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Who Speaks for America
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 8/31/07

While the surge continued and our troops endured the dusty, scorching misery of another summer in Iraq, officials of the Iraqi government went on vacation. Meanwhile, the tribes, sects and gangs of Iraq continued to kill each other. There was no vacation from the sectarian violence that is wreaking havoc and not much evidence that Shia, Sunni and Kurds are ready to unite in peace for the sake of their country.

Our Congress also went on summer vacation, exhausted, no doubt, from its labors which produced little of much value in terms of legislation that actually solves problems and addresses needs. Many members took advantage of summer recess to visit Iraq in order, as they might put it, to assess progress there. For many, no doubt, the true purpose was to selectively gather data that might be useful in supporting their views on the war and to establish their “expertise” in its conduct.

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]

Most of us tend to view events through the lens of our own political bias. That’s understandable to a degree but members of Congress, whatever their views, should realize their limits and constraints. Brief boondoggles to Iraq, to be photographed shaking hands with the troops, do not endow them with expertise on the conduct of the war.  Neither do they give them the authority or the experience to engage in foreign policy. We have diplomats and generals, who are properly trained, working full time to do this under the authority of the executive branch.

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) evidently was in such a hurry to get there that he reportedly got into a scuffle with an airline employee. Key Democratic leaders, upon return, wasted no time in reporting a lack of political progress and to declare anew their opposition to Bush’s war. Some went further than that and a few clearly crossed the line separating executive and legislative branch responsibilities by venturing into affairs of state in time of war.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front runner to succeed President George W. Bush, tried getting an early start in assuming presidential responsibilities by calling for the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Now, I personally agree that the Iraqis have shown abysmal lack of progress in putting religious hatred aside and getting their act together for the sake of their country and so that we can reduce our military presence there and reduce the strain on our overburdened ground forces. As chief of state, Mr. al-Maliki bears the ultimate responsibility for that lack of progress. But he is in office as a result of free elections which we supported and it is not for a U.S. senator, even one running for her party’s nomination for president, to call for his resignation.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) chimed in with a similar recommendation. Not to be undone, Sen. John Warner, of the president’s own party, called for an immediate drawdown of some troops, stating that the Iraqis had let our troops down by failing to show sufficient progress, this a month before Gen. David Petaeus makes his long-awaited expert assessment of progress. The White House, understandably, asked Warner’s office for clarification.

Mr. al-Maliki reacted with predictable petulance. “No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraqi government,” he said. “It was elected by its people.” More ominously, he added, “We care for our people and our constitution and we can find friends elsewhere,” speaking during a trip to Syria.

No one has elected Hillary Clinton to conduct U.S. foreign policy. She represents the people of New York, only one of fifty states. Frankly, I don’t care whether or not Mr. al-Maliki survives in power and I have serious doubts that anyone can promote unity among Iraq’s fractured populations. As Max Boot has recently written, the problems there are primarily institutional, not with individuals. I do know, however, that individual members of Congress have neither the expertise nor the authority to make such decisions. Their clumsy attempts to intrude into matters of state for purposes of trying to force the president’s hand dilutes our international image and raises doubts abroad as to who really speaks for America. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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