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.
Ironically, some of those functions might require more troops. For example, the Iraq Study Group report, often lauded by congressional Democrats, suggested a surge in the number of U.S. troops training the Iraqi military. "Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role," the report said.
That means that after the Democratic "redeployment" deadline, there still could be 20,000 troops in Iraq training Iraq's military, plus the troops needed to protect those troops, plus the troops needed to protect our facilities and civilian personnel in Iraq, plus the troops needed to go after al-Qaida and "other terrorist groups" -- whether they be "international" or of "global reach."
In other words, there could be a lot of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq after the Democrats end the war.
Obviously, despite the restrictions Democratic leaders would put on exactly who these remaining troops could attack, there would be no reciprocal restrictions on who could attack them.
Here, too, the supplemental spending bill contradicts itself.
The same section that restricts our troops "to killing or capturing members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations with global reach" also compels the president to certify to Congress by July 1 "whether the government of Iraq has given United States Armed Forces and Iraqi Security Forces the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias."
Apparently, Democratic leaders favor a "surge" of their own. They want our troops to go after "all extremists" in Iraq before the redeployment deadline. But, after the deadline, they want our troops only to go after al-Qaida and "other terrorist organizations with global reach."
Presumably, indigenous Sunni insurgents and the Shiite Mahdi Army would be off-limits to attack by U.S. forces -- unless they could be defined as having "global reach."
Come to think of it, does the fact that with a few false documents and an airplane ticket a Sunni insurgent or Mahdi jihadi could be in Washington, D.C., tomorrow give those groups "global reach"?
Somebody better clarify that with Nancy Pelosi before she jets off again on her very personal road to peace.