Iraq: the Democrats don’t have a plan or a clue

September 8, 2006 | By | 8 Replies More

What does it meant to “lead”?  According to dictionary.com, to “lead” means “to go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort: to lead a group on a cross-country hike.” 

Based on this criterion, the websites of prominent Democrats display a stark lack of leadership on Iraq.  A review of the websites of these Democrat “leaders” shows that they have no plan for dealing with the current occupation of Iraq. 

I’ll cut to the chase.  It seems as though we are headed for a repeat performance of the November 2004 election, where the plan of Democrats was to attack Bush as incompetent.  That strategy will work even less in 2006 than 2004, because Bush is a lame duck, already thinking about packing his cowboy boots to retire to Crawford.  Who cares about your concerns about a guy who is already on the way out?

The Democrats have certainly had lots of time to develop a plan on Iraq. After all, the war has been going as long as WWII, as indicated by this article from the Chicago Tribune:  

The United States has been fighting in Iraq since March 19, 2003, when President Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom with air strikes against Baghdad. Monday marks the 1,245th day of the Iraqi conflict. By that reckoning, Americans troops will have fought in Iraq for as long as they fought Germany in World War II.

But back to the failure of prominent Democrats to develop any plan.  A “plan” is “a scheme or method of acting, doing, proceeding, making, etc., developed in advance: battle plans.”  Bush’s incompetence is not a plan.  That the Iraq invasion was stupid is not a plan.  Criticizing “stay the course” is not a plan. 

On what evidence do I base my assertion that the Democrats don’t have any plan regarding Iraq?  I checked their web sites.  My review showed that prominent Democrats are more interested in getting defense appropriations for their home states than leveling with the citizens about the blood that’s being shed daily in Iraq or devising a plan to resolve the Iraq conflict.  That conflict, by the way, is costing us $8 Billion per month. This is money that is therefore not available for real national priorities

We all know that our elected officials (both Republican and Democrat) do talk frankly about Iraq in the back halls of the Capitol.  They don’t level with the citizens, though.  Certainly not on their official websites.  It’s pathetic. Instead of talking frankly and working on a real plan, they spend their time hedging, biding their time and shaking down contributors to survive their next election. 

Here is a summary of some of the websites I reviewed.  I focused on the websites of prominent Democrat leaders.  I’ve also looked at the websites of some prominent Republicans, and they are no better, I assure you.  Many of those Republican websites are much worse, actually.  The Republicans continue to conflate the 9/11 attacks with Iraq, for instance, a despicable and inexcusable ploy.   But today, I’m focusing on the Dems.

I went straight to the “issues” sections of the websites.  If you take this same tour, the first thing you’ll notice is that many of our alleged “leaders” don’t even have Iraq listed under “issues” (many Republican sites also fail to list “Iraq” as an issue).  None of the websites I visited gives more than a few sentences about Iraq, almost all of it platitudes and generalities.  It’s all amazing. 

Senator Hillary Clinton – NY Senator – offers no Iraq plan on her website. Her “issues” do not even include “Iraq.”

Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader, claims a “concrete plan” that is anything but concrete.  See, for example, her letter (co-signed with other prominent democrats): “United House And Senate Democratic Leadership Put Forward Concrete Plan For Change Of Course In Iraq.”  That letter argues that the Iraq mission should be more “limited.”

Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader, also fails to mention Iraq as an “issue.”    Under the issue of “defense,” he mentions that “our troops defend our nation in Iraq.”  Sounds like the Iraqis were attacking us before we invaded!  But Reid offers no plan for Iraq.  Nothing remotely like a plan.

Dick Durbin, Senate Assistant Democratic Leader.  His “Issues” section features his “Statement on War with Iraq,” in which he states: “The President has told the American people that as Iraqi soldiers stand up, our troops will stand down. Now he says that we must not leave too soon. But this is not a plan for success nor is it a clear message to the Iraqi people.”  Where is your plan, Senator?

Carl Levin, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee.  Levin timidly suggests that we “begin” a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the end of 2006.   He suggests that we must “push” the Iraqi military to take over. Great.  I’m sure that this unquantified nebulous suggestion gives our troops lots of confidence that you’ll wrap things up soon in Iraq. 

Ike Skelton, Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee.  Really puts the rubber to the road . . . well, actually, my sarcasm got the better of me.  He doesn’t do this at all.   Skelton’s website presents another Bush bashing in lieu of a plan, as though ranting about Bush can save lives: “We need to recognize the mistakes made over the last five years so our nation can move forward to a more secure future.”

