Stop playing games over Iraq; find a compromise

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 7, 2007

First of all, there are no easy answers when it comes to gettingout of the quagmire that is Iraq.

President Bush’s move to invade the country to remove SaddamHussein and rid it of weapons of mass destruction resulted in onlypart of the “mission” being accomplished.

Hussein was captured and later hanged. But no WMDs were found,mainly because of faulty intelligence that was used to justifygoing to war in the first place.

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That no WMDs were found and the deaths of more than 3,000 U.S.servicemen during the sectarian violence that has followedHussein’s fall propelled Democrats to control of both houses ofCongress in last year’s elections and cost Bush severely in thecredibility column.

Now Democrats are trying every way possible to capitalize ontheir newfound power. Their “coincidental” machinations even setthe stage for Bush to veto an Iraq war funding bill on Tuesday, thefour-year anniversary of the president’s ill-advised “MissionAccomplished” declaration that combat operations had ended inIraq.

Such convenient political games may play well in blue states,but they do nothing to solve problems as they exist in Iraq.

Bush strongly vowed to veto the bill that included a timetablefor troop withdrawal. Democrats knew beforehand there would not beenough votes to override, thus resulting in the political gridlockthat everyone bemoans but no one seems willing to fix.

So where does that leave the debate? Pretty much back where wewere after Saddam was removed and rival factions in Iraq begantrying to cobble together some form of government.

Democrats cannot continue to espouse an announced timetable forwithdrawal of troops. Doing so only provides a “go date” for whenterrorists and other enemies can ramp up their attempts to squashthe fledgling Iraqi democracy.

At the same time, Bush and military leaders cannot continue tocommit American servicemen and women to a country that apparentlyhas little resolve to help itself and where rival factions appearmore interested in fighting among themselves than coming togetherfor the good of all. The American public simply will not stand fortoo many more scenes of soldiers dying in a conflict that isquickly losing resonance and meaning in this country.

Clearly, the politics must stop and an effort toward finding aworkable compromise must begin.

The fact is our troops’ efforts in Iraq need to be supportedfinancially, but those troops do not need to keep being victims ofthe fallout from groups of Iraqis who can’t, won’t or are unable toreach agreement on how to run a government. And the possibility ofIraqi lawmakers taking an extended summer break – while so muchwork still needs to be done – should infuriate every American,especially anyone who has a loved one serving in Iraq.

It seems the best course of action now would be to focus onbenchmarks of progress for the Iraqi government to meet. Thesebenchmarks should not be mere dates on a flexible calendar, buthard and fast deadlines for Iraqi leaders to take charge of theirown destiny.

U.S. troop withdrawals should not be contingent on any onebenchmark being met, but on an overall evaluation of Iraqi effortstoward achieving said goals. The situation in Iraq must be viewedthrough the prism of whether our troops’ continued presence isjustified in light of – or lack of – that progress and thenfollowed by the appropriate action from the U.S.administration.

There are no easy answers for Iraq, but it is past time for thatcountry’s leaders to take charge and stand up for themselves andtheir countrymen. That message seems to be getting lost amid thenoise of calls to “bring our boys home” and the political gamesbetween Congress and the president.