Cairo, Cairo, Cairo
November 16, 2005 - 12:23pm ET
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All too often the distance between reality and politics in this town takes one's breath away. Sometimes that distance is so great that grave unintended consequences result. Yesterday was one of those days. The Senate passed an amendment requiring the administration to present quarterly reports on America's strategy for and progress in Iraq. Their intent is clearly to respond to public attitudes rising against the administration's handling of the war. The Washington Post and the Financial Times then called this weak re-introduction of congressional oversight a "rebuff" of the president's handling of Iraq and that it has "raised pressure" on the White House. In the process, they've reinforced a narrative completely detached from the reality in Iraq.
That narrative has three obvious failings. First, yesterday's action may be a toothless rebuke because as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, the House can still wipe it out in committee. Second, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made clear yesterday, the Department of Defense already sends lots of reports to Congress. Senate committee chairmen Lugar (Foreign Relations) and Warner (Armed Services) would have to show a lot more independence in order to produce hearings that would really pressure the administration. Third, by focusing on the partisan debate to include or not include a timetable for withdrawal, it places too much focus on the "Insurgents versus U.S." narrative and ignores the incipient civil war.
And because of that, the initiative may also be too late. Our Bob Dreyfuss reports today in TomPaine.com that the U.S. government is presently belittling a major peace conference for Iraq<!--StartFragment -->— held in Cairo under the auspices of the Arab League<!--StartFragment --> — that is bringing all the Iraqi parties, Iraq's neighbors, and the UN and EU all into the game. With revelations of systematic Saddam-style torture<!--StartFragment --> — of Sunnis by Shi'ites<!--StartFragment --> — this conference may well be the last hope Iraq has of avoiding civil war. It starts on Friday, less than a month before the December elections.
If senators were really concerned about our troops and national security, they would be focused on getting the White House to embrace the Cairo process. It is essential that the U.S. agrees to use our most considerable influence among the Iraqi political parties to build the results of the conference into the Iraqi constitution and to order our exit strategy. There is no other path to an exit strategy that does not involve civil war. And if Cairo fails, there is no one else to convene a new peace process.
But maybe these senators are more concerned with short-term polls than with America's security and the lives of our troops. What else could explain why they call for a new exit strategy while ignoring the existing peace process?
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