In 2006, the threats to America’s national security became stronger and more emboldened. By President Bush’s own admission, over the last year, “the violence in Iraq —particularly in Baghdad —overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made” and the administration’s policy unraveled as a “slow failure.” America’s capacity to respond to these threats—militarily, financially, and diplomatically—were further strained due to the mounting costs of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. On the homefront, almost three years after the 9-11 recommendations were made, ”the United States still has not adequately adapted to the new post-9/11 security environment, aggressively mobilized its defenses at home, or closed known vulnerabilities.” The recent midterm elections have brought hopes for change, instilling a Congress that has pledged to challenge Bush’s policies on Iraq, conduct more oversight of his national security strategy, and take action where the Do-Nothing 109th Congress failed. Rather than embrace the need for a phased redeployment from Iraq, Bush will use the State of the Union to dig in his heels and sell an escalation plan that elicits fears that 2007 could simply be more of the same.
- President Bush’s new plan for Iraq has been met with stiff resistance from across the ideological spectrum. Even reliable pro-war conservatives, such as Sens. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Norm Coleman (R-MN), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), have indicated their opposition. More than six in 10 Americans oppose Bush’s plan. The proposal provides little hope that the stability sufficient to stop the carnage on the ground can be provided. According to recently published UN report, “During 2006, a total of 34,452 [Iraqi] civilians have been violently killed and 36,685 wounded.” Bush has warned that the coming year in Iraq will be no different: “Let me be clear: The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent. Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue—and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties.” The Iraqi people are absolutely clear about what they want. “Seven out of 10 Iraqis overall—including both the Shia majority (74 percent) and the Sunni minority (91 percent)—say they want the United States to leave within a year.” The American public, too, supports phased withdrawal. Despite Bush’s claim that progressives don’t have their own plan, the Center for American Progress has had a responsible Iraq strategy for over a year—Strategic Redeployment. Instead of adopting it, Bush has said there will be no “graceful exit” from Iraq, seemingly laying the course for a disgraceful one.
- The war in Iraq has strengthened al-Qaeda and strained the American military. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, the war has become a “cause célèbre” for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better. According to Bush, “al-Qaeda is still active in Iraq” where it is attempting to make it home base in the Anbar Province. In Afghanistan, the home base of al-Qaeda prior to 9/11, attacks have surged 200 percent last month alone. A U.S. military intelligence officer said that since the peace deal went into effect Sept. 5, the number of attacks in the border area has grown by 300 percent. As the U.S. expands its military operations, it leaves behind more failed states that disintegrate into the type of chaotic disorderly morass that gives rise to extremism. The Baltimore Sun reported recently that “thousands of troops that President Bush is expected to order to Iraq will join the fight largely without the protection of the latest armored vehicles that withstand bomb blasts far better than the Humvees in wide use.” According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, “Continued and repeated deployments to Iraq have strained the U.S. military to the point where training is being shorted, equipment is in disrepair and the force is increasingly unready to fight other conflicts.”
- The new Congress is leading with swift action. Under new leadership, Congress recently passed—with broad bipartisan support—homeland security measures patterned on the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations. In doing so, Congress has begun to address the glaring gaps in our nation’s homeland defense. “The far-reaching measure includes commitments for inspection of all cargo carried aboard passenger aircraft and on ships bound for the United States.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has also unveiled a plan “to heighten congressional oversight of intelligence, answering complaints by national security specialists and lawmakers in both parties that Congress has been lax in monitoring the highly secretive community.” In yet another promising step, “Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, seeking to avert a repeat of last year’s furor over counter-terrorism grants to U.S. cities, announced that New York, Washington, and four other ‘highest-risk’ metro areas will receive $411 million to subsidize their efforts to guard against terrorist attacks.” Key challenges lie ahead, as Congress has pledged to pass legislation to reform Bush’s illegal domestic spying program and his error-ridden military commissions program.
Daily Talking Points is a product of the American Progress Action Fund.