Michigan Democratic Party Senator Carl Levin has once again reiterated his pledge not to cut funding for the Iraq War. Levin, who made previous comments saying “we’re not going to vote to cut funding, period,” made his latest statement in a column appearing Thursday in the Washington Post.
Levin’s column, titled “Lincoln’s Example for Iraq,” has the Senator touting Abraham Lincoln’s action in Congress as an opponent of the Mexican War as an example for how Democrats can “try” to end the war. Lincoln introduced a series of resolutions questioning President James Polk’s rationale for the war. Levin praises Lincoln for taking this route, arguing that it shows his willingness to “funding the troops… without hesitation.” This is the route that Levin has taken, absorbing arguments by the Bush administration, other Republicans, and supporters of the war who argue that a vote to stop funding the war is a vote against the troops. Levin asserts that “as long as our nation’s policies put them there, our troops should hear an unequivocal message from Congress that we support them.” Levin refuses to consider voting to cut off funding–a move that could immediately end the occupation of Iraq by denying the money needed to maintain the United States presence–and dismisses it as simply sending the “wrong message.” It seems that the message would be quite clear, namely that the occupation has brought nothing but death and misery to the Iraqi people, has sparked a violent anti-occupation insurgency, has placed large numbers of United States soldiers in harm’s way, and must end.
Instead, Levin promotes legislation that would set a “timetable” for reducing the number of troops in Iraq, transitioning the United States military’s role in Iraq, and training Iraqi security forces in counterterrorism techniques. Without evidence, Levin asserts that this approach would “offer the best chance for stabilizing a country that we invaded while also sending the message to our troops that, even though we oppose the president’s policy, we are united behind them.” Levin further claims that this approach could pass in the House and the Senate, unlike a measure that would cut funding. To support this claim, Levin cites increasing support for his measure setting a four month timetable, highlighting the fact that in April it had the support of 51 Senators, including two Republicans. However, Levin does not mention that Bush vetoed a bill with a timetable and will presumably continue to honor his promise to veto any bill containing a timetable. As Levin mentions with regard to the funding bill, the support of 67 Senators would be needed to override such a veto.
Moreover, Levin continues to make questionable statements about the Iraqi people, which he has done consistently over the past several years (1, 2). Levin again advances the idea that the Iraqi people have failed to act “responsibly” in establishing the political processes necessary to reduce the violence in the country. In the same paternalistic fashion in which he has made previous statements to that effect, Levin’s letter speaks of needing to tell the Iraqis that “we will not be their security blanket indefinitely.” Similarly, Levin argues that Iraqis need to “take responsibility for their future” and make “political compromises.” His letter again ignores the role of the United States in bringing violence to Iraq and paints the Iraqis as the ones who are unwilling to compromise, while with his talk of the Iraqis breaking promises, Levin advances stereotypes that Arabs cannot be trusted.
In recent weeks, Democratic Party leaders have acknowledged that many voters are upset with their actions on Iraq following the passage of a funding bill that did nothing to bring the war closer to an end. It is not surprising that people would be frustrated with the Democratic Party, as most credit their 2006 election victories to statements suggesting that they would end the war. However, rather than do this, Democrats have supported legislation allowing the war to continue. Senator Levin’s position on the war has even been “praised” by the Bush administration (http://www.mediamouse.org/features/050307michi.php), a fact that makes clear the strength of his opposition. To that end, it is no surprise that Levin has been targeted by antiwar ads, and with recent statements, will likely continue to be targeted antiwar activists.