In August 2007, Council for a Livable World submitted seven critical questions on national security issues to all declared presidential candidates from both parties. At the time, that list included Sen. Joseph Biden, now the presumptive Democratic Vice…
Originally posted on Experience Advocacy August 21, 2008 by David Cohen.
Senator Lieberman’s descent into political isolation will come after the election if the Democrats have at least 52 seats, no matter who is President. Lieberman has to pay a political price in the Senate for his endorsement of John McCain for President.
As a participant in successful efforts to strip House Democrats who supported Goldwater in 1964 of seniority, and strip three unfair and arbritrary Committee Chairmen of their posts after the House Democratic landslide in 1974 (post-Watergate), I can attest to the precise reasons for stripping legislators of their chairmanships and seniority.
Lieberman’s views on the Iraq war and his Iran bellicosity are not reasons. Even his outrageous connection with Reverend Hagee does not per se sink Lieberman. Even McCain rejected Hagee’s endorsement after his anti-Catholic comments. Hagee’s tepid apology to Catholics does not reduce the virulence of his essential bigotry. Lieberman’s occassional liberalism (pro-choice, opposition to Alito’s confirmation, his leadership on global warming and DC’s rights to vote and to representation in the House) do not mitigate his actions in support of McCain for President.
Where Lieberman has reached the point of no return is his endorsement of McCain for President. This alone puts Lieberman over the line. His active campaigning for McCain serves to emphasize Lieberman’s endorsement. To speak at the Republican convention serves to remind the rest of us that Lieberman will soon be as forgotten as was Zell Miller, the Georgia Democratic Senator who spoke at the Republican convention in 2004 in support of Bush over Kerry.
Lieberman wants to save his Chairmanship. So he has contributed $100,000 from his political fund to elect Senate Democrats. He is trying to buy his way out of a mortal political sin. No sale, Lieberman. That money, and even future money, does not forgive his support of McCain for President. The people of Connecticut can elect whomever they choose. That does not mean that official is entitled to the benefits of the Democratic caucus. That is what House Democrats established in 1964 and 1974. Senate Democrats should follow suit.
True, right now Lieberman has a whip hand. If he leaves the caucus and votes with the Republicans to organize the Senate, Cheney breaks a 50-50 tie. That would mean Lieberman will have broken his unambiguous pledge to Connecticut voters that he would vote with the Democrats to organize the Senate. To break the pledge would make Lieberman’s legacy that of a liar or a Benedict Arnold.
Next year, hopefully, there will a different scenario. If Democrats reach the magic number of 52, Lieberman should be treated as Wayne Morse was when he supported, as a Republican, Stevenson over Eisenhower in 1952. Lieberman would lose his Committee Chairmanship (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs), and all Committee assignments from the Senate Democrats. If Republicans wanted to give him Committee assignments, that would be the Republican Conference’s decision. Otherwise, he would get last choice and go to the bottom of the list.
Will Senate Democrats pass the easy test of disciplining Lieberman? That’s far from clear. They are likely to have to be shamed into exercising their basic party responsibilities.
David Cohen is the Senior Congressional Fellow at Council for a Livable World.
In the next couple of weeks, the House of Representatives may consider H.Con.Res. 362, a non-binding resolution on Iran. H.Con.Res. 362 is the latest in a series of provocative and counter-productive Congressional initiatives on Iran.
Council for a Livable World joins other organizations in urging Members of Congress not to co-sponsor this provocative measure and to vote “No” on H.Con.Res. 362 if it comes to a vote.
* This resolution reprises and magnifies the Bush Administration’s longstanding sticks-and-saber-rattling-and-no-carrots approach to dealing with Iran – an approach that is increasingly recognized even by senior U.S. intelligence and military officials as inadequate and unconstructive.
Worse still, H. Con. Res. 362 risks reinforcing the most reckless tendencies of those in the Bush administration who have not yet given up on the idea of striking Iran militarily before leaving office.
The sanctions demanded in H. Con. Res. 362 go far beyond existing sanctions and previously proposed sanctions for dealing with Iran. The impact of these additional sanctions would be to undermine any chance for diplomacy to succeed in achieving a negotiated resolution to all of the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran.
* For example, H. Con. Res. 362 demands that the president initiate an international effort “prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program.” Implementation of such a measure would decrease chances of persuading Iran to come to the negotiating table and make impossible the kind of discreet, preparatory contacts that could help build confidence. Such a measure would also undermine efforts to resume U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad over Iraq security.
* Furthermore, H. Con. Res. 362 contains a mixed message – on the one hand stating that it should not be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran, and on the other demanding that the President impose harsh sanctions that would be difficult if not impossible to implement outside the context of using force. This mixed message, even if unintentional, is irresponsible; in the event that the Administration does eventually try to impose a naval or air blockade on Iran, members of Congress who support H. Con. Res. 362 risk being viewed as having approved this option in advance.
The resolution thus risks sending a message to the Bush administration and the world that Congress supports a more belligerent policy toward, and, potentially, belligerent actions against, Iran.
Perversely, H. Con. Res. 362 completely fails to acknowledge the November 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which found that Iran had abandoned its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003. It also ignores the findings of International Atomic Energy Agency Director Mohammed ElBaradei, who has consistently said there is no evidence of diversion of nuclear materials for a nuclear weapons program.
* Likewise, H. Con. Res. 362 fails to reflect a key finding of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which concluded that “some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might – if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible – prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.”
Sanctions alone are of limited use and cannot replace diplomacy as the sole means for resolving the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran. Before pushing for another new round of sanctions against Iran, Congress should urge the President to pursue diplomacy without preconditions, a policy that has not even been tried.
