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Vermont Guardian

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Four more years?

Posted March 22, 2007

As the Iraq War enters its fifth year, the call continues to grow for a withdrawal of troops from the region.

Yet, continuously that call is falling on deaf ears — neither a Democratically-led Congress nor a Republican lame-duck president are budging from their variant versions of “stay the course” and “support the troops.”

On March 19, Pres. George W. Bush laid out his assessment of the war. And, as usual, it was seemingly devoid of reality. His “new way forward” in Iraq, which means putting more U.S. troops in Baghdad to act as neighborhood SWAT teams alongside Iraqi police, is just beginning to see results and he urged, once again, for patience.

“I want to stress that this operation is still in the early stages, it’s still in the beginning stages. Fewer than half of the troop reinforcements we are sending have arrived in Baghdad. The new strategy will need more time to take effect. And there will be good days, and there will be bad days ahead as the security plan unfolds,” Bush told a crowd of reporters.

Early stages? What happened to “Mission Accomplished?” Did we miss a change in the mission? Or, did we really have one to begin with?

Everyone knows this nation was led to war based on lies and half-truths, and since the first soldier set foot on the soil, the war has been poorly planned and executed.

The removal of Saddam Hussein from power, along with elections, are two milestones worth noting. But, what milestones are we marking now? For too long, we’ve been led to believe that in just a few more weeks, all will be well.

All is not well, and Vermont’s delegation needs to step up the pressure on Democratic leaders to support a true plan to end the war and secure the peace.

The timid steps being taken by Democrats right now in Washington to put an end to the war will only prolong the suffering, the loss of life, and the refereeing by U.S. soldiers over sectarian civil war.

What will it take for those elected to understand that the U.S. public no longer believes our prolonged presence is needed, or warranted?

Poll after poll after poll shows that the people of this country — save a few diehards — are ready to “declare victory and get out.”

This administration’s understanding of the Middle East is only matched by its brazen belief that might makes right.

Bush warned critics that a “cut and run” strategy, while appealing, would be devastating to the region. But, in saying so, he fails to grasp what millions of people in the region — from Palestine to Baghdad — suffer daily.

“It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating. If American forces were to step back from Baghdad before it is more secure, a contagion of violence could spill out across the entire country. In time, this violence could engulf the region,” said Bush.

Just look at that last line: “In time, this violence could engulf the region.” In time? We would expect that if you ask a Palestinian living in Gaza, or a Jew in Israel, that they might already see the region as being engulfed in violence.

Nothing PATRIOTic about it

The U.S. Senate shouldn’t stop with its revision to the PATRIOT Act taking back the attorney general’s ability to appoint federal prosecutors without Senate approval.

That measure was added into last year’s revision to the PATRIOT Act at the last minute, and taken out were protections that U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, had fought to include. Leahy’s provisions would have protected public libraries from the rampant use of national security letters by the Justice Department.

These letters, which come with lifetime gag orders to not speak about ever receiving such a letter or divulging its contents, have been issued to tens of thousands of people, according to a recent inspector general’s audit. The letters are issued without judicial oversight, and can only be appealed to the attorney general.

Leahy should use the occasion of the audit to push for judicial oversight on the use of these secret letters.

Because ask yourselves — what’s the difference between a secret police force and a police force with secret powers?