Three Issues in CD-2: Iraq, Iraq and Iraq

The intensity of feeling about the progress of the war in Iraq is making itself felt in the race for Congress in the 2nd district. The issue is the first one brought up to the candidates in the three-way race for the Democratic nomination. Will Shafroth has become the first in the field to call for beginning immediate withdrawal of troops.

One official, asked what issue tops the voters’ list in the campaign, said, “They ask about Iraq, Iraq and Iraq.”

Shafroth’s position represents a refinement of his earlier stance, expressed in an interview with Colorado Confidential in early July, in which he supported the Congressional Democrats’ proposal of “establishment of a firm timetable.” Shafroth said at the time, “I’m less committed to the September or November deadline. But I do believe it’s time that we sent a strong signal to the Iraqi government that we are going to be starting to change our mode of operation there from one of combat to one of security and rebuilding.”Now, however, citing the recent General Accounting Office findings that the Iraqi government has failed to meet 11 of 18 congressional benchmarks for military and political progress, Shafroth has strengthened his position, calling “for the immediate initiation of withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq …

“… This President has been saying for years that we are making progress in Iraq, yet this report is proof that there has been little or no progress made since the President declared the end of major combat operations in 2003.

  “I have been opposed to the Iraq war since the beginning,” Shafroth added. “This war was falsely justified and poorly planned and we should begin bringing our troops home as soon as possible.”

Shafroth’s tougher position reflects the growing impatience among the district’s constituents with the course of the Iraq war. Shafroth campaign manager Lynea Hansen declined to characterize Shafroth’s stand as a change of position. She said, “The Senate plan was to begin the withdrawal in 120 days. Whatever bill gets them home the soonest, that’s what he’s been supporting.”

Shafroth is running against Colorado State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and businessman/philanthropist Jared Polis for the Democratic nomination to U.S. Congress in the 2nd congressional district to replace Mark Udall, who is running for U.S. Senate. There is so far no Republican candidate announced for the seat.

In campaigning, the first question from voters to all of them has been about Iraq.

Fitz-Gerald has said that Congress should use the power of the purse to deny funding to President George W. Bush to “stay the course.” She says that Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) cast the only “proper vote” among Colorado’s congressional delegation by opposing the 2007 war funding.

Polis has opposed the war from the beginning, saying “The invasion of Iraq was a colossal mistake.” He is calling for a “controlled withdrawal of U.S. forces,” facilitated by a “Commitment from regional countries and major industrial nations to provide political, economic, and diplomatic support to the Iraqi government during the withdrawal and beyond, and facilitate dialogue among warring factions towards developing a more stable Iraq.”

If the GAO report is to be believed, “a more stable Iraq” lies a considerable time in the future. The GAO found that 11 benchmarks had not been met, four had been partially met and only three completely achieved. Even one of those three successes came with a cautionary note. Number 16 called for “Ensuring the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.” The “status” line of report says, “Legislators’ rights protected; minority citizens rights unprotected.”

The full GAO report can be found here.