What is up with Carl Levin?
by Matt Stoller, Sun Feb 25, 2007 at 04:05:50 PM EST
I was initially really excited that Carl Levin would be in a position of power in the Senate, but after reading his statements over the past few months, it's become clear that he doesn't get it on Iraq. Here he is on Meet the Press today.
Things have changed in Iraq. We don't believe that it's going to be possible to remove all of our troops from Iraq because there's going to be a limited purpose that they're going to need to serve, including a training, continued training of the Iraqi army, support for logistics in the Iraqi army, a counterterrorism purpose or a mission because there's about 5,000 al-Qaida in Iraq.
There are two problems here. First of all, he ratifies the right-wing talking point that we're in Iraq because of Al Qaeda. More significantly, by saying that Bush needs to keep troops in Iraq, he's giving Bush carte blanche. There is no pony plan here. Bush is leading our forces, and he will until 2009.
Surely, though, Levin gets this, and would specific limits on troop withdrawals. Well, not exactly. This is a response to a question where Russert asks how many troops should be taken out by next March.
I don't want to put a specific number on it because that really should be left to the commanders who decide how many would be needed to carry out those limited functions.
So Levin wants to make sure that Bush can keep as many troops in Iraq as is necessary to carry out limited functions, a clear delegation of power to Bush. But it's even worse - Levin doesn't want to use the only Congressional leverage that actually exists - funding. And he doesn't want to use it for disgraceful reasons.
Most of us do not want to cut funding for our troops for two reasons. One is it's wrong. Our troops deserve our support as long as they're there, and we're not going to repeat the mistake of Vietnam where we took out on the troops our differences over policies with the administration.
Democrats need to stop equating funding the war with supporting the troops. By arguing that Democrats cannot morally use the power of the purse, Levin is expressing a preference to sending our troops into Iraq underequipped and led by an entirely politicized and incompetent civilian leadership.
This strategy needs to change. Senator Levin is a smart man, but his framing is playing to the right.
UPDATE: Kagro X makes a related point.
UPDATE: Levin isn't wrong that Al Qaeda is in Iraq, but Bush will not use our military forces in Iraq to go after Al Qaeda no matter how much Levin asks.