I contended here the other day that President Bush is likely to suffer further political damage because of his Iraq debacle - and that the wounds would be inflicted by Republicans who are “fearful of an ’08 defeat."
Well, this is exactly what I was talking about: Republican Gordon Smith, who is up for re-election in 2008, spoke yesterday on the U.S. Senate floor, signaling that he could no longer stand with a Decider who, among other things, doesn't understand the Middle East and doesn't have a clue about history. Other Republicans are bound to follow.
To give you an idea of how fed up the GOP rank and file has become, I yield the balance of my time today to the junior senator from the blue state of Oregon:
“I have tried to be a good soldier in this Chamber. I have tried to support our President, believing at the time of the vote on the war in Iraq that we had been given good intelligence and knowing that Saddam Hussein was a menace to the world, a brutal dictator, a tyrant by any standard, and one who threatened our country in many different ways, through the financing and fomenting of terrorism. For those reasons and believing that we would find weapons of mass destruction, I voted aye....
“But since that time, there have been 2,899 American casualties. There have been over 22,000 American men and women wounded. There has been an expenditure of $290 billion, a figure that approaches the expenditure we have every year on an issue as important as Medicare. We have paid a price in blood and treasure that is beyond calculation, by my estimation.
“Now, as I witness the slow undoing of our efforts there, I rise to speak from my heart. I was greatly disturbed recently to read a comment by a man I admire in history, one Winston Churchill, who after the British mandate extended to the peoples of Iraq for five years, wrote to David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of England: ‘At present we are paying 8 millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano.’ When I read that, I thought ‘not much has changed.’ We have to learn the lessons of history and sometimes they are painful because we have made mistakes….
“Many things have been attributed to George Bush. I have heard him on this floor blamed for every ill, even the weather. But I do not believe him to be a liar. I do not believe him to be a traitor, nor do I believe all the bravado and the statements and the accusations made against him. I believe him to be a very idealistic man. I believe him to have a stubborn backbone.
“He is not guilty of perfidy, but I do believe he is guilty of believing bad intelligence and giving us the same.
“I can't tell you how devastated I was to learn that in fact we were not going to find weapons of mass destruction….I believe the President is guilty of trying to win a short war and not understanding fully the nature of the ancient hatreds of the Middle East. Iraq is a European creation. At the Treaty of Versailles (in 1919), the victorious powers put together Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia tribes that had been killing each other for time immemorial. I would like to think there is an Iraqi identity. I would like to remember the purple fingers raised high. But we cannot want democracy for Iraq more than they want it for themselves. And what I find now is that our tactics there have failed….
“I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore. I believe we need to figure out how to fight the war on terror and to do it right. So either we clear and hold and build, or let's go home.
“There are no good options, as the Iraq Study Group has mentioned in their report. I am not sure cutting and walking is any better. I have little confidence that the Syrians and the Iranians are going to be serious about helping us to build a stable and democratic Iraq….
“Iraq is a battlefield in that larger (global struggle against terrorism)…But we have no business being a policeman in someone else's civil war.
“I welcome the Iraq Study Group's report, but if we are ultimately going to retreat, I would rather do it sooner than later. I am looking for answers, but the current course is unacceptable to this Senator. I suppose if the President is guilty of one other thing, I find it also in the words of Winston Churchill. He said: ‘After the First World War, let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy or that anyone who embarks on this strange voyage can measure the tides and the hurricanes. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.’ That is a lesson we are learning again….
“I believe now that we must either determine to (fight more aggressively), or we must redeploy in a way that allows us to continue to prosecute the larger war on terror. It will not be pretty. We will pay a price in world opinion. But I, for one, am tired of paying the price of 10 or more of our troops dying a day. So let's cut and run, or cut and walk, or let us fight the war on terror more intelligently than we have, because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way.
“Those are my feelings. I regret them. I would have never voted for this conflict had I reason to believe that the intelligence we had was not accurate. It was not accurate, but that is history. Now we must find a way to make the best of a terrible situation, at a minimum of loss of life for our brave fighting men and women. So I will be looking for every opportunity to clear, build, hold, and win - or how to bring our troops home.”