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  Congress in Wonderland
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 3/1/07

If anyone wonders why American poll respondents rank Congress lower even than President George W. Bush in terms of job performance, a review of the past two months in Congress may be enlightening. Much of that time has been devoted to debating, drafting, revising and promoting versions of a non-binding resolution of non-support of the president’s surge policy in Iraq. Think about that for a moment. With a host of serious problems, foreign and domestic, facing the nation, the legislative branch of government lavishes time on a resolution that is essentially meaningless.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

Supporters argue, of course, that it is not meaningless but rather an attempt to change national policy regarding the conduct of the Iraq war which they feel empowered to do by the recent congressional elections. The war, going badly, is something that most of them who supported it in 2003 are now sorry  ever happened. They wish it would just go away. But it did happen and changing their minds about its justification is not going to change the fact that we are militarily committed.

The troops and their commanders involved in fighting this war authorized by the Congress do not have the luxury of changing their minds about its justification. Neither can their dead comrades. They are already committed to succeed in their mission. Some members of Congress may not fully understand the meaning of commitment. Let me illustrate with a simple example. Take, for instance, the production of bacon and eggs. In this process, one might say that the chickens are involved. The hogs, on the other hand, have made a serious commitment.

So it is in the conduct of war. The politicians are certainly involved but the troops are actually committed. Once they are, we all have a duty to support them with whatever they need to succeed because we committed them. Giving up on their mission and saying that it was all a mistake is not the sort of “support” they have in mind. As my old shipmate, Sen. John Kerry, said, how do you ask the last men left fighting to risk dying for a mistake?

Members of Congress engaged in the crafting of a non-binding resolution of non-support while our troops are engaged in battle are behaving much like chickens. They scratch and cluck over meaningless words in a resolution. They are far from agreement on an alternate strategy that would benefit the nation. They are unified only by a common desire to criticize the president and distance themselves from an unpopular war. Chicken-like characteristics are also evident in attempts by some to seek legislation to rescind the earlier congressional authorization of the war so their earlier support could be expunged from the record, as if it were all simply a bad dream from which they have now awakened, magically in synch with public majority opinion and ready for the 2008 elections. If they really had the courage of their convictions, they could have exercised their real authority and moved to cut funding for the war. But that would entail enormous risk of voter backlash and members of congress are famously risk adverse.

While the outcome of the struggle to save Iraq and salvage the U.S. mission lies in the balance, a half dozen of our distinguished legislators have taken time off from their day jobs to run for president, a full two years before that job is scheduled to become available. What a deal! They now get to spend most of their time campaigning instead of doing the job they were elected to do. They get the opportunity to tell the public what a terrible job the president is doing and how they could do a much better job. Oh, I forgot. That’s what they spend most of their time doing anyway, in spite of the fact that serving in Congress provides little executive experience in running anything other than a committee.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, a rare independent voice of courage and integrity from my home state of Connecticut, who understands the meaning of commitment, has urged his colleagues to back off, think about what they are doing and instead of undermining our new troop commander in Iraq, Gen Patraeus, give him a chance. With our troops on the line, this is the very least that Congress and the rest of can do. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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