Thursday, June 15, 2006, and it just can't be this ridiculous, but if the Associated Press says so, it must be so -
What is this all about? What difference does any resolution make? And what about the other tidbit the AP mentions, and the Democrats point to - reports that the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, wants, as part of "a national reconciliation" plan, to pardon insurgents who had attacked our troops. Forgive them? The prime minister's aide who said that is now gone -
Congress plunged into divisive election-year debate on the Iraq war Thursday as the U.S. military death toll reached 2,500. The Senate soundly rejected a call to withdraw combat troops by year's end, and House Republicans laid the groundwork for their own vote.
In a move Democrats criticized as gamesmanship, Senate Republicans brought up the withdrawal measure and quickly dispatched it - for now - on a 93-6 vote.
The proposal would have allowed "only forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces" to remain in Iraq in 2007.
Across Capitol Hill in a daylong House debate, Republicans defended the Iraq war as a key part of the global fight against terrorism while Democrats assailed President Bush's war policies and called for a new direction in the conflict.
"When our freedom is challenged, Americans do not run," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in remarks laden with references to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"This is a war that is a grotesque mistake," countered House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She called for a fresh strategy - "one that will make us safer, strengthen our military, and restore our reputation in the world."
House Republicans moved toward a vote on a nonbinding resolution Friday morning to reject any timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces.
So it's okay if they killed our guys? We're fighting for what, exactly?
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office Thursday accepted the resignation of an aide who had told a reporter that Maliki was considering a limited amnesty that would likely include guerrillas who had attacked U.S. troops, the aide said.
The aide, Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, stood by his account, reported in Thursday's issue of The Washington Post. Kadhimi said Maliki himself had indicated the same position less directly in public.
"The prime minister himself has said that he is ready to give amnesty to the so-called resistance, provided they have not been involved in killing Iraqis," Kadhimi said Thursday.
Nevertheless, for the Republicans in the House and Senate, the Pentagon distributed its seventy-four page "debate prep book" - what to say when people raise awkward questions. Say we cannot cut and run. It works for every question. It seem this is the first time the Pentagon has every prepared a coaching manual for congressmen and congresswomen, and distributed it to only one side. Curious, and somewhat third-world, where the military takes sides with the current strongman, or doesn't.
And this big day of debates was the same day the president signed the new legislation giving him an extra out-of-budget sixty-six billion to continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan - another "supplemental" that was in no planning anywhere, but is necessary to do things right. What are you going to do? No one could have anticipated... And it was the same day the death toll for this adventure reached a nice round twenty-five hundred of our people. In the daily press briefing the new White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow, late of Fox News, said it was just a number, but the president "feels very deeply the pain that the families feel." But it's just a number.
And the talking ran on and on in the House and Senate. Why? Because Republicans in both the Senate and House really to put everyone of both parties on record - for the November elections.
And it was a farce. In the Senate, John Kerry, had a proposal to work with the Iraqi government on a transition plan. Republican Mitch McConnell introduced legislation he said was what Kerry was really proposing, that we get out right now, and that was voted down. Kerry was not amused. Senate Majority Leader Frist got to say that if the United States withdrew too soon, "I am absolutely convinced the terrorists would see this as vindication." And terrorism would spread around the world, and would eventually reach the United States itself. And that was what Kerry really wanted. Kerry said the vote was "fictitious" - but it didn't matter. The item was defeated. So there.
But the real action was in the House -
It was nasty, and the Republicans arranged for it all to come to a head with a resolution saying our troops are great, and the Iraq war was really and honestly part of the bigger global war on terrorism, and setting an "arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of troops is not in the national interest. The Democrats said the whole thing was a sham - they'd been promised an open discussion but got a ten-hour limit, and no one was allowed to offer any amendments or changes to the resolution. And the rules were changed so no one was allowed to offer any alternative resolutions of any kind. Vote for it or don't.
