Antiwar activists who believe the Democratic Congress is advancing their cause better look again.
Read the fine print in the proposals Democratic leaders are promoting as legislation that would set a deadline for ending military intervention in Iraq, and you will find they do no such thing.
The bills may fool casual observers into thinking they are designed to end the war. But they are not.
H.R. 1591, the supplemental spending bill approved by the House, mandates that "the secretary of defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq not later than March 1, 2008, and complete such redeployment within 180 days." The Senate version calls for the same "redeployment," setting an earlier final deadline of March 31, 2008, and making that deadline a "goal" rather than a mandate.
If President Bush, as promised, vetoes the supplemental because it retains one of these timelines, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may force a vote on another bill he is co-sponsoring with Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin. It reads, "No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31."
That sounds pretty definitive. But it is not.
Both the supplemental and Feingold-Reid are designed to keep U.S. troops in Iraq until after President Bush leaves office. They are self-contradictory lies.
Language in the supplemental specifies: "After the conclusion of the 180-day period for redeployment the secretary of defense may not deploy or maintain members of the Armed Forces in Iraq for any purpose other than the following: "(1) Protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the U.S. Armed Forces, (2) Serving in roles consistent with customary diplomatic positions, (3) Engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations with global reach and (4) Training members of the Iraqi Security Forces."
Feingold-Reid uses slightly different wording to authorize keeping troops in Iraq for the same general purposes. For example, it would authorize U.S. troops to go after "international terrorist groups" in Iraq, as opposed to "terrorist organizations with global reach."
Yet neither bill specifies exactly how many troops may stay in Iraq. They merely specify what those troops may do.