Prominent Iranian intellectuals, academics, dissidents and human rights defenders, many of whom have suffered increasing arrests and prosecutions, have urged the U.S. to stop threatening Iran and enter into direct negotiations to resolve the crisis. Congress should listen.
* Clearly, there are serious outstanding questions and concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The best way to resolve these questions would be for the U.S. to drop preconditions and enter into direct, comprehensive, bilateral talks with Iran.
Transcript of remarks delivered on April 1, 2008 When President George W. Bush announced in January 2007 that the United States would “surge” 30,000 additional soldiers into Iraq, he said that the expected security gains would give Iraqis “confidence in their leaders” and provide the Iraqi government with “the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas.” Bush predicted that “Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace – and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.”
In a conference call with national reporters on April 1, Lieutenant General Robert Gard (USA, ret.), a former executive assistant to two secretaries of defense and former president of both National Defense University and the Monterey Institute for International Studies, set the record straight. “Iraq is more bitterly divided along ethnic, sectarian, and factional lines than it was before the surge began,” concluded Gard, who serves as the Senior Military Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
The transcript of Gard’s remarks follows.
TRANSCRIPT OF PREPARED REMARKS
I am not implying any criticism of General Petraeus. He was given a mission to go into Iraq with a new tactic, as General [William] Odom has explained, which is classical counterinsurgency, to try and protect the civilian population rather than chasing all over the countryside trying to kill all the insurgents. He’s done a good job. There has been a reduction of violence in certain areas.
But our focus on military tactics somehow obscures the fact that war does have its own grammar, but not its own logic. The purpose of the surge, as the president said, was to provide breathing space to get political reconciliation. We have not moved in any significant way toward achieving that end. We are not resolving the core power-sharing disputes that plague the country, as General Petraeus himself has said. And he has said there is no military solution. Indeed, his second in command, Lt. General Odierno, just before he departed, said without political progress it simply will not be possible to reduce the violence.
Iraq is more bitterly divided among ethnic, sectarian, and factional lines than it was before the surge began. There has been massive sectarian cleansing. Since the beginning of the surge, the number of displaced within the country has doubled, as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has stated, and also stated that some two million have left the country. We really have a crisis on our hands from a refugee standpoint.
The sahwa movement, that is the arming and paying of Sunni tribal elements $300 dollars a month, as General Odom noted, not only do they not pledge fealty to the government, they have spoken openly about their opposition to it. And the government authorities themselves have asked the Americans to cease and desist. And only about one-tenth of the 90,000 in that sahwa movement have been integrated into Iraqi Security Forces, but even that is not necessarily a desirable outcome because the Iraqi Security Forces and infused with people whose loyalties lie elsewhere than to the central government.
You just saw, of course, that intra-Shiite conflict has broken out in the south. The security situation in the country, while there has been less violence in certain areas, it appears that we are arming the Sunni side to be able to provide resistance against any attempt to disarm them, just as we saw what happened with the attempt to disarm the Mahdi Army in the south.
We simply must not allow a corrupt and divided Iraqi government to determine the timetable for U.S. deployment. We need to convene the Iraqis under UN leadership to resolve some of the outstanding issues, to include lines of authority at the federal, regional, provincial, and local government areas, do something about oil developments, revenue sharing, and to deal with the refugee situation which could explode in our face at any time.
Our strategy is strategic drift. Advocates of it are playing on our fear that a departure might fuel terrorism, promote regional conflict, and a humanitarian disaster. But as General Odom pointed out, the evidence is to the contrary. Focus groups conducted by organizations sponsored by the U.S. authorities in Iraq have revealed that the overwhelming majority of the Iraqis believe that the secular tensions are caused by the presence of U.S. troops, and those will be resolved when U.S. troops depart.
TRANSCRIPT OF Q&A
1. Do the events in the south last week, where [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al] Maliki had to send in forces and they in turn had to be supported by U.S. and British troops to try to fight what turned out to be an inconclusive battle against Shiite groups, does that call into question the strategic decision last year to leave the south to Iraqi Security Forces to try and maintain order?
GARD: When there had been an outbreak some months ago, General Petraeus said that it would be inappropriate to try and inject U.S. forces in refereeing between and among the various Shiite groups. My understanding is that Maliki didn’t have to send any forces in, it was an initiative that he took which turned out very badly, as we’ve seen. We now have Sadr criticizing the supreme authority in Iran because of his belief that they are supporting the Islamic Supreme Council at his expense. There are really three Shiite factions operating in the south: the Council, the followers of Moqtada al Sadr, and then forces loyal to al Dawa and the Fadhila party, and of course al Maliki is from the al Dawa party, the problem is Maliki doesn’t have his own militia
Even General Petraeus has said that this has turned into a competition for political influence and command of resources among the various factions.
2. What now is the most important dynamic in Iraq? It seems to shift almost by the week…
GARD: I think there are a number of red flags. Obviously the continued deadlock of national leaders, the increased instability in northern Iraq, the Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and the Turkomens vying over Kirkuk, the possible collapse of the Sunni awakening, they have already expressed dissatisfaction. Indeed, a poll taken several months ago, even in Anbar which we hailed as a great success, 75 percent of the Sunnis in Anbar province express no confidence in U.S. troops and a desire that they withdraw immediately. And then this time bomb of the plight of the refugees, our failure to support them, both in terms of admitting them to our own country and providing adequate assistance in places like Syria and Jordan where so many of them have settled in squalid camps
The problem is that U.S. military force cannot resolve these issues. And every commander that we have had there has said so. The commanders are doing what they’ve been told to do, they’re trying to improve security so that there can be political progress. But lacking political progress, we are simply employing military force for its own sake with no positive political outcomes.
Washington, D.C. – Council for a Livable World today urged Congress and anti-war organizations to focus their attention for the remainder of the year on stopping the Bush administration from signing a long-term agreement between Iraq and the United Sta…