The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Surge Protector

When Saddam Hussein's execution turned into yet another national embarrassment instead of the moment of triumph the White House was undoubtedly expecting, that was par for the course. When a second round of grisly footage of the corpse turned up, it was pure Bush/Cheney magic. Who else could turn a mass murdering tyrant into a sympathetic figure. I'd be surprised at this point if "Shooter" and "Oedipus Wrecks" could turn food into shit without a gaggle of advisers and a few hundred billion dollars.

Then came last night's reports of an attack on Al Qaeda operatives in Somalia. Contrary to what I'm sure many right-wingers would think, my first thought wasn't "Oh, no! I hate America, and this could hurt our enemies!" My first thought was actually "Please, let them get this right." At this point, you couldn't blame someone for recollecting the many occasions on which the White House has manipulated or manufactured news at politically sensitive times. The Democratic takeover of Congress and Bush's months-overdue speech on his Great Leap Forward in Iraq would certainly qualify.

So news of fierce fighting on the streets of Baghdad following on the heels of the Somalia story, immediately preceding Bush's request for a slightly more aggressive ground war in Iraq fits the usual pattern, and you can expect to be clubbed over the head with 9/11 again.

Recent polls have shown that it isn't just the American people who are ready end the war-- it's also active duty troops. And pretty much everyone else on the planet. The conventional wisdom is that Bush is willing to let things go on until he's safely out of office. In fact, he's all but admitted it.

But the fact that the public hates a policy or that it's illegal doesn't deter this bunch. And it hadn't deterred the GOP, either. Until the election. Now Republicans hoping to be re-elected in '08 are finally getting nervous about the war in Iraq, too. More dead Americans and a hundred billion dollars are one thing, but losing office? Perish the thought. Senator Kennedy is pushing a new

And in the Senate today, Ted Kennedy will introduce legislation that would prohibit George W. Bush from spending any money to increase the number of U.S. forces beyond the number serving today unless and until he obtains further authorization from Congress to do so. The Kennedy measure seems to walk the line Democrats need to walk on the troop increase -- deny Bush the funding for more troops without subjecting themselves to the argument that they're voting against funds for the troops already in the field. While Joe Biden said over the weekend that there really isn't much Congress can do about a war once it gives the president authority to fight one, Kennedy's bill says the war in Iraq today "no longer bears any resemblance to the mission of the Armed Forces authorized by Congress" in 2002. Congress authorized military force then based on claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and an "operational relationship" with al-Qaida, the bill says. Four years later, it says, U.S. troops are fighting a "civil war" Congress never authorized.

It's not clear how many senators will support Kennedy's measure. A lot of them, at least on the Republican side of the aisle, would probably like to avoid having to take a position on the Bush "surge" one way or the other. Bush met Monday with about 30 Republican senators; emerging from the meeting, Sen. Thad Cochran said he was "the only senator who acted like he would be supportive" of the plan Bush will propose Wednesday night.

As for Democrats? On the Senate floor a few minutes ago, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg spoke for a lot of them -- and for a lot of Americans, too. Saying that Bush has made "terrible judgments" at "every turn" in Iraq, Lautenberg asked why the American people should trust the president "to understand what he's getting us into" now. Democrats will make similar pronouncements at every opportunity this week. At a press conference on 9/11 Commission recommendations Monday, House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey said that he was "confused" by the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. "We have been told that Americans would stand down as the Iraqis stood up," he said. The president's new plan, he said, seems to have shifted from "stand up, stand down" to "stand up, stand up."

It's too early to say if Republican avarice will actually do something good for America for a change. But at least the lockstep unity that has characterized the GOP is showing signs of cracking.