Earlier this week, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) delivered a major speech on the Senate floor calling “victory” in Iraq, as defined by President Bush, “almost impossible.” Abandoning his unyielding public support for the war, he called on the President to downsize the U.S. military presence in Iraq in order to “strengthen our position in the Middle East, and reduce the prospect of terrorism, regional war, and other calamities.”
Unfortunately, Lugar has no intention of acting on his rhetoric. Speaking this morning with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Lugar said that Congressional measures aimed at curtailing U.S. military involvement in Iraq, including “so-called timetables, benchmarks,” have “no particular legal consequence,” are “very partisan,” and “will not work.”
While Lugar now decries legislative solutions to Iraq as “partisan” and of no “legal consequence,” Lugar himself voted in favor of cutting funds and setting a timetable for redeployment of U.S. forces out of Somalia in 1993.
Also, several prominent members of Lugar’s own party have already expressed support for a legislative solution in Iraq. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) said, “I think that many of us are going to look at legislation that will limit the number of troops” and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) called the administration’s September reporting date “too long to wait to revise U.S. war policy.”
LUGAR: … [S]ince the Baathists were knocked out along with Saddam, much of Iraq has been governed by small militia in various towns and villages — no law and order. There is no general law and order. That is, constituent services are not given by the Iraqi government. The oil is frequently siphoned off and stolen.
This is all occurring now. It has been occurring for a long while.
But whatever the plan is, it does not really pertain to a free, democratic, governable Iraq. So what I’m suggesting is we had better get into a position where our troops are safer, where, through diplomacy with the surrounding countries as well as the Iraqis, we are patiently, over the course of time, going to try to work our way to a better Iraq, but at the same time maintain a reasonably stable Middle East.
LAUER: But, Senator, Democrats are going to put forth some amendments over the next couple of months to try to force votes on anti-war amendments: namely setting timetables for troop withdrawals and even to possibly rescind the 2002 Congress authorization to go to war.
You said you won’t vote in favor of those things. Why not back up your words with a vote?
LUGAR: Well, those particular resolutions do not have great effect. The president of the United States, as commander in chief, still is in charge of our armed forces. And a huge majority of the Senate are not going to vote to take money away from our troops, so that they can at least defend themselves in the midst of all this. Therefore, the resolutions usually deal with so-called timetables, benchmarks which have no