Joe Biden, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, prominently displays his Nov. 2005 “major address” on Iraq, in which he asks the President to “Level with us. Give us specific goals and a timetable for achieving each one so we know exactly where we are and where we are going.”  OK.  But don’t you have a plan, Senator?  How are we going to stop the bloodshed?   20,000 U.S. soldiers have been seriously wounded.  If you put all of those soldiers in a line (even the many who now need canes, crutches and wheelchairs), that line would stretch more than eleven miles.  Given the urgency of this task, it amazes me that Biden is asking a president who has obviously not had any plan for three years to now deliver “specific goals and a timetable.”  It’s so incredibly un-leader-like to rely upon incompetence for guidance.

Daniel Inouye, Ranking Member, Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, states the purpose of his website right up front:  “The purpose of this website is to help me fulfill my most important responsibility: communicating with my constituents. This site is updated regularly with new information.”  Not true.  His site is hopelessly out of date.  Where is anything about Iraq on his site, for example?  Hey, isn’t there a WAR going on? 

John Murtha, Ranking Member, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.    Murtha argues that we need to “redeploy,” to rebuild our military and meet future threats.  I’ve heard Murtha speak on Iraq before.  I know that he has presented more detailed plans in various speeches.  But I didnt’ see those plans on his website. I don’t understand a national leader wouldn’t take full advantage of his official website to communicate with the citizens.  There certainly do seem to be lots of Internet users in the United States.  A web site would therefore seem to be a good place to communicate with all of those Americans, right?

In sum, the websites of the most powerful Democrats fail to suggest what the U.S. should do, when, and at what cost, regarding Iraq.  They fail to acknowledge how ugly the situation could get under various possible scenarios (at least no Democrats are using Rumsfeld’s line that the Iraqis will start throwing flowers at us). With the exception of John Murtha’s site, the sites of Democrats don’t even raise the question of whether the presence of the U.S. military in Iraq is driving much of the violence.

The above sites of prominent Democrats fail to acknowledge whether we going to actually leave the Iraqis in charge of their country and their oil, or whether we’ll really ever leave. They fail to acknowledge the permanent military bases we’re building in Iraq.  They fail to acknowledge that most Iraqis distrust (or even hate) us because we currently have no intention of leaving, at least until the oil runs out.  It seems like the plan is to watch the Republicans remain in control and to bitch about how they are handling things.

The sites of prominent Democrats don’t indicate our mission or purpose of being in Iraq. 
Assuming we have no valid mission being there, the web sites of prominent Democrats should specify when and how we are going to pull our troops out.  Wishes and hopes are not plans.  If the plan it to keep deferring to the President because the Democrats can’t think of anything better, just admit this on your websites and save us the trouble of voting.

I really don’t understand the silence.  Most of the above websites say very little (if anything) about Iraq.  It’s like we are all part of a dysfunctional family that stretches from coast to coast.  There is a huge elephant in the house and we all expend great energy carefully stepping around the elephant, day and night.  When someone blurts out the obvious point that Iraq is economically and morally bankrupting us, they are quickly scolded and labeled “bad.” Those Democrats who speak up to say the obvious on Iraq should be loudly echoed by fellow democrats and reported by the media, but they aren’t.  Again, that’s how dysfunctional families are. An example is the recent speech of Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City.

Mostly, then, we don’t really talk about Iraq.  Iraq is like a made up story we only read about, so there’s no need to really talk about it. Also, we think it doesn’t affect us.  It doesn’t directly affect many of us, because many of us don’t have any friends or relatives who have been yanked into combat as members of the military (some of them deployed two or three times to Iraq).

We don’t talk about Iraq.  Maybe our prominent Democrats feel too much guilt to openly discuss it.  After all, they sat on their hands and gave W a blank check in 2003. 

We certainly don’t talk about what is happening on the ground in Iraq.  We don’t dare look at those thousands of photos of dead and crying Iraqi children.  We don’t openly admit that we have asked combat specialists to do jobs they aren’t equipped or trained to do.  These are not fun topics; these aren’t the sorts of things we see at Disneyland, so we don’t talk about them or even think of them. 

We are not become a functional nation again unless we talk about our difficult issues.  Merely calling issues “intractable” is not talking about them.  Calling issues “intractable” is a cop-out.

Americans have become specialists in not talking frankly about important things.  We don’t talk about good jobs pouring out of the United States or changes we need to make to social security and Medicare due to massive demographic shifts (no, not the changes George Bush proposed).   We don’t discuss how the educational system fails huge numbers of children.  We don’t talk about the systemic failure of our health care system.  We don’t have real conversations with our political leaders about most things any more. 

If the Democrats want to really lead this country, they will need to begin to talk meaningfully and frankly about the many difficult important issues of the day.  Let’s start with Iraq.

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Current Events, Iraq, Media, Politics, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (8)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    I have a few ideas about why Democrats aren't talking about Iraq. The most likely is that doing so does not serve their political careers. As long as Republicans control Congress, and are thus in a position to claim as their own any good ideas they glean from Democrats, Dems will be reluctant to share good ideas…at least not until the election is so close that Republicans can no longer benefit from the ideas.

