Media, Marketing, PR – 978.925.7746
Media, Marketing, PR – 978.925.7746

Review of Responsible Plan To End The War In Iraq Part One

I just spent about an hour going though Vern Nelson’s pet plan. I had originally dismissed it as a simple hippie-inspired plan of ‘lollipops and flowers,’ and I was completely wrong.

The truth is, I found the plan to be logical, concise, and articulate, which did come as a bit of a surprise. The problem with it isn’t simplicity, it’s that it’s much too complicated and is dependent on too many disciplines to become a reality anytime in the near term, which I assume is why it’s being targeted towards election challengers.

It takes about 15 pages to get into the meat of this document which is a collection of ideas cobbled together and supported by individual bills introduced last year which taken together do in fact constitute a logical course of action.

However, it also requires the cooperation of so many government officials and organizations in both the US and Iraq, corporations, militias, international bodies, and individual countries who resent us, that this plan will not be able to serve as guide a through a strategic withdrawal process until the current political paradigms are abandoned.

To wit:

There is no military solution to the problems faced in Iraq: the real progress that can be made requires diplomatic, political, and economic means. We must stop counter-productive military operations by U.S. occupation forces and end our military presence in Iraq…

The breakdown of checks and balances in our government led to bad decision-making which damaged America’s national security. Ending this war and preventing future situations like it requires that we restore these Constitutional checks and balances and fix the ways in which our governmental, military, and civil institutions have failed us…

We are aware that facts on the ground will change moving forward, and the legislation is included just to show that a responsible end to the war is possible given the political will.

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, neither could most Americans. That’s why we have a Democratic Congress; but it hasn’t been enough. If something is going to be done about this, the time is quickly passing by us and there doesn’t seem to be enough ‘political will’ to enact many of the proposals cited by the report. Maybe a Democratic POTUS will turn it around, but that can’t happen for at least 8 more months.

Restoring our military:

Repairing the damage done to our military will require reforms in contracting procedures, restoring benefits for members of the military and veterans, and investment in repairing or replacing damaged military equipment.

The need for contracting reform is substantial. Private militias have direct incentives to prolong the conflict rather than resolve it; their use needs to be phased out. Contractors must be legally accountable for their actions. War profiteering must be stopped, and those who have engaged in it need to answer for their actions.

The safety of our men and women in uniform requires that we adhere to international standards with respect to treatment of prisoners. We must also make it clear that the United States does not torture, and that we do not send people to other places to be tortured, either.

The military is having substantial difficulty with recruiting and retention; we could begin to help by delivering on more of the promises the original Montgomery G.I. Bill made and by delivering on our promises regarding healthcare for veterans.

Again, these proposals depend on political will, or at the very least corporate will. I know there aren’t many contractors that do what Halliburton does, but they were at the top of the short list for a reason. The torture issue is a no-brainer.

Also, we should dismantle the VA and provide our soldiers with private medical care. This will never be done however because the military would no longer be able to conceal the long-term side effects of war on our best and bravest. I bet opinions about ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ would be different if there were more doctors involved who were not on the government payroll.

The one clear war power of Congress—the power of the purse—has been neutered by the habit of paying for the war “off the books” in emergency supplemental bills. This prevents a transparent discussion of where the funding for this war has been taken from and how these costs will be covered in the future, and it encourages fraud and irresponsible decision-making. Transparency and accountability will only be possible when war funding is incorporated into the normal congressional budgeting process, forcing decision-makers to consider real trade-offs.

They’re forgetting about war-declaration powers. War was never declared officially which is how the spending bills for Iraq got so opaque to begin with. Even still, I find it highly unlikely that Congress will just roll over and reform their own parliamentary procedures. It’s sort of like the case of the Texas House in which members submit votes for their absent comrades. Indeed they say ‘you can’t fight city hall’ because they make and break all the rules.

Creating a new, U.S.-centered energy policy:

Finally, we are clearly tied to Iraq through our dependence on oil, which makes us vulnerable. Moving away from that dependence is necessary for strategic, economic, and environmental reasons.

I just made this statement yesterday on The Centrist OC and it’s been a major issue for a while. It’s not exactly groundbreaking.

S. 139 Foreign Surveillance Expedited Review Act

This legislation would provide standing for civil actions for declaratory and injunctive relief to persons who refrain from electronic communications through fear of being subject to warrantless electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.

Injunctive relief for people who are AFRAID of being victimized by this but haven’t been? How about stopping the surveillance or improving it in a way that better respects privacy? What this suggests is a potential burden to our judicial system.

Eliminate signing statements

The U.S. Constitution is very clear about the process by which legislation is passed: the House and the Senate must each pass the legislation and it must then be signed by the President. The President has no power to make law unilaterally. Our current president, however, has made unprecedented use of “signing statements”38 in which he attempts to substantially alter the meaning of laws and their interpretation by the courts. These signing statements are a
dangerous device that undermines Congress’ constitutional powers and ability to act as a check on the executive…

H.R. 3045: Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2007

This legislation would prohibit any state or federal court from relying on or deferring to a presidential signing statement as a source of authority when determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, and provide mechanisms for Congress to clarify their intent with respect to legislation being interpreted by the courts.

The damage is already done because now there is precedent. It’s probably going to take a whole lot of integrity on future executives’ parts to repeal the damage to checks and balances initiated by Bush. Earliest time frame? Again 2009 assuming McCain doesn’t get elected. This is probably going to end up in the courts before it can get passed by the legislature since I doubt that Republicans in Congress will help provide a 2/3 vote for a veto override against their own leader.


Part 2 on The Centrist OC!