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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Losing The Thread

by digby

You may have noticed that I've been posting less than usual the last few days and the fact is that I've been quite busy. So busy, in fact, that I seem to have lost the thread of what's going on in Washington. Perhaps some of you can help me find it.

First, as I wondered earlier in the week, is there some reason that the Democrats didn't force the Republicans to actually filibuster the Webb legislation the old fashioned way and force them to publicly justify why they don't think the troops in Iraq should be allowed to spend some time at home before being redeployed? I still can't figure that one out --- it seemed like a no-brainer to me. Let Huckelberry Graham and Holy Joe explain why the president's prerogatives are more important than the troops and their families. I still don't get it.

But then this took place and I'm completely confused. Here's RJ Eskow in Huffington Post:

The amendment sounds reasonable enough on its face. (Text is here.) It asks for bimonthly reports from the military regarding "external support or direction provided to anti-coalition forces by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran or its agents ... the strategy and ambitions in Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and .... any counter-strategy or efforts by the United States Government to counter the activities of agents of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Iraq."

It was a shrewdly worded document. Any Democrat who voted against it would have opened him- or herself up to accusations that of being afraid to face the facts about Iranian involvement in Iraq. And we know that Iran is involved in Iraq in certain ways. After all, it's been invited there - by the very government our troops are sacrificing themselves to defend. In fact, the Iraqi government is so close to its Shi'ite neighbor that it quickly invited it to open an embassy in Baghdad.

Predictably, the Lieberman measure passed 97-0. But it's not the reporting requirements themselves that are dangerous - it's the amendment's language. It lists a hodgepodge of undocumented and inflammatory accusations before stating that "the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable and unacceptable act of hostility against the United States by the foreign government in question." These are words that invite an act of war against Iran, even in the absence of clear evidence of involvement.

The amendment doesn't just ask for intelligence on Iranian activity. It requires ongoing reports on proactive U.S. efforts against alleged Iranian efforts, placing political pressure on our military to become more active against Iran. Word in Washington is that top military leaders are resisting an attack on Iran, saying we lack the resources. This is a great way to lean on the generals to change their minds.

I cannot believe that the Democrats voted for this en masses on the merits. It had to be a deal of some sort, or some kind of assurance from the powers that be or something that I'm just not getting. I'm usually pretty good at figuring out the kabuki of these inexplicable legislative actions but in this case, I'm stumped.

It makes no sense at all for the Democrats to empower this administration in any way, shape or form to do anything with respect to Iran. Nada. It certainly doesn't make political sense -- nobody in the country wants war with Iran and nobody will suffer at the polls for failing to sign off on the president and Lieberman's crazy schemes. The idea that Democrats need to be scared of seeming soft on Iran is ludicrous. And even if it did, all they had to do was scuttle the amendment anyway ---they didn't have to call for a vote. I just can't find any political benefit to this at all, and tons of serious, substantive risk.

(It's possible that their little friend Lieberman is blackmailing them, but if that's the case they should just turn the Senate over to the Republicans, return their pay to the taxpayers and go home. Let the war with Iran commence without their compliance.)

On the substance, it's just plain nuts. If they think they can depend on the military to hold Bush and Cheney back, I hope they talked to the air force, because the flyboys have to be chomping at the bit to get in on the action. There have been few medals and promotions for them in the GWOT so far --- they sure could use a good bombing campaign. (And if the Dems believed any assurances from Bush, they should be the ones who are impeached.)

Like I said, I've been busy and so perhaps didn't catch all the nuance. But between the flummoxed Dem response to the Bush officials' three stooges-style committee testimony and defiance of subpoenas, to the inability to force the Republicans to take responsibility for their obstruction to this sloppy wet kiss-up to Joe Lieberman, I don't understand what the hell is going on with the congress at all.

Seriously, do they really think that these lawless Republicans are going to comply with some quaint rules or live up to their "word"? That they will see the light and come over from the dark side? The GOP is looking down the barrel of an electoral defeat so extreme they may never recover. The party is falling apart under the leadership of a misfit and a certified lunatic and more than a quarter century of political philosophy has just been proven to be complete rubbish. They are cornered animals.

And anyway, the Republican Party has not acted with restraint for more than a decade, using whatever institutional power they had without regard to consequences, precedent or effect on the constitution --- a partisan impeachment by a reckless Republican majority in the congress, a stolen election by a ruthless political machine in Florida in concert with a blatantly partisan Supreme Court majority --- and now the lawless rule of the Republican executive branch under Bush and Cheney. The wholesale corruption and decadence of their rule should be more obvious to them than it is to us. There is not one political act of the last decade that should give anyone the least bit of assurance that the Republicans are acting in good faith.

This isn't really about Bush and it isn't really about Cheney. It is about the malignant political aberration that calls itself the modern Republican Party.

I don't know what kind of "strategy" the Democrats think is in play when they sign off on a bizarre statement about Iran that opens up all kinds of avenues for the president to start another war, but they are engaging in a very dangerous game. Arming the Republicans with any excuse to shoot the moon right now is political malpractice. On their best days, the Republicans are reckless and delusional. Now that they're desperate, anything could happen. Why did the Dems just hand them a loaded gun? I don't get it.