As Chairman Carl Levin of Senate Armed Services conceded Sunday, Congress is not going to de-fund the war in Iraq, even if Bush vetoes every Democratic timetable for withdrawal.
The war will go on -- backed by a Democratic Congress.
If Majority Leader Reid is not bluffing about his threat to vote with Russ Feingold to cut off funds, Harry will be rolled by a bipartisan coalition that includes dozens of members of his own caucus.
For Democrats recall the consequences of having voted to cut off funds for the war in Vietnam, into which JFK and LBJ had plunged the United States. Whatever Americans think about a war, they are not a forgiving crowd when it comes to those perceived as having abandoned the troops or ensured defeat.
That is what Democrats are toying with today. That is why the GOP has begun to pound Speaker Pelosi, after her runaway strut through the Middle East, to get her vacationing colleagues back to Washington, and get that $100 billion for the troops and the war passed.
No matter how Harry and Nancy bridle, the Congress they lead will give Bush exactly what he demands. And the final vote to fund the war, no strings attached, will tear at the seams of a Democratic Party whose base favors a rapid if not immediate withdrawal.
The Democratic Congress thus faces this April a humiliating climb-down, and all because of a Democratic Senate's vote in October 2002 -- Tom Daschle, Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd all assenting -- to give George Bush his blank check for war.
If I had known then what I know now, I would never have voted for the war, John Edwards assures us of the most important vote that he, Hillary, Biden and Dodd ever cast -- the votes that ensured America would commit the greatest strategic blunder of their lifetimes.
This is not to absolve President Bush of culpability for what historians will surely call "Bush's War," or the neoconservatives who howled for war on Iraq from the moment the planes hit the towers, and who had plotted and propagandized for war on Iraq for years before 9-11.
Yet, Democratic courage in October 2002 might have stopped the stampede, for Democrats were the last, best hope of the opponents of war. But they failed the nation. What the nation got was a vote to "get the issue behind us," so Democrats could focus on holding the Senate, which they lost in any event.
Now that we have passed the four-year mark in a war that has lasted longer than the War Between the States or World War II, what does the profit-and-loss statement look like?
On the credit side, Iraq has been liberated from Saddam Hussein and a Baath Party that tyrannized and terrorized Iraqis for decades. Saddam is dead, his henchmen have met justice, and none will hold power again. Kurds are free. The Shia are liberated from Saddamite and Sunni oppression.
The price of liberation, however, is scores of thousands of Iraqi dead, many tortured and murdered by their own kinsmen, a ravaged nation, a sectarian civil war, al-Qaida in Anbar, 2 million exiles, the flight of Iraqi Christians, the probable break-up of the nation and the reversion of Iraq to the status of a failed state.
For America, the consequences have been enormous, when one considers that, measured by U.S. casualties, this is not a major war.
We have lost 2,300 dead and 25,000 wounded, with no end to the bleeding in sight. The worldwide sympathy America enjoyed after 9-11 is history. America is severed from old allies and despised around the world. Our reputation suffers from Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Haditha.
The material costs of the war run into the hundreds of billions, and hundreds of billions more before it ends. The U.S. Army is "breaking" or "almost broken," depending on whether one agrees with the ex-Army chief of staff or Colin Powell.
America's position in the Middle East is as imperiled as ever it was in the Cold War, with the king of Saudi Arabia accusing us of an "illegal foreign occupation" of Iraq, and Arab peoples professing pandemic detestation of America and preferring Osama bin Laden as man and leader to George W. Bush.
Most Americans are bitter at how the world perceives us today, given the sacrifices we made over 60 years to ensure that freedom did not die and the world would be a better place. But then gratitude has never been a long suit of the human race.
Yet if the world does not love us, and the American Empire is gone, are we not well rid of it? Perhaps Bush should be thanked for having shown it is not worth the cost and for having booted it away.