Tanner and Cooper Vote Against Troop Drawdown

Last night the US House voted to pass HR 4156, a bill that would provide $50 billion for emergency appropriations contingent on the coordinated drawdown of troop levels deployed in Iraq. 15 Democrats, including John Tanner (TN-08) and Jim Cooper (TN-05) voted against the measure.

Tanner and Cooper have consistently voted against measures that would put conditions on funding for the deployments. In the past, Bart Gordon (TN-06) and Lincoln Davis (TN-04) joined them in their opposition to conditional funding. This time around both Davis and Gordon sided with the majority.

Tanner and Cooper need to explain their positions. Back in September, the Commercial Appeal published a fluff piece about Tanner’s struggles with the Iraq question. In the piece, Tanner never backs down from his initial decision, but that decision doesn’t jibe with a statement in the article where he says:

“Yeah, it bothers me. It bothers me a lot because I told myself when I left active duty back in ’72 that, if I ever had anything to say about it, I’d try to keep our country from getting involved in another war where the strategic victory that we sought was not attainable”

Basically, Tanner is saying he wouldn’t support something that we can’t win. The problem with this logic is that we are no longer in the “war” phase, we are occupiers, and have been since our flightsuited President declared “Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003. The way you win an occupation is to leave, not stay as long as possible.

The current government of Iraq took office in May of 2006. A year and a half out, and few of the issues facing the country have been dealt with. Military leaders, both active and retired have testified again and again that the issue in Iraq now is a political one that cannot be resolved militarily yet the administration has taken no lead in creating a political environment in Iraq that would expedite negotiations. Our continued military presence in Iraq as it stands now is hindering negotiations and exacerbating the stalemate by providing a crutch for the Iraqi government to lean on instead of taking responsibility for the future of their nation, a task they were charged by their people to complete.

I understand that the issue of funding our soldiers in Iraq can seem complicated. I don’t think anyone wants to see a single soldier injured or killed due to lack of equipment or funding. This bill funds the troops, contingent on removing them from harms way. From my perspective it satisfies the troop safety requirement. This is not a rejection of the troops, but a rejection of administration policy that 70% of Americans believe has careened out of control.

Tanner and Cooper’s decision to vote against this bill puts them in a position of voting against troop safety. This position is untenable when considering the totality of the situation. Both members need to explain themselves, and soon. Voting against a bill because it will be vetoed is not a good enough reason. It is time for the Congress to represent the will of the American people.

In the spring of 2007 MTSU conducted a poll that showed that only 29% of Tennesseans support the current policy on Iraq. Since that time Tanner and Cooper have consistently voted against any funding bill that would call for troop withdrawal. I hope that Tanner and Cooper will reconsider their votes, or at least explain them so we might better understand, or elect someone who is more willing to represent the will of the people in their districts.

Ed Note: It may seem that my position on Iraq has been inconsistent. In truth, this is one of those things that is very difficult for me to put into words. Emotionally, I want our troops home yesterday. Intellectually, I know that a troop withdrawal is necessary, but will be a lengthy and costly process that may result in an explosion of violence in the Middle East.

Since the rhetorical buildup of the war in 2002, I have maintained my opposition to it. The reality that we would be responsible for the aftermath was one of my main strategic objections to the war, never mind the administration’s policy of pre-emption was both ill conceived and contrary to international law. Since the beginning of military action we have consistently failed to stabilize the situation politically and have executed a military plan, which can only be described as inconsistent and understaffed. Both of these situations have been brought on by an administration that is determined to choke any competence out of government for political reasons. I find it disgusting that this situation has manifested itself in this way, but can find blame only in those who would work to maintain it, namely the administration and it’s apologists on the hill. For now, Tanner, Cooper and those who voted against this conditional emergency spending have given themselves this dubious distinction.

Our service men and women have been held hostage to this political agenda, and I feel it is high time that we fight to get them the hell out of there. In doing so, we have to accept that we are leaving with the job half done and that there will be many more lives, American and Iraqi, lost. Additionally, the toll that this action will no doubt have on military morale will be steep. I feel that every bill calling for withdrawal should include language admonishing the Bush Administration for failing to live up to their responsibility, while commending our service members for their sacrifice, and dedication despite the impossible situation the Administration placed them in.

“Support the Troops, Bring Them Home” has been my mantra in the face of Administration rhetoric seeking to paint any opposition as heretical. Still, the part of the equation that needs to be addressed in any re-deployment or drawdown plan is the future of the Iraqi people. In liberating Iraqis from a dictator, we have shackled them to anarchy. It is our responsibility as a nation to correct this situation politically. That responsibility falls on an Administration loathe to admit fault or make any gesture that would expedite the political situation. This is, in my opinion, an attempt to pass on the problem to the next administration, on the backs of our soldiers.

Congress cannot make the Administration fulfill their obligation, but must hold a position that squarely places the blame where it belongs, at the feet of the Bush Administration, and for now Tanner, Cooper and the rest of those who would vote to maintain this Administration’s political agenda. In passing this bill, the House is once again on record. I hope the Senate can muster the intestinal fortitude to also pass this legislation despite the inevitable veto. By continuing to press forward with this agenda, the Congress can take solace in the fact that they have at least made an effort to correct the wrongs of this administration. I hope Tanner and Cooper will come around to this realization and vote for overturning the veto when it comes before the House.

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