U.S. Rep. Brad Miller recently visited a soldier from his district at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and during the congressman's stay, he heard the man, whose left arm had been amputated and his left leg cobbled together with pins as the result of an IED explosion, whisper to his nurse the word "eleven."
"I think the nurse had asked him to rate his pain on a scale of 1 to 10," Miller told me by phone as the first day of General David Petraeus' congressional testimony wound down.
To rate the deception of the Bush administration on the Iraq war requires scientific notation. But enough about the truth. We're not going to get it from the Bush administration, so there's no sense in expecting it. The onus to act is on Congress, particularly the Republicans, who somehow must muster the courage to defy the president and represent the wishes of the American people, and not only those from their party. A CBS/New York Times poll released this week shows that two-thirds of 1,035 adults surveyed said the war was a mistake and that the United States should decrease troop levels or withdraw them entirely.
Yet Democrats shouldn't get a pass. In a Sept. 10 interview with MSNBC's Keith Olberman, New York Times columnist Frank Rich entertained the possibility that Democrats aren't being more aggressive about ending the war because it gives them ammunition going into the 2008 elections. No Democrat who wants to win next November would publicly say as much, but it raises eyebrows when one considers 86 House Democrats voted in May to approve an additional $100 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That capitulation, which Democrats justified in various verbal calisthenics, only emboldened Bush to push for 30,000 more troops, which he got, and a deeper embroilment in what is now an Iraqi civil war.
Miller explained his frustration in "trying to spend energy and investment in developing an alternative to this policy knowing it won't be adopted, and if it is, that it won't be relevant in six months."
That sounds intractable. Nonetheless, Congress must override any future veto and withdraw the troops within six months. Yes, the consequences for Iraq are dire, but even with our troops occupying the country, the situation is constantly deteriorating. Meanwhile, our soldiers are dying or being gravely wounded.
During Petraeus' testimony, several protesters were escorted out after being angrily chided by Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee: "This is intolerable. We will not allow it."
Nor should the American people tolerate a war without end. Call your representatives and senators; tell them you won't allow it.