With thanks to Nick Beaudrot, a chart shedding a bit more light on the casualty rate issue. “As measured by coalition deaths per day, we are now in the most violent twelve-month stretch of the four year occupation of Iraq,” he comments, “However, as measured by injuries per day, things are not quite as bad as the were for the period between April of 2004 and March of 2005, a period that includes the intial outrage at Abu Gharib, rising violence before the ’04 election, and the post-election flattening of Fallujah.”
But these 11 Republicans are not the only conservatives unhappy with the war. Rather, their “unvarnished conversation” with the President reflect misgivings shared by the rest of the party, which is now distancing itself from President Bush. This morning, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said that their criticism is “just the tip of the iceberg” of conservative dissent. Some more examples:
The heated meeting between the GOP moderates and Bush continued to reverberate through Capitol Hill yesterday, after several Republican conservatives told reporters that they shared the moderates’ fears that the war is wrecking the party. “There is no liberal-conservative divide on Iraq,” said one House GOP conservative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering the White House further. [Washington Post, 5/11/07]
But one conservative House Republican with close ties to the leadership said the concerns expressed by the congressmen in the meeting were widely shared across ideologies. “That wasn’t the Tuesday Group speaking,” he said, referring to an organization of moderate GOP legislators. “No, that’s the Republican sentiment.” [Washington Post, 5/13/07]
While it was Republican moderates who took their complaints directly to the president this week, others in the party expressed similar misgivings on Thursday. [New York Times, 5/11/07]
The meeting’s confrontational tone “was reflective of where the whole [Republican] conference is,” said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), a meeting participant. [Washington Post, 5/11/07]
“There is a significant undercurrent that is looking for a reasonable way forward in Iraq,” said Representative Jeff Fortenberry, a conservative Republican of Nebraska, adding that the war is a leading concern for his constituents. [New York Times, 5/11/07]
Several Republicans are considering bipartisan legislation aimed at changing the war’s course. Senators Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have introduced separate proposals aimed at bringing a gradual end to the war. “We are troubled by the current policy,” Ms. Snowe said Thursday. “The White House needs to hear it.” [New York Times, 5/11/07]
Last week, a group of 11 congressional Republicans met with President Bush to express their frustration with the state of the Iraq war, pleading with Bush to change his unpopular Iraq policy.
Today, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said, “The 11 House Republicans who went to see him speak for more than just 11 House Republicans. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.” Hagel said that president “may find himself standing alone sometime this fall,” noting that several conservatives are beginning to back “trap doors and exit signs” to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
Hagel’s comments undermine the spin of top conservative leaders like House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who last week said “House Republicans are united in support” of Bush’s stay-the-course Iraq policy.
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Appearing on NBC’s Chris Matthews Show this morning, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker revealed that sources within the military are warning of “a revolt from active-duty generals if September rolls around and the president is sticking with the surge into ’08.” Watch it:
Noting that retired generals such as Gen. John Batiste have already begun voicing their discontent with the president’s strategy in Iraq, Tucker added that the generals “don’t want to fall by the wayside like the generals in Vietnam did, kept pushing a war that they knew was lost.”
When President Bush vetoed the Iraq timeline legislation earlier this month, he claimed that “the measure would ‘impose impossible conditions on our commanders in combat’ by forcing them to ‘take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, DC.’”
But despite past claims that “the right force level” will be determined by “the sober judgement of our military leaders,” the Bush administration has a proven track record of disregarding the advice of military leaders. As recently as last December, when the White House was first pushing its escalation plan, the administration explicitly ignored “the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
It appears the commanders on the ground in Iraq are getting tired of “taking fighting directions” from a politician “6,000 miles away” in the White House. And they might not stay quiet for long.
Transcript: Read more
Robert Farley runs some numbers: “Between March 2003 and August 2006, there was never a period in Iraq in which Coalition casualties exceeded 2.5/day for each of three consecutive months.”
It seems that the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq will no longer be claiming to take guidance from Ali Khameini, Supreme Leader of Iran, and instead follow the lead of Ali Sistani of Iraq. Juan Cole has analysis and I’ll defer to him on the ins-and-outs of intra-Shiite politics.
More structurally, I think you’re seeing here simply that it’s hard to exert control trans-nationally. When Iraqi Shiites are politically weak, such Iraqi Shiite organizations that exist are heavily dependent on Iranian support and thus prone to doing things like recognizing the lead to accept spiritual guidance from Iran’s cleric-politicians. As they gain more of a power base in Iraq, it’s natural for these same Iraqi Shiite leaders to start discovering Iraqi nationalism. That Sistani does not, in practice, seem to be all that interested in directing day-to-day Iraqi politics has to make him an especially desirable “spiritual leader” for the SCIRI leadership.