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The Dems Get Surprised on Iraq

By Jack Kelly

Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-KS) walked out of a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee because she couldn't stand to listen to what retired General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army, was saying.

"There is only so much you can take until we in fact had to leave the room for a while...after so much frustration of having to listen to what we listened to," Ms. Boyda explained to reporters later.

What did Gen. Keane say to so upset Ms. Boyda? He'd visited contested neighborhoods in Baghdad in February, and again three months later:

"What you see is a stark contrast. All the schools are open. The markets are teeming with people...There is an attempt to provide essential services to the population where in '06 there were none."

"Those kinds of comments will in fact show up in the media and further divide this country instead of saying, here's the reality of the problem," Rep. Boyda said. "And people, we have to come together and deal with the reality of this issue."

It is difficult to say which is the more remarkable: that Ms. Boyda, whose military experience is zero, imagines she knows "the reality of this issue" better than does Gen. Keane; or that she is appalled by good news from Iraq.

Rep. Boyda's alarm doubtless deepened when she read in the New York Times Monday an op-ed by two prominent Democratic foreign policy analysts described Iraq as "a war we might just win."

"As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw," Brookings Institution scholars Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack wrote after they returned from an eight day visit.

If Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, says things are getting better when he reports to Congress in September, that could be "a real big problem," House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), told the Washington Post Monday.

"Clyburn noted that Petraeus carries significant weight among the 47 members of the Blue Dog caucus in the House, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats," wrote reporters Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza. "Without their support, he said, Democratic leaders would find it virtually impossible to pass legislation setting a timetable for withdrawal."

Gen. Keane can be discounted, because he's a soldier, and who in the Democratic party (other than the Blue Dogs) pays attention to what they have to say? And though Mr. O'Hanlon and Mr. Pollack (who served on the National Security Council staff when Bill Clinton was president) are loyal Democrats, both supported ousting Saddam Hussein, so their testimony, too, can be discounted.

"O'Hanlon's been way out in front as a surge booster since it first started, and Pollack, obviously, has been synonymous with the war for years," wrote Web logger Matthew Yglesias.

But Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the only Muslim in Congress, is a very liberal Democrat who thinks going to war in Iraq was a mistake. He spent last weekend in Iraq as part of a delegation organized by another liberal Democrat, Rep. Jerry McNerny of California.

"The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership," Rep. Ellison told the AP.
Et tu, Brute?

"McNerny also said he saw signs of progress in Ramadi and was impressed by Gen. Petraeus, who argued in favor of giving President Bush's troop surge strategy time to work," the AP said.

A more ominous shift for Democrats occurred Monday night when four bigfoot journalists with impeccable liberal credentials -- David Ignatius of the Washington Post; Michael Duffy of Time magazine; Kelly O'Donnell of NBC, and Gloria Borger of U.S. News & World Report -- all said during a discussion on Chris Matthews' MSNBC program that it would be a mistake to withdraw quickly from Iraq.

In view of the mounting evidence that the situation in Iraq is improving, Democrats in Congress would be wise to wait for Gen. Petreaus' report in September before making another attempt to force a troop withdrawal, Rep. Clyburn told the Washington Post. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jack Murtha of Johnstown are preparing another effort to tie funding for the defense department to withdrawal from Iraq.

Like the Copperheads of 1864, Democrats today think defeatism is their ticket to political victory. Like the Copperheads after Sherman captured Atlanta, they may be in for grave disappointment.


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