Q&A With Congess: 'Will Anti-Surge Resolution Give Our Enemies Hope?'

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a non-binding resolution to express the “Sense of the Senate” that “it is not in the interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States’ military force in Iraq.”

It was drafted by Senators Joe Biden (D.-Del.), Carl Levin (D.-Mich.) and Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.). It offers no recourse, no alternative plan or strategy for success. It tells the President only, “We don’t like your troop surge.” More importantly, it allows legislators to make a statement without consequence. Democrats won control of the Senate largely by opposing President Bush’s Iraq policy. Now, they have the political power, but still lack the courage to do anything about it.

“It is his war,” they say.

Should the non-plan advance, each senator will then be able to show “sense” in a floor vote if he or she is opposed to President Bush’s proposal to send 21,500 more American troops to Iraq.

After the Senate agrees on what message it should send the President, the House will follow suit and schedule similar non-consequential activities.

Debating resolutions to “send the President a message” is a charade. Americans who lack the power of legislators are sending him all-time low poll numbers. In case Bush forgets this, he has many new Democratic messengers who removed his Republican friends on Capitol Hill to remind him.

These resolutions are futile exercises in making this non-binding Congress relevant.

President Bush, who has the constitutional authority to order more troops into Iraq has done so. They are already moving to Baghdad and operations are being paid for out of this year’s budget.

If Congress chooses to do so, it could check the President through the power of the purse. This would mean rejecting the expected supplemental bill from the White House and starving the troops of funds for their missions later this year.

Republicans seriously interested in advancing the debate should confront Democrats on this question. Instead of getting members on the record “agreeing” or “disagreeing” with Bush’s troop surge, Republicans should firmly be asking, “Will you fund his plan, or not?”

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.) asked Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus last week in his confirmation hearing to become top commander in Iraq if resolutions disapproving of Bush’s troop surge would encourage enemies in Iraq.

“That’s correct,” he said. “This is a test of will.” He added that as commander he needed “the enemy to feel that there is no hope.”

Congress should stop debating how to give enemies hope. A working majority should be formed by those who pledge not to cut funding for the President’s plan and who will work with him to achieve victory in Iraq.

We can and should debate the merits of the Iraq surge, but President Bush has made a decision and deserves the chance to make his new strategy work.

I went to Capitol Hill to ask senators if they agreed with Gen. Petraeus that a resolution against the troop surge would give hope to enemies in Iraq.

In his confirmation hearing, Gen. Petraeus said that any resolution against the troop surge could give hope to our enemies in Iraq. Do you agree with that?

Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.):
I think it’s a very unproductive, unhelpful thing to do. A resolution is a course of action that will lead to disgrace and defeat. There is no way to look at it except as a negative thing.

Do you think it is a good use of the Senate’s time to be working on non-binding resolutions?

DeMint: No, I don’t particularly, since we’re not senators-in-chiefs. If it were a course of action, instead of a critical review, if it was a legitimate course of action, then you could call that leadership. But there’s a difference between being a critic and being a leader. Our doing non-binding resolutions are just dividing the American people, because the American people aren’t against the war, they’re against losing. And the only course of action now that makes sense is one that leads to our finishing our job and reaching our goals. But this resolution doesn’t do anything but feed the terrorists and show them we are losing our will.

Do you think those people presenting critiques and resolutions have an obligation to present a plan for Iraq as well?

DeMint: I do. If we are going to truly lead, you can’t just issue a critique. It’s not our job here just to critique everything the President does. You have to respect a resolution that says: “We don’t like that, so we need to do this.” But this resolution doesn’t do this. It’s just a vague idea that we need to turn it over to the Iraqis, which we have been talking about for years. The fact is, we can’t have a political solution unless we have security. We know that. So the critics are the ones who just want us to get out and just take our chances with whatever happens, which would be probably be one of the most catastrophic events in history if we allow it to happen.

In his confirmation hearing, Gen. Petraeus said that a resolution against the troop surge would give hope to our enemies in Iraq. Do you agree with that?

Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.): Absolutely. There isn’t any doubt. I asked Ambassador [Dennis] Ross when he was in on his mission with the Israelis and the Palestinians if we just sent a motion of disapproval would it have harmed his ability? Duh.

In his confirmation hearings, Gen. Petraeus said that any resolution against a troop surge could give our enemies hope in Iraq.

Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.): Can you say that again?

He said that a resolution against the troop surge could give hope to enemies in Iraq. It was his response to a question from Sen. Lieberman. Do you disagree with that?

Reid: First of all, understand that the White House is working this very hard. Also, understand that the people of Iraq don’t want us there. We see polls every other day about how the people of Iraq feel about our being there. By a significant majority, they say we should get out of Iraq and we are causing more harm that good, and you have a democratically elected prime minister of Iraq who has told the American President to his face: “Get the American troops out of Baghdad. They are causing more harm than good.” So, Petraeus, he’s a good soldier. He’s following directions from his commander in chief. What else is he supposed to do?

Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.): Can I say one thing? Remember what Sen. John Warner [R.-Va.] said in his follow-up to Gen. Petraeus? [He told Petraeus] To take care to remember that when he was in uniform he shouldn’t involve himself in political debate. I think that’s the important thing to recall. We know there is a commitment to our troops from both sides of the aisle with Democrats and Republicans. We want to do what is best for them and bring them home safely. That is never a question here. But we cannot step back from constitutional responsibility to debate these policies that have such a big impact on our nation and the future of the world.

Gen. Petraeus said in his confirmation hearing that a resolution against the troop surge would give enemies in Iraq hope. Do you agree with that?

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska): I think that certainly is Gen. Petraeus’s opinion or perspective. I can’t say that I agree with him. I think there’s a great deal of uncertainty as to what the resolution will mean to the people in Iraq or the people here at home.

Gen. Petraeus said in his confirmation hearing that a resolution against the troop surge would give enemies in Iraq hope. Do you agree with that?

Sen. John Sununu (R.-N.H.): I think you are paraphrasing what he said.


Sununu: He talked a great deal about the mission and his role and what he wanted to accomplish. I thought he was very impressive and very direct and there were people on both sides of the issue, John McCain, Susan Collins, Joe Lieberman, Carl Levin that I think were able to speak directly of their concerns and objectives.

Are you not willing to make a statement on this?

Sununu: I don’t want to speak for the authors of the resolution.