Before political correctness, a person who gave someone a gift and later took it back was called an "Indian giver."
This is what a majority in the House did last week when they "gave" their support to American forces fighting to stabilize Iraq and defeat our enemy and then promptly took it back. How else should one interpret this "nonbinding" resolution when part one said, "Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq," but part two negates part one: "Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on Jan. 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq."
This is like sending your love a valentine last week and this week sending a note withdrawing the sentiment.
Last Saturday, Republicans managed to block a similar effort in the Senate, but by only four votes. Senate Democrats - and a few like-minded Republicans - vowed to try again.
Once, most members of Congress supported the president's prosecution of the war. That was when his approval numbers were sky-high. Now that those numbers have fallen, so has congressional support. Most Democrats claim, falsely, that the November election was a referendum on the war. If the president's policy succeeds, though, two things will happen. First, some members who opposed him will claim they were behind the troop surge all along. Second, most Democrats will assert that success is actually failure because they can't afford politically to admit they were wrong.
Do the troops feel supported by this House resolution? There are no opinion polls of military and civilian workers in Iraq, but two comments have come to my attention. One is a letter to the editor of The Washington Times from John McFarlane, a military trainer for Northrop-Grumman Technical Services in Elizabethtown, Ky. McFarlane writes that he has just returned from Iraq "after coming out of retirement to go there Š I can tell you that the greatest fear of the young service members over there is that the American public will fail to pursue total victory and will leave early, thereby wasting their battle buddies' life and blood. They feel pain every time somebody pays lip service to his or her conscience with the line: ŒI support the troops, but not the policy.' (They) know they are the policy and that you should feel shame if you as an American would commit them to anything less than total victory."
The second letter is from Army Sgt. Daniel Dobson, about whom I wrote in a column last week. Sgt. Dobson says he was in the chow hall in Mosul, watching CNN on the day of the House vote. He writes in an e-mail, "Šit made me furious to see congressmen unashamedly proclaim their cowardice, but the reaction of the soldiers tore my heart in two. The faces were that of men that looked as if they were just told there is no United States to go home to. The fury gives way to depression: the thought alone that our elected representatives do not represent us anymore is more than depressing. We see cowardice, sickening spineless cowardice and it makes soldiers sick."
So much for the assertion by some members of Congress that the House resolution, with the promise of more and binding ones to come, will have no affect on troop morale. How many other soldiers feel this way? How many others might be affected by these "no-confidence" votes? Of equal importance, how emboldened does the enemy feel as he sees the prophecy of Osama bin Laden coming true, that America doesn't have the stomach or staying power for a long war and will eventually give up if enough death and injury is inflicted upon American troops?
If Congress wants to end this war, it should immediately vote to cutoff funds and receive whatever benefits, or consequences, that result. But too many who lack the spine to win also lack the spine to accept accountability for defeat. The only victory they appear committed to is the next election.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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