Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Footnote to the foo - you get the idea

According to a couple of sites, the Reid-Feingold bill, which would cut off funding for the occupation as of next March 31, was going to be brought up in the Senate for a vote today. I haven't seen any news on it, but keep an eye out. It's actually not a separate bill, it's an amendment to a water resources bill.

While Reid-Feingold, if passed, would be a major step forward, it's still not a final answer. It's enthusiastic supporters note that it says in one section that
[n]o funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008.
(N.B.: The link is from Thomas and such links can be temporary as events change in Congress. If it doesn't work, that's why.)

However, those fans invariably fail to note that the very next section lays out a list of exceptions to that prohibition, which are:
(1) To conduct targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.

(2) To provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.

(3) To train and equip Iraqi security services.
When those kinds of exceptions were originally raised in the report of the Iraq Study Group, it was noted that the result could well be tens of thousands of US troops remaining in Iraq for the indefinite future. Frankly, that's not good enough. What's needed is an absolute ban, finis.

Instead of providing free-floating loopholes unanchored in any specific limits, put an end to it - and then if some narrow exceptions become necessary, make the Executive Branch come and ask for each one and explain how big an exception and why it's necessary.

For example: "Well, we have an embassy there. It'll need a security detail." "Okay, how many?"

Or just suppose a withdrawal plan is adopted and as part of that there was some agreement to transfer some US arms to the Iraqi army as we leave. "We'll need to leave some people to train the Iraqis in their use. And they'll need security. And infrastructure, you know, housing and the like. And that infrastructure will need security. And...." "Hold on there, buckaroo. How many trainers? For how long? Why do they need security or US-military-provided housing? Why can't the host country provide that?"

You get the idea. The point is, our experience with the Bushites is that they will exploit any loophole, no matter how small. During Iran-contra, one of the secret plans in the Reagan White House was called "Operation Elephant Herd" because an loophole in a limitation on funding of the contras was "big enough to drive a herd of elephants through." That is a mistake we need do everything possible to avoid repeating. The best way to do that is to allow no loopholes and make the White House individually and very specifically justify every single exception it wants to have.

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