Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sen. Murray's Political Courage Denigrated by Republican Senatorial Committee

On August 31, 2010, the National Republican Senatorial Committee brought up Sen. Patty Murray’s 2007 statement against George W, Bush’s Iraq war surge, and had the audacity to demand that she “admit that she was wrong and apologize to General Petraeus, and especially the brave men and women who served under him, for working to undermine their mission in Iraq… If Democrats like Patty Murray had their way in 2007, they would have wasted the sacrifices of our troops to satisfy their far-left base, and Iraq would today be controlled by terrorist networks instead of on the path towards democracy.”

Senator Murray’s vote against the surge was consistent with her opposition to the war from the very beginning; she was among the minority of senators (23) that had the political courage to stand against the Bush Administration’s unwarranted decision to invade Iraq. Murray was frustrated by the White House’s haste to push the congress into approving the war resolution. As we now know, the White House wanted no such debate. Bush had made up his mind (or had it made up for him) and had his minions working hard to convince the American public that a “mushroom cloud” was an imminent threat if American troops didn’t topple Saddam Hussein. That was, of course, hogwash.

Gen. Shinseki, US Senate hearing, February 25, 2003

It is also important to remember that Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki warned in February of 2003, a few months before the war was launched, that “Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers… would be required” to stabilize Iraq after an invasion. For his candor, he was vilified by the Republican war juggernaut. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was particularly incensed. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, said Shinseki was “wildly off the mark.” Rumsfeld himself echoed Wolfowitz’s statement, saying, ''The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark.'' Gen. Shinseki was marginalized and retired  shortly thereafter. He was, of course, proved right, and when George Bush called for a surge in 2007, he was admitting as much.

What Sen. Murray seemed to be saying when she voted against the surge is pretty straight forward, i.e., you were wrong then, why should we believe you’re right now? In fact, some of what she said was,

“I’ve been looking forward to finally having this debate here in the Senate, but some Republicans have a different strategy. They don’t want to have a real debate. They don’t want us to consider the resolutions that have been offered. I’m not going to comment on their motives, but I will point out the consequences. Every day they block a debate, they send a message that Congress supports escalation. Every day they block a debate, they deny our citizens a voice in a war that has cost us dearly in dollars and lives. And every day they block a debate, they are blocking the will of the American public.
I’m on the floor today because I know this debate is long overdue. And I’m not going to let anyone silence me, the troops I speak for, or the constituents I represent.

Ever since the start of combat operations in March 2003, I’ve been frustrated that we have been denied a chance to hold hearings, a chance to ask the critical questions, to demand answers, to hold those in charge accountable, and to give the American people a voice in a war that is costing us terribly. And I can tell you one thing: We are going to have that debate whether some in this body like it or not.
Four years ago, I came here to the Senate floor to discuss the original resolution that gave the President the authority to wage war in Iraq. At that time, I asked a series of questions, including: What will it require? Who’s with us in the fight? What happens after our troops go in? How will it impact the Middle East? How will it affect the broader War on Terror? And are we being honest with the American people about the costs of war?

Today, four years, $379 billion, and more than 3,000 American lives later – the President wants to send more Americans into the middle of a civil war – against the wishes of a majority of the public and of Congress. As I look at the President’s proposed escalation, I’m left with the exact same conclusion I reached 4 years ago. I cannot support sending more of our men and women into harm’s way on an ill-defined, solo mission with so many critical questions unanswered.”

If Sen. Murray’s challenge to debate going to war in the first place was accepted, is it possible that the public would have discovered that the cost of the war might far exceed the Bush Administration’s low ball estimate of $50 to $60 billion, even though Bush’s own Director of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Lindsey, stated that it might cost $100 to $200 billion (see the cost today).

Donald Rumsfeld called Lindsey’s estimate “baloney” and Lindsey was fired. Is it possible that the public would have learned that the war might take longer than a few weeks, as Rumsfeld implied when he said the war “could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”

And perhaps more importantly, is it possible that had we focused our attention on Afghanistan and capturing/killing Bin Laden in the first place, we wouldn’t now be bogged down in an un-winnable war in that quagmire, while still struggling to stabilize an unruly Iraq?

Possible? You’re damned right! 

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