Rep. Charles Norwood, R-Ga., attacked war critics as defeatists who do not deserve re-election. "Is it al-Qaida or is it America? Let the voters take note of this debate," he said.
In turn, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said: "Democrats will never put American service members in harm's way without a plan, and without support. For that, you need the sit-and-watch complacency of a Republican Congress."
"In this fight for the future of peace, freedom and democracy in the Middle East and around the globe, winning should be our only option," Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said, sticking to the GOP script.
"Stay and we'll pay," countered Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who criticized "the failed policy of this administration" and lamented the lives lost, billions of dollars spent and the bruised U.S. image since the war started. "It's time to redeploy," he said.
We pay these guys for this?
Note that Michael Scherer visits with the guy who invented "freedom fries" and asks for his opinion in Resolved: America great! Bin Laden evil! Go Bush!, and finds even that guy is disgusted with it all -
And Jones sits on the Armed Services Committee and represents the district that includes Camp Lejeune. He's ticked off? It seems so. Well, he has been campaigning for a "full and honest" debate on the Iraq thing, and has written letters to Majority Leader John Boehner, asking just a chance for a public vote on a pullout date.
Rep. Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican who invented the phrase "freedom fries," invited me into his Capitol Hill office Thursday morning, a cluttered space festooned from floor to ceiling with military memorabilia, Pentagon plaques and photographs of soldiers. Then he pulled out an e-mail he had recently received from an Army captain who served in Iraq.
The e-mail quoted another American soldier serving in Iraq, a voice that Jones wanted people to hear. "Tell all those assholes in D.C. to get us the f--- out of here. This is bullshit," Jones said, reading from the e-mail, but choosing not to pronounce the f-word in full. "Either that or tell them to tell Bush to send over the twins. They can bunk with me. That would be useful."
That didn't work -
Cute, but pointless. Other things were afoot -
Of course, none of that has happened. In April, Boehner told his colleagues that he would schedule a floor debate on Iraq, apparently bowing to pressure from Democrats and Republicans such as Jones. But this week, when the debate finally kicked off, Boehner and the Republican leadership pulled a bait and switch. Instead of an Iraq debate, they scheduled a debate on a resolution "declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror." And then, in an election-year trick that is almost as old as the Congress itself, the GOP leadership barred any amendments on the resolution, effectively forcing Democrats to vote on whether or not they want Osama bin Laden to win.
Jones now says he feels duped by his own party's leadership. "Maybe I should have been less trusting, but I felt it would be a debate that would allow us to talk about policy," Jones told me. "I don't see how we would have gotten hurt if we had allowed members of both parties to go down to the floor to offer an amendment." To express his frustration, he appeared Wednesday at a press conference with Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat from Hawaii, who bound his own hands in yellow twine to dramatize the bonds under which members of Congress toil.
It was a move that set a potentially dangerous trap for Democrats less than five months away from the midterm elections. If they vote against the resolution, Democrats will be on record opposing victory in the war on terror. If they vote for the resolution, they will be on record endorsing the president's prosecution of the war on terror. As policy, the resolution is virtually irrelevant - it changes nothing. As politics, however, it's a powder keg, a spectacle ready-made for televised attack ads during this fall's campaign season. "When our freedom is challenged, Americans do not run," thundered House Speaker Dennis Hastert, openly baiting his Democratic colleagues. "Stand up for freedom, adopt this resolution."'
Scherer's account of what happened -
He's had enough of his own party? So it would seem.
This sort of tit-for-tat, at a level that would embarrass most high school debating teams, continued throughout the day. Both sides deftly demeaned each other, stopping just short of hurling spitballs, epithets or wagging their tongues. Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha took the lead in providing an unending stream of depressing facts and statistics about the war in Iraq. Electricity and oil production are down, he said, while the number of daily attacks, the monthly price tag and the estimated size of the insurgency were all growing. "This is rhetoric," he announced, after one Republican had given his statement. "Things are not getting better."