    Another reason for Dems to not provide a plan for Iraq is that it's a bit like smashing a raw egg on the ground and asking for a plan to put the egg back together: does anyone have a good plan for that?

    Another reason for Dems to not provide a plan is because it's a whole lot easier, and perhaps gains greater political traction, to just bash Bush. Why talk about a plan — which will undoubtedly draw ridicule no matter its merits — when slamming Bush might be all it takes to win re-election? Ideally, politicians would set aside such issues for the sake of saving the lives of American troops, but such altruism seems a rare commodity in Washington these days.

  2. Erika Price says:

    Of course the Democrats lean on Bush-bashing…they see it as perfectly safe. Hell, even Republicans turn their noses up at Bush at this point. Bush-bashing has even become a pop cultural goldmine- you need only look at the piles of Bush-mocking books, toys, gag gifts, song lyrics, buttons, posters, and other paraphernalia to get the sense that anyone can trash Bush without fear. But since nearly everyone does it, it has lost virtually all meaning.

    I admit to having ulterior motives in pointing this out, but not only does the Libertarian Party list Iraq as an issue, they have an exit strategy proposal on their website (I wish I could say that the Green Party does too, but they have less national unity). I suppose the party can afford to openly express its stance because it has nothing to lose. I just wish the Democrats would realize that a stronger offensive wouldn't hurt at all.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika: I looked at the Libertarian Party's plan: 8 pages and 25 footnotes. The Libertarian Party does, indeed, suggest a plan for Iraq that is meaningful. It might not work, but it is meaningful. I admire the Libertarian Party for its straight talk.

    What do I mean by "meaningful"? A "plan" is meaningful if it has enough detail that I can recognize when it is (or isn't) being followed. The Republican "plan" and the Democrat "plan" could both mean EITHER of the following: A) We'll be in Iraq for 20 years, still trying to run the country (and doing so badly) or B) All of the U.S. troops will be pulled out next year. In other words, the two most powerful political parties in the U.S. are both presenting "plans" that can mean all things to all people. In sum, the Iraq "plans" being presented by both the Republicans and Democrats are utter gibberish.

  4. Heather says:

    "Another reason for Dems to not provide a plan for Iraq is that it’s a bit like smashing a raw egg on the ground and asking for a plan to put the egg back together: does anyone have a good plan for that?"

    I think that statement hit the nail on the head. As well, both major parties are scared to do anything at this point. There is such a chest beating match between the two that they are afraid if either of them doesn't do exactly the right thing (or if the American public disagrees) that it will be the demise of their party.

    I think that the Libertarian party has certainly got it together though. Too bad the US is so obsessed with this two party system of ours.

  5. hogiemo says:

    So websites don't have what some people call a "plan" and that forms the basis for an indictment of the entire political system. Seems like some bloggers need to relax their egos and maybe start talking to the people they're taking potshots at for lack of meaning.

    I'll call and write Jack Murtha and Ike Skelton, they've been aroud a while and have actually fought in wars unlike the Republican chickenhawks that are mucking things up in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somebody else take two others and let's post the results. We might then have a reasonred discourse about what makes a "plan", rather than a self-selected survey of websites and a pre-determined conclusion of incompetence or lack of meaning.

    "What say you?" said Aragorn to the king of the dead.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's my point. This is 2006. People who are serious about communicating utilize websites and load it up with clearly stated information. Most of these websites contain lots of information about topics other than Iraq.

    Further, most of these public officials have failed to present a plan both on their websites and in any other manner.

    Again, here's what I'm after. A plan sufficiently detailed that I could know when they are following that plan or not. I'm looked for a plan that is compliant with the verification theory (see here).

  7. hogiemo says:

    So go to the website of CBS News for the date of 01-05-06, see story "Murtha Details His Exit Strategy" where there are three pages of interviews plus video. See also 8-25-06 KC Star interview with Ike Skelton, 8-20-06 Boston Globe interview with John Murtha. I "googled" these and got them in about 5 minutes. So then I went to the website for the US House Armed Dervices Committee and reviewed the statements of the Democratic members about Iraq. There's a plan mentioned for phased withdrawal. There are specific "metrics" (Rumsfeld-speak for what Erich calls 'verification theory').

    Oh, I haven't called or written either Congressman, I'll do that as soon as I finish this post. Since looking at the internet is the "preferred" method, I started there first and spent about 10 minutes finding what Skelton and Murtha are up to on Iraq.

  8. hogiemo says:

    I called Skelton's office and got little help. I went back to his websites and found little more than already found.

    Murtha's website referred me to numerous press relases and in particular one from June 27, 2006 where he details his plan and mentions when, how and where. Murtha's phone number was busy.

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