Despite the snide grumbling of some wishy-washy Democratic Senators about the Kerry amendment, at least some Democrats stood up and were counted.
Among them, Dick Durbin of Illinois, though not without some hemming and hawing, and not without some unfortunate argumentation.
He began eloquently enough.
In his speech on June 21, Durbin recalled his vote against the war in October 2002, and the courageous stand of the late Paul Wellstone, who also voted against it despite the political risks.
“I remember saying to him, ‘Paul, I hope this doesn’t cost you the election.’ And you know what he said to me? ‘It doesn’t matter. This is what I believe. This is who I am.’ That was the last conversation I ever had with Paul Wellstone. He died in a plane crash just a few days later,” Durbin said. “I miss him. I miss his voice. I wish he were here today. If he were here today, I know what he would be doing. He would be joining me in supporting the Kerry Amendment.”
Durbin then excoriated the Bush Administration.
“We’ve been misled into this war,” he said. “We were given information by this Administration that was not true. This war has not been well-managed by this Administration in terms of the number of troops sent in the field or the equipment being given to them.”
And he tallied the costs to Americans.
“What have we given the Iraqis? We’ve given them 2,508 American lives,” Durbin said. “We’ve given them 18, 000 soldiers who’ve returned home with injuries, 2,000 with head injuries that may be life-changing. We have given them $300 billion of our treasure.”
But Durbin acted like the Iraqis are ingrates.
He never spoke of the damage that Bush’s war has inflicted on them.
He never mentioned the Iraqi dead and injured, who far outnumber our own.
He never mentioned the privatization schemes that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bremer forced down their throats.
He never mentioned the permanent military bases that Bush so craves there.
Instead, Durbin painted the picture of America the magnanimous: getting rid of Saddam for them, setting up elections for them, rebuilding their oil and water infrastructure, training their army and police. “We may have given his nation more than any other nation on Earth has ever given another,” he said. “But now we must tell the Iraqis something very straight and very simple. It is time for them to stand and defend their country.”
After we’ve made such a nice mess of things.
I mean, I agree we should get out of there. But let’s be real: It’s not like we gave them Shangri-La wrapped up in a bow.
Nor did Durbin mention that the Iraqi people want the U.S. to set a timetable for departure. They aren’t the ones who are keeping our troops there; Bush is.
And Durbin stressed the loophole in the Kerry amendment: not that we will withdraw all troops at the end of one year’s time, but that “we will consider the withdrawal of all our troops.”
Durbin knew just what he was doing.
“I say that with some equivocation,” he went on.
Since when does a Senator brag about equivocating?
When he’s worried about being attacked by Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly.
“We aren’t going to pull every troop out as of the last day, regardless of circumstances,” Durbin said. “They [Kerry and Feingold] have very carefully crafted the language which says if we face the threat of terrorism, if we are still needed to train the troops, or if there is any danger to Americans and our facilities, we can stay and defend, as we should.”
That’s enough “ifs” for 130,000 troops to fit through.
Still, Durbin got the main point right: It’s time to go.
“For those who say that one year is not enough time, what has happened in the last 12 months in Iraq? . . . We’ve lost 762 American soldiers in the last 12 months. We’ve spent $90 billion in the last 12 months.
We’ve seen thousands of our soldiers return home with injuries.”
Twelve months is more than enough time.