Hastert, meanwhile, opted for more R-rated fare in an effort to prove that, in fact, things had improved in Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein, Hastert said, "School girls were raped. Iraqi patriots were thrown alive into meat grinders."
For his part, Walter Jones chose to avoid the whole ordeal. "I don't want to give any credibility to what I think is a charade. My two minutes, maybe three, is not going to change anything," he told me in the morning. When called for a vote, he said he planned to vote "present." "It is not an honest debate," he explained. "If it was an honest debate I would vote one way or the other."
Before leaving his office, I asked him what it would take for the House to have a real debate about policy in Iraq. He paused a moment, and then appeared embarrassed by the answer. "I don't want to say this because I'm a Republican," he began. "But if things change, then obviously that could change the rule in the debate."
Those in charge do think this will help them with the voters. They think we're all fools. We shall see.
"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Knight-Ridder collects some madness in key quotes here -
All of this is truly and deeply irrelevant. The president will do what he will do. This was all to put the Democrats on the defensive for the fall elections, and the time was right, just after the president's Iraq visit and the targeted assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, bring him to "justice," Texas-style. No capture and trial like with Saddam Hussein. None of that sissy stuff.
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.: "We are making progress toward our goal, but the battle is not over. It is a battle we must endure and one in which we can and will be victorious. The alternative would be to cut and run and wait for them to regroup and bring the terror back to our shores."
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.: "What is the definition of sectarian violence? A civil war. All of us want to end this thing; all of us want to find a way to prevail in Iraq. But this is a civil war, and we're caught in a civil war. There's less than 1,000 al-Qaida in Iraq. They've diminished al-Qaida. We're caught in a civil war between 100,000 Shias and 20,000 Sunnis fighting each other."
Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill: "Which, then, is the greatest risk in the face of decades of evidence: to act or not to act. To trust Saddam? Who in this body is willing to assert that it's ever wise, that it's ever moral to risk the destruction of the American people. That is the context in which the decision to intervene in Iraq was taken."
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.: "This is a blunder of historic proportions by this president. And it's very important that we understand that we are paying a huge price for these mistakes by this administration."
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate's assistant Republican leader: "It is not an accident we haven't been attacked again since 9-11. By going on offense ... we have succeeded dramatically in the principal reason for advancing the war on terrorism - and that was to protect us here at home. We've got them on the run in Iraq. Why would any want to suggest that we ought to run, when we've got them on the run?"
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., speaking to the Republican Congress: "You have adopted an approach of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, with abandon. ... The debate today is about whether the American people want to stay the course ... or pursue a real strategy for success in the war on terror."
Of course, at "In the Pink Texas" Eileen Smith notes this is all symbolic hooey, or some such thing - "If the Democrats vote against the resolution, they look like spineless eunuchs. If the Democrats vote for the resolution, they just look dumb. Capitalizing on Bush's Iraqi photo-op, the Republicans feel that it's time to strike. Not to support our troops, but to boost their re-election efforts. Classy."
This fellow here adds - "Here's to hoping the partisan, dishonest, despicable, disingenuous, disrespectful Iraq debate backfires on the GOP." Well see.
And there's this - "What moron came up with the brilliant idea of debating Iraq as a way of helping Republicans in the fall elections? Yeah, Republicans get to stand up before the country and profess their undying admiration for Bush as commander in chief and for how 'great' they think the war is going. Brilliant strategy. If you want a Democratically-controlled House come the fall."
Those in charge do think this will help them with the voters. They think we're all fools. We shall see.
And then there are the sons of Ronald Reagan, Ron the liberal-progressive one, and Michael, who went the other way and says this -
Such is the level of discourse these days. It's a wonder anything gets done. The president's approval ratings may be at record lows, but the approval ratings of congress are even lower. It's not hard to see why. Both houses seem to be run by posturing clowns, engaged in theater of the absurd. And they want our votes?
