Wednesday, July 11, 2007

48 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 7 Republicans Vote to Change Iraq War Policy

It would have been a minor change. But Sen. Jim Webb's amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill called for giving US troops one year of "dwell" time for every year in the war zone.

Currently, stop-loss requirements can force troops to stay as long as 15 months and reduces the period of rest between war zone duty.

There is no doubt that this Bush administration policy, fueled by the failure to recruit new people to fight a war in Iraq, is seriously harming troops in much larger numbers than Pentagon casualty reports indicate.

Between 2001 and the first half of 2007, about 180,000 veterans have filed disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs. 180,000.

Publicized Pentagon casualty reports suggest that only 32,000 people have been killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though less public statistics put the total number of people medically evacuated at about 65,000.

So Webb's amendment is about giving troops some time to heal.

Those who still carry water for the Bush administration (such as this blogger) have called Webb's troop readiness amendment "dangerous."

They are afraid that a humane and medically sound treatment of US troops will force the military to draw down forces in Iraq.

Regardless of the Republicans' cynical, and one should say typical, repulsion for the people who actually do the dying in the wars they have started, the Webb amendment was seen as the first of four legislative efforts to come up in the next several days that will require the Bush administration to change its war policy.

That 7 Republicans voted for it suggests they are feeling enormous pressure from their constituents to stop the unquestioning support for the war in Iraq they have so far displayed.

They have started to actually understand what the fact that more than 7 in 10 Americans who support withdrawing from Iraq in the next 9 months means for their future job prospects.

This amendment was a tiny step. But 56 votes is very close to the 60 needed to end Republican filibusters. It is closer to the 67 needed to override Bush vetoes.

The 7 Republicans did not include Sens. Richard Lugar (IN) and George Voinovich (OH), who led a small tidal wave of Republicans breaking with Bush over the war (including Sens. Olympia Snowe and John Warner) over the last two weeks or so.

The 7 also did not include Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) who has broken with Bush and his party on a number of issues, and has even sharply criticized the administration's abuse of civil liberties and for scandals over the firing of US attorneys. Specter may still be smarting from the Pennsylvania Bushies' effort to dump him in the 2004 Republican primary.

But only 3 Republicans of these questionable 10 have publicly announced they will vote for an amendment that would order a troop withdrawal beginning within 120 days of passage offered by Sens. Carl Levin and Jack Reed (RI).

So perhaps all of this "breaking with Bush" is little more than a stunt to give voters the impression that their Senators aren't the Bush clones their voting records will bear out.

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