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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Almanac Debate, Part I: Iraq

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

On Friday, October 20, John Kline and Coleen Rowley sat down for the only broadcast television debate of this cycle. At the start of the debate Eric Eskola immediately asked Kline whether a change of course is warranted in Iraq. Kline doesn't answer the question, instead spouting rhetoric about "we have to have victory" and the usual talk about "Islamist extremists". The closest he gets to an answer is to say that we might need to "move troops around". Then he says something remarkable:

As you know, my good friend and frankly, political mentor, James Baker, is part of a bipartisan team that's also looking at ways we might approach our activities in Iraq.

Cathy Wurzer then tosses Kline a softball, asking him to "define victory in Iraq." But it's quite interesting that Kline would mention the Baker commission. Kline once identified James Baker, a Republican stalwart and Bush family confidante, as one of his heroes (Star Tribune, September 6, 2004). And he refers to Baker now as his mentor. So clearly Kline must have a great deal of respect for Baker's opinion of the war in Iraq. And what is that opinion?

As reported in the New York Sun this past week, Baker is considering some of the alternatives which Democrats like Coleen have been pushing for over a year now (emphasis added):

. . . the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.


The "Redeploy and Contain" option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, though the working groups have yet to say when and where those troops will go. The document, read over the telephone to the Sun, says America should "make clear to allies and others that U.S. redeployment does not reduce determination to attack terrorists wherever they are." It also says America's top priority should be minimizing American casualties in Iraq.

So Kline's mentor, Kline's hero, the uber-Republican James Baker is heading up a commission which will recommend giving up on a democractic Iraq and withdrawing U.S. troops. Yet Kline spends the balance of the Iraq discussion sniping at Coleen for her support of responsible redeployment, which is much closer to Baker's plan than anything Kline has to say.

When he next speaks, Kline complains that "looking for a solution from [Coleen] is a little bit hard to find" --- when he has given no solution of his own beyond "move troops around". He proceeds to muddy the debate by mis-stating her position, telling people she wants to redeploy troops to Okinawa and "Kurdistan", which he claims are part of Jack Murtha's redeployment plan.

We know Kline has had trouble navigating this web site in the past, but for those interested in answers instead of distortions, Coleen's plan for Iraq has been available right here for almost a year, and it says nothing about Okinawa or Kurdistan specifically, but ". . . forces should be redeployed to regional positions to respond quickly to emergency scenarios and/or terrorist developments." Anyone with a grain of intellectual honesty will understand that when Coleen says "Kurdistan", she is of course referring to "Iraqi Kurdistan", sometimes also called the Kurdish region in the north of the country. There is little doubt the Iraqi Kurds would welcome U.S. troops as a buffer against the warring Shi'ites and Sunnis in the south.

But Kline doesn't give us intellectual honesty. He gives us quibbles about semantics. From his perspective, it works nicely to obscure the fact that his plan amounts to more of the same failed policies we've seen for more than three years.

When Coleen begins to explain her responsible redeployment plan, Kline erupts with: "I'm sorry, that's just a slogan. Tell us what your plan is." Of course that's what she was doing when Kline interrupted. And again, by making this attack, Kline further obscures the fact that his own plan is "We have to have victory" and "move troops around".

A bit later on, when Coleen is discussing the need to try to involve other nations --- like Syria and Iran --- to help stabilize Iraq, Kline nearly jumps out of his seat, exclaiming: "Oh please, Coleen. You're going to get Iran and Syria to come on board in agreement with the United States? You cannot solve these world problems with pixie dust."

I refer to yet another report on the options Kline's hero, James Baker, is considering:

A commission backed by President Bush that is exploring U.S. options in Iraq intends to propose significant changes in the administration's strategy by early next year, members say.

Two options under consideration would represent reversals of U.S. policy: withdrawing American troops in phases, and bringing neighboring Iran and Syria into a joint effort to stop the fighting.

It's true that Iran and Syria are no friends of the U.S., but they do have a common interest with us in trying to stabilize Iraq. After all, if Iraq continues its decline into a failed state, Iraq's neighbors will feel the greatest impact.

George Bush and John Kline have put the U.S. into a situation where there are few good options, if any. A fitting metaphor would be if Bush and Kline, like the Keystone Kops, led us into a concrete jail cell, and decided the only way out is to keep banging our heads against the wall. Kline is convinced there's no point in trying to pick the lock; he'll ridicule anyone who wants to try to get out the window; and it's beneath his dignity to send out a cry for help. And he dismisses with scorn anyone who wants to stop banging their head against the wall, and insists they're opposed to freedom.

That's what the choice boils down to on November 7. Keep banging our heads against the wall, or try something else.

(Disclaimer: This blog post is not a position statement. Rather, it is an analysis of a recent debate between Coleen and John Kline in which Kline appeared not to know that his hero James Baker is reportedly considering recomending a course of action in Iraq much closer to Coleen's position than Kline's.)


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