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Talking Points: Speaking Truth To Power

It's said that a Washington, D.C. "gaffe" occurs when someone tells the truth but isn't supposed to -- as Harry Reid did about Iraq last week.

It is said that a “gaffe” in Washington, D.C. occurs when someone tells the truth but isn’t supposed to. Such was the case last week, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) acknowledged what the American people have long known: the U.S. military, already stretched to its breaking point, cannot effectively police an anarchic civil war in a country of 26 million people. There is no military solution to the current conflict, only a political one, and our most vital tool to encourage political compromise is a timeline for the redeployment of U.S. forces. Conservatives’ reaction to these remarks again demonstrated their entrenched ideological commitment to Iraq: Reid was called “reckless” and accused of “surrender in the face of barbarism.” But as Reid will make clear in a major speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center today, our focus now should be on policy, not politics, and Americans now are faced with a clear choice. (For more, read the Center for American Progress’ new Iraq memo, “After the Veto: Four Scenarios.”)

  • By and large, Americans agree with Reid, not the president, on the Iraq war. As NPR’s Juan Williams told FoxNews contributor William Kristol, “Most Americans think we should have never gone in [to Iraq], so he’s speaking in a voice that represents the majority of the American people.” Some 66 percent of Americans do not believe the United States can succeed in its current mission in Iraq, a USA Today poll found last month. Asked, “Will the U.S. win or lose the war?” 35 percent said “win” and 51 percent said “lose” in a Washington Post/ABC News poll last week. Likewise, an April 16 Gallup survey found that 33 percent of Americans “believe that history will ultimately judge the U.S. mission in Iraq a success,” while 50 percent “believe the mission will be deemed a failure.”
  • The reality on the ground cries out for a change in Iraq policy. In advance of his intended veto of Congress’ Iraq timeline, President Bush is again making the case for his escalation policy. (On Friday, Bush used the word “progress” 10 times in his speech on Iraq.) But U.S. casualties are increasing again and recent weeks have brought the deadliest attack since the war began and the deadliest attack yet inside the Green Zone, a suicide bombing in the Iraqi parliament. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said on Friday he doesn’t see “any evidence of movement toward a political settlement,” which was the explicit purpose of escalation. “If anything, they’re probably further away from it, that the chaos which has enveloped and the attack on the assembly, instead of uniting Iraqis, which you would think it would…it has not done that.” Meanwhile, President Bush has still failed to launch any new meaningful regional diplomatic efforts, and has yet to address “the corruption and mismanagement that continue to plague the reconstruction efforts, costing American taxpayers billions of dollars.” The reality on the ground bolsters Congress’ position that a change in Iraq is needed urgently.