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Iraq: This Is No Longer a Test

The Senate is currently debating a measure to cut off funds for the Iraq war, after the chamber voted Tuesday by a wide margin to proceed with debate on a troop withdrawal bill sponsored by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).

On Monday, Capitol Briefing incorrectly predicted that Feingold's bill would not get the 60 votes required to end cloture and begin debate. Similar measures had failed overwhelmingly several times before, so Tuesday's session was seen as merely a "test vote" before the Senate moved on to consideration of a housing bill.

What Capitol Briefing did not anticipate -- and Democrats were surprised, too -- was that Senate Republicans would make a strategic decision to vote in favor of cloture on the bill, not because they support it but because they wanted to use today's debate to highlight what they see as measurable progress in Iraq. The cloture vote drew support from 43 of the 46 Republicans present for the vote, while 20 Democrats voted against it (none of the chamber's three presidential candidates showed up).

Why did Republicans decide to move forward with today's debate? One reason is that they believe the statistics showing reduced violence in Iraq puts them in favorable position. But there's another reason, illustrated by recent polls.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month showed that "public views of the national economy are now more negative than at any point in nearly 15 years." More importantly for the purposes of today's debate, that poll showed that voters listed the economy as by far the most important issue in determining their choice for president, a reversal from last year, when Iraq was easily the most important issue. And the survey also showed that only 42 percent of respondents think the U.S. is "making significant progress in Iraq," while 54 percent do not.

Traditionally, Republicans -- including presumed presidential nominee John McCain (Ariz.) -- usually believe they are on firmer ground debating national security issues, while Democrats typically prefer to focus discussion on domestic issues like the economy or the housing crisis. When bad news from Iraq was dominating front pages, that trend was reversed, but now that many indicators of violence in Iraq appear to be down, the GOP wants to tell that story on the Senate floor.

Of course, many Democrats and critics of the war don't believe the U.S. is making progress on the political front in Iraq, and still believe most voters want to bring the troops home. Democrats are getting the chance to make that case in the Senate today, whether they wanted it or not.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 27, 2008; 12:37 PM ET
Categories:  Iraq , Senate  
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Oh yeah, the Republicans are brilliant on National Defense. Especially this administration. They brought in the dream team with a hundred years of Defense and Washington experience and what did they do??

They lied, they bullied, they demonized, politicized, and now we're stuck in a non-war war against an enemy that wasn't in the country we're fighting in until we invaded, not fighting in the country where they are. We lost the respect of the entire world and blown our economy to smithereens.

Oh yeah, let's put that myth to bed. The Republicans can't be trusted with National Defense. Feel safer now?

Posted by: thebobbob | February 27, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

i think that tha troops should come back from iraq because,we are not even doing anything over there the war been over when sadam was captured,so bring our troops home!!!

Posted by: Charles | February 27, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I understand that people are frustrated with the war over here. To highlight why we are still here, ask yourself which of the border nations you want to hand Iraq over to? Wrong or not, we destroyed their military, their war machines, and their ability to defend themselves. If we leave now, we in essence hand the country over to Iran, or maybe Turkey, or any other middle eastern country or major terrorist organization that wants to waltz in and take over. If you can do the political math on that one, you will understand why it is critical that we stay. We aren't fighting a war, we are in a war to help Iraq recover from what we did. Leaving now will be a bigger mistake than coming here in the first place. Isn't it odd that no one is complaining about Afganistan anymore . . .we are still there too.

