In the midst of a three-day debate on a resolution in the House of Representatives opposing President George W. Bush’s escalation of the Iraq War, West Michigan Republican Pete Hoekstra and fellow Republican Representative John Shadegg of Arizona have circulated a memo advising Republicans to avoid debating Iraq. The two congressmen write that:
The debate should not be about the surge or its details. This debate should not even be about the Iraq War to date, mistakes that have been made, or whether we can, or cannot win military.
In fact, the congressmen assert that the debate should not be about Iraq or President George W. Bush’s escalation of the war, “if Democrats force us [Republicans] into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we [Republicans] lose.” Instead, the two Republican congressmen are encouraging their colleagues to debate the resolution on their terms. They urge Republicans to shift the debate towards “the global threat of the radical Islamist movement” and the consequences of letting that movement win in Iraq. These consequences have gone unexplored in the “liberal media” according to the congressmen, as the media has only focused on the financial costs and the death toll of United States soldiers in Iraq. In an argument reminiscent of Rumsfeld’s assertion that the United States is fighting the terrorists on the streets of Baghdad rather than the streets of Los Angeles, the congressmen conclude by telling their colleagues to ask the Democrats “If we do not defeat radical Islam in Iraq, then where we will do so?”
It is unclear as to the influence that this letter has had with the intensity of the political debate in the House and the varying “themes” that the Republican leadership is urging its colleagues to consider. The four themes proposed by the Republican leaders are the aforementioned dangers of militant Islam, the consequences of failure in Iraq, the political stunt of the Democrats pursuing this non-binding resolution, and that this is a first step towards cutting funding for the war. Hoekstra enthusiastically argued his analysis in his comments on the House floor, arguing that the resolution ignores those who “hate Americans” with those people being “jihadists” who are “committed to a violent overthrow of the existing international system and to its replacement by an all encompassing Islamic state, the Caliphate.” Hoekstra’s comments quoted Osama bin-Laden and other al-Qaida leaders extensively. He concluded his remarks by asserting that the war is about “a fundamental clash of civilizations” between the West and the “jihadists” who believe that “democracy, liberalism, human rights, personal freedoms, international law, and international institutions are illegal, illegitimate, and sinful.” On the same day, Hoekstra also was quoted in a story in the Grand Rapids Press that sought to link the death of a Kent City soldier to weapons from Iran, with Hoekstra supporting the idea that a new type of lethal weapon is coming into Iraq from Iran despite the fact that there is little evidence to support the link between Iraq and Iran. Those who have been tracking Representative Hoekstra’s faithful and enthusiastic support of the Iraq War might remember that in June of last year, Hoekstra claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While Hoekstra described a previously disclosed “discovery” of “deadly” weapons made of “very, very dangerous material,” the weapons dated back to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and do not constitute WMDs according to experts in the field, nor were they part of an active WMD program.
West Michigan’s other congressional representative, Vern Ehlers, has been silent on the resolution and has not stated whether he will support it. He is one of three Republicans in the state who have not revealed their position, otherwise all Republicans are voting against the resolution and all Democrats are supporting it. Of course, to a certain degree, where Ehlers stands on the resolution is irrelevant, as the resolution does nothing to end the war in Iraq. The resolution, which is non-binding, asserts first that the Congress and the American people will continue to support the troops who have served “bravely and honorably” in Iraq and secondly says that Congress “disapproves” of President Bush’s plan to send over 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. A similar resolution was killed by Republicans in the Senate last week, but neither of the resolutions would have done anything to help the Iraqi population that lives under an illegal occupation (more than 700,000 Iraqis have died thus far) nor will the resolution offer much to those living within the United States that are seeking an end to the war. The most recent polls, while always to be taken with a degree of skepticism, show 63% of Americans want the United States out of Iraq by the end of 2008. Similar polls conducted in Iraq have shown that 80% of Iraqis want the United States to leave the country. The attitudes of Americans reflect the views expressed in November, when many Americans voted out the Republicans in a repudiation of the Iraq War. However, rather than act on this wish, Democrats have largely sought to neutralize this antiwar thread and to attempt to keep it at bay through this non-binding resolution without taking up the tough questions–namely supporting the immediate withdrawal of United States troops for Iraq or using their power to halt funding of the war to bring the war to an end.