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Iraq Oversight: Act on Principle, Not Latest Polls

After weeks of public threats, nonbinding resolutions and intraparty conflict, Democratic leaders finally have unveiled their proposal for counteracting President Bush’s efforts to fortify Baghdad.

Shrouded in the cover of an emergency supplemental bill, this measure would set a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq — regardless of the situation on the ground. Under their plan, if the troops are succeeding in bringing stability to Iraq, withdrawals will begin early next year. If they are not succeeding, withdrawals will begin immediately. Any way you slice it, this defeatist proposal undermines the commander in chief’s constitutional authority.

When he originally announced plans to send additional troops to Iraq, President Bush was clear that America’s commitment is not open-ended. Placing political pressure on the Iraqi government, however, is a far cry from revealing our battle plans to the enemy.

The Victory in Iraq Caucus is committed to honoring our men and women in uniform, supporting their mission in Iraq and promoting victory in the global war on terrorism.

We must govern on principles — not public opinion polls. Many in the Democratic majority claim they were swept to power by an anti-Iraq wave and it is their obligation to end the war at all costs. We believe that Americans, while uncomfortable with the war’s direction, remain committed to its success. The American people want policy that will facilitate that success — not prohibit it.

Yet, scarcely had the words left Bush’s mouth before Democratic leaders in Congress began their naysaying. Despite statements from top military officials — including Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq — that more troops are vital to advancing security, Democrats ramped up their political rhetoric, introducing empty resolutions and offering exit strategies that only serve to undermine troop morale.

Congressional meddling in the conduct of war is counterproductive. One needs only to look through the pages of history to see the bitter effects of premature retreat and Congressional micromanaging.

In 1973, Congress passed the Fulbright-Aiken amendment, which proved crippling to the execution of the Vietnam War. It cut off all funding for U.S. military forces on the shores of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

The war on terrorism can be traced to withdrawals from Beirut and Mogadishu that led to the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the 1998 embassy bombings across Africa, the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and ultimately the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Petraeus reported last week that nine Iraqi reinforcement battalions have entered Baghdad. He noted the effort “will have to be sustained to achieve its desired effect … [but] there have been a few encouraging signs.” He specifically pointed to a decrease in sectarian killings, the discovery of numerous weapons caches and the capture of al-Qaida members. Ironically, not a single member of the House Democratic leadership attended the general’s briefing.

The words of one Democratic lawmaker in The Washington Post are telling: “The war is the issue, but it’s the president’s issue, not ours.”

This statement reveals all that is wrong with Democrats today. Terrorists do not distinguish between Democrats and Republicans. The war is not the president’s “issue” or Republicans’ “issue” — it is our issue. The fate of our nation hinges on success in Iraq.

Fortunately, there are some in the Democratic Party who understand what is at stake. As the Democratic leaders move forward with their proposal, we are hopeful the men and women who understand that success in Iraq is vital, and wars are not won in the halls of Congress, will stand up to their leaders and with our troops.

There is no magic bullet, no cure-all pill. But the fact remains that we must endure. The stakes are too high, the consequences of defeat too catastrophic. As men and women elected to represent our constituencies and provide for their well-being, it is our responsibility to look out for the safety of American families.

Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) co-chair the Victory in Iraq Caucus.

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