In Iraq War Funding Nothing Is As Simple As It Seems

Think of it as the “Kucinich Strategy.” At Monday’s debate among would-be Democratic presidential candidates, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich outlined what he said was a solution for Iraq:

 Stop funding the war except to get the troops out.

 Kucinich’s simplicity charmed one TV talking head into asking callers to comment on the no-money-except-to-bring-‘em-home strategy.

 Among Colorado’s Congressional delegation, it seems Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette is alone in buying into the “Kucinich Strategy.” DeGette was one of 70 members of Congress to sign a letter last week to President George W. Bush that essentially drew the line on money for Iraq.

“We are writing to inform you that we will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of all of our troops out of Iraq before you leave office,” the letter told the president.

The correspondence might have been better addressed to Democratic leaders of the House who must once more figure out what to do if the president vetoes their defense spending bill that requires troop withdrawals. That bill still has to go through the Senate, but if it gets out with withdrawal deadlines in tact, it will be DOA at the White House.

This happened a few months ago and the House backed down because it lacked the votes to override a veto. Soon, the House and Senate will once more be forced to decide between a stand-off with the president and allowing business to continue as usual in Iraq.

A 70-block vote in the House won’t stop a compromise war bill from passing. But it will put loads of pressure on Democratic leaders, who rallied their party the last time for continued incremental funding.

DeGette did not return several requests for comment.

Staffers for Colorado Democratic Representatives Mark Udall and Ed Perlmutter said their guys weren’t familiar with the letter.

“It was only circulated to members of the so-called ‘Out of Iraq Caucus’ and a few others,” Alan Salazar, Udall’s chief of staff, said of the letter. “So we did not even get wind of it.”

Even if Udall had known about the letter, he probably would have been reluctant to sign.

Facing a Senate campaign next year, Udall will have trouble drawing such a hard line on Iraq. But Salazar said his boss would have had reservations no matter what.

“After looking at the text of the letter, I think Mark would have some sympathy for the approach of keeping pressure on the administration,” Salazar said. “I also believe he would have concerns about what is precisely meant by the phrase ‘redeployment of ALL of our troops out of Iraq,’ since this runs counter to the recently-passed Skelton bill (which Mark voted for) that calls for a phased withdrawal to begin this year, but leaves open the possibility that a small force might be left in northern Iraq or in border-areas for training Iraqis or staging special operations against al-Qaeda for some period of time that might not conveniently fit before President Bush leaves office.”

On the other hand, said University of Denver international studies professor Tim Sisk, the way out of Iraq is not on the battlefield.

Sisk, a former Senate staffer, is an expert in civil wars.

“I’m comfortable calling what’s happening in Iraq a civil war,” Sisk said. “And the way civil wars tend to end is with a broad agreement (by powerful countries and countries in the region) about what the outcome should be.”

The United Nations is the vehicle for that. Cutting off funds for combat in Iraq “might help increase pressure on the White House to turn to the U.N.,” Sisk said.

“The political agreement has to come before there is security.”

There’s the yin and the yang. And there’s the frustration of the American people.

In Iraq, one size never seems to fit all.

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Jim Spencer

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