with the odds against our success much worse than they are today.

To enumerate the strategic interests at stake in Iraq does not address our moral obligation to a people we liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. I suspect many in this audience, and most members of Congress, look back at America’s failure to act to prevent genocide in Rwanda with shame. I know I do. And yet I fear the potential for genocide and ethnic cleansing in Iraq is even worse. The sectarian violence, the social divisions, the armaments, the weakened security apparatus of the state — all the ingredients are there. Unless we fight to prevent it, our withdrawal will be coupled with a genocide in which we are complicit. Given our security interests and our moral investment in Iraq, so long as we have a chance to prevail we must try to prevail. As General Petraeus has repeatedly stated, it will be several months or more before we know with any confidence whether we can turn this war around. Elements of the new civil-military strategy are still being drafted, almost half of the additional troops have yet to arrive, and many of the new civilians have yet to take up their posts. We are off to a good start, but significant results will take time.
Fortunately, Rep. Cramer seems to have come to his senses. Having had a few weeks to hear from the folks back home, now he's talking compromise. From the Huntsville Times:
If President Bush vetoes a wartime supplemental spending bill, there probably won't be enough votes in Congress to override him, U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer said Tuesday.

"No, I don't think there are enough votes now," Cramer, D-Huntsville, said at the Huntsville International Airport after a meeting with Tennessee Valley economic leaders. "We need to find a way around that and work together to resolve this and break the gridlock on this issue." ...

Because of its importance in funding troops, Cramer said, a compromise between leaders in Congress and Bush is essential. "There's not been much cooperation from the White House on this either. They have refused to give and take," he said. "Both sides need to put their differences aside and sit down at the table so we can govern.

"We need to come to a compromise over this bill." ...

Cramer is not in favor of a rigid timeline for pulling troops out of Iraq, he said.

"I voted for the bill as it is now because I'm willing to endure a timeline, but we need to give the commander-in-chief the ability to lead without the restraint of a date," he said. "We need to work toward a withdrawal date, but realistically that can't be set in stone as one day."

Cramer voted for the House supplemental bill, but said the vote "was a tough one."

"People in this district are torn over the war," he said. "They have expressed their concerns about it, but still support our military." ...

"This war turned out to be more than the (Bush) administration planned for, but we are all stuck with it now," Cramer said. "We can't just pull out. It's not that simple."

If Rep. Cramer had had this same attitude three weeks ago when he voted in favor of the "rigid timeline" that he now concedes to be unrealistic, then the current "gridlock" might have been avoided. He knows as well as anyone that the only thing standing in the way of funding the troops is the intransigence of the liberals in his own party who assume that America has already been defeated in Iraq and who therefore insist on setting a date of our surrender.

If Cramer and other Blue Dogs had stood up to the Nancycrats on this crucial vote, things could have been very different. What good is a Blue Dog if he's been neutered?