Posted by: Baghdaddy | February 28, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

It has come down to the least poison pill to swallow, hasn't it. We undoubtedly own the disgusting chaos we created in Iraq and now we own Iraq's future too. What should we do, stay for the next 100 years as Mad-man-mcain relishes or do we start to draw down our soldiers as the Dems want to do? Sure, Baghdad has stabilized but look at the troops necessary to make it happen. The idea was to gain time for the parliament to create a stable, united government. They're no closer now than they were back in July last year and no progress is expected in the near future. It's time for us to start packing it up and bring our soldiers home, there is nothing else we can do over there that makes any sense politically or militarily.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 28, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Baghdaddy believes we owe the Iraquis our blood and guts and arms and legs for taking out their military capabilities. One has to ask himself this question, why are we there? Rather than go into the Bush lies and all that, we're only in Iraq to save face for Dubya and to continue funding military weapons systems and supporting organizations. All this for Dubya's and Cheney's inner circle so they can reap their billions from the American taxpayers. This is why we're still in Iraq, no other reason. We all know the war was fabricated and perpetuated by Bush and company so why not believe it's still on-going because the money is great?

Posted by: nononsense1 | February 28, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

were in iraq for the oil dummy. as soon as we drain the oil fields in iraq we can invade iran, then saudi arabia. personally i cant wait till we mop up chavez and take his oil. i have a new suv on order and i need .50 a gal gas.

Posted by: cowpatti | February 28, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The surge is working. Political reconciliation is taking place (not mentioned in the above article). The federal government recently voted favorably on three measures: provincial elections are to be conducted by October 1st, a formula for sharing of federal oil revenues among the provinces has been approved, and amnesty for many Sunni Baathists has been approved. Despite the lack of media willingness to publicize it, political reconciliation in Iraq is occurring as a result of the surge, and it is occurring from the bottom up. Pulling our troops out now would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Posted by: Buffal0Bill | February 28, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

"The surge is working". Buffal0Bill must be joking. Virtually none of the key "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government outlined last year as as part of Bush's new plan for victory in Iraq have been met. From yesterday's Seattle Times "Iraqi government leaders on Wednesday rejected a law that would have required nationwide elections by the fall, dealing a serious blow to a measure that the U.S. considers a key benchmark of political reconciliation in Iraq." If this is considered success, I would hate to see failure.

Posted by: ShirleyYourkidding | February 28, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Oops, sorry Buffal0Bill. The law to allow voting for this October was vetoed today. Nobody in power today in Iraq has any interest in allowing a vote to go forward, as al Sadr would advance in the south and the Sunnis would gain power in the west. Also, try to keep up. The Sunnis are about a month away from turning their weapons back on Americans, as we have not followed through on our promises to the Awakening Councils. But at least we got to blow up a lot of cool stuff. Too bad we are going to bankrupt ourselves caring for the 30,000 injured vets who drive to the doctor for treatment using $4 per gallon gas.

Posted by: gromansky | February 28, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

What you people fail to see is what the "war" in Iraq is all about. It's the SAME war as in Afganistan, except that in Iraq, when the IRAQI PEOPLE sent their tyrant leader to be "hanged by the neck until dead," all Hell broke loose and the animals all want to control what Suddam Hussein (Obama's 'proud terrorist' middle name is oddly and proudly Hussein..hmmmm), is no longer able to control (since he's dead).
The US military is inIraq to control the savages until Iraq can govern itself. ONE OF THESE ANIMALISTIC groups who want control is the Taliban led Al Quada which has always been there and has always wanted control. Since they are part of the Islamic Jihad movement, they HATE America and all non Muslims. They have always wanted to kill non Muslims and now have a chnace to recruit and train the children of Iraq much like they have trained all Islamic turned to Christian children is Islam,,, Esp those with the middle name of Hussein. They can destroy us Infidels from within.

Posted by: JLMEAL | February 29, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Think of where we would be if, instead of invading iraq to remove 8% of the worlds oil from the market and drive prices up,we had sent 75,000 troops to afghanistan after bin-laden and al queda. There would be no "al-queda in iraq", we would have had hundreds of billions to invest in america, our economy would not be in a recessation, several thousand G.I.s would still be alive and many more thousands would not be maimed. BTW, who'se family fortune was based on oil, and who'se family has been very cuddly with the Saudi family? The only successful thing that Shrub has managed to do is raise the misery index for most americans.

Posted by: dowdler | March 1, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

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