I've been wondering why there is something familiar about the behavior of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, and suddenly it dawned on me that we have our own similar insurgency right here at home - it is called the Democrat Party.
Think about it. Both are operating under the same motivation - an unrequited lust for lost power. And both will do just about anything to retrieve it.
Remember, under Saddam Hussein's long rule, his fellow Sunnis - a distinct minority in a nation with a vast Shiite majority - were the kings of the hill --and incredibly cruel monarchs to boot.
Saddam may have ordered the atrocities, but it was the Sunnis who carried them out, torturing, beheading and otherwise brutalizing the Shia and the Kurds and looting the nation's treasure.
They were very well compensated for their services - and since being ousted by the U.S. invasion and the deposing of their benefactor they have been unable to accept their current powerlessness. They are, as the liberals like to say, "in denial." They just can't live with their loss of authority and act as if they can somehow regain what they lost by mounting an insurgency against the new Iraqi government.
... What it all comes down to is a willingness to tear down their own house if they can't assert absolute ownership of the premises. It's what is known as a "rule or ruin" strategy.
Here in America we have a similar situation - a political party that for years dominated Capitol Hill. They ruled the roost for so long that they began to believe they had some divine right to control the House and Senate.
... Like the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Democrats cannot accept their minority status, even though when the GOP took over Newt Gingrich refused to impose the kind of absolute, anti-minority rule his party suffered under the Democrats. They were treated as colleagues, not serfs whose presence was to be barely tolerated. Since then, the Democrats have shown not one whit of gratitude.
Like the Sunni insurgency, the national Democrat Party and its congressional contingent has demonstrated time and again that they will willingly sacrifice the welfare and security of the American people to get their way.
... In the end, all that matters to them is regaining the power the American people took from them in 1994, and, thank God, have kept it out of their hands ever since.
What gets done seems to get done in the courts, as in this - Thursday, June 15, 2006, the US Supreme Court rules there really is no constitutional requirement for the police to knock and announce their presence before breaking down doors to serve search warrants. Maybe. Previous rulings were wrong. The vote was 5-4 and one of the new guys, Justice Alito, was the one who broke the tie.
It's a little more complicated. The Court ruled that suppression of the results of the no-warning bust-down-the-door search - that's what usually happens when evidence is obtained in violation of the Constitution - is just too extreme when police fail to knock-and-announce. So the police still shouldn't just bust down doors. That's unconstitutional - illegal search and seizure - rules are rules. But if they do bust in with no announcement, whatever evidence they find can't be tossed out. They had a warrant after all. But this gives them little incentive to follow the rules.
Breyer for the minority - "The court destroys the strongest legal incentive to comply with the Constitution's knock-and-announce requirement."
So? They're the police. It's kind of East German, but there you have it.
One defense attorney says this -
Yeah, well, too bad.
Knocking and waiting for a short time for a response avoids needless property damage and saves occupants from the trauma of a sudden and unexpected invasion by armed officers. More importantly, it can save lives. In this case
, the police entered the wrong residence, and a frightened occupant, mistaking officers for intruders, killed an officer. If the police had knocked and waited for the occupant to answer, they would have realized their mistake, and that tragic death would have been prevented. Officers were shot under similar circumstances in this case
. And in this case
, a less aggressive approach may have prevented the shooting of an occupant.
Cato Institute policy analyst Radley Balko notes here - "If you establish that a rule is grounded in the Fourth Amendment, then eleven years later remove the only real way to enforce that rule, you have rendered the rule meaningless."
But to be practical, Princeton law professor Orin Kerr notes this - "As every practicing criminal lawyer knows, when the police have a warrant the evidence is probably coming in even if the defense can find some technical violation along the way." No big deal.
It's not like we're creeping toward a police state or anything. Right? And all while congress does its self-righteous posturing and plays games.
The opinion is here in PDF format if you're interested. It probably matters more than anything that happened on Capitol Hill the same day.