Anyone who reads major newspapers or watches TV news would naturally assume that on Thursday, July 2nd, the House of Representatives took a fateful vote to end the Iraq War and to withdraw US troops.
As a matter of fact, the House voted for nothing of the kind, and the public distortions by both parties and all major media demonstrate the shameful gamesmanship on all sides when it comes to Iraq policy.
USA TODAY, the nation’s top circulation newspaper, featured a front page headline that declared “House Votes for Pullout by April” – conveying the impression that the Democrats succeeded, in a party line 223-201 vote, in demanding that all American forces come home by next spring. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave its readers a similar impression, with its front page headline: “HOUSE DEFIES BUSH, OKs EXIT.” Even the New York Times covered the story under the grossly inaccurate summary: A FIRM BUSH TELLS CONGRES NOT TO DICTATE POLICY ON WAR: House Responds by Voting to Withdraw Combat Troops From Iraq by April 1st.”
Reading the articles that accompanied these headlines, they made almost no reference to the actual text of the resolution the House had just approved. The stories—like reports on television – suggested that the edgy debate had been all about “bringing the troops home,” “withdrawal from Iraq,” and “bringing this tragic war, finally, to an end.”
In truth, the House didn’t approve withdrawal, a deadline for US troops to come home, or in any sense mandate an end to the war. The resolution they considered (H.R. 2956) actually bore the heading “Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act.” (Italics added). The official summary of this legislation described “An Act to require the Secretary of Defense to commence the reduction of the number of United States Armed Forces in Iraq to a limited presence by April 1, 2008, and for other purposes.” (Italics added).
In other words, the House voted for troop reduction, not troop withdrawal.
But even so savvy a Washington insider as Dick Morris, Fox News contributor and former political consultant to President Clinton, didn’t know what the resolution actually said. When he talked with me on my radio show on Friday and I read him the actual text of the House resolution, he seemed genuinely shocked by its contents.
The operative language in the bill orders the Secretary of Defense to “commence the reduction of the number of Armed Forces in Iraq beginning not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act and shall complete the reduction and transition to a limited presence of the Armed Forces in Iraq by not later than April 1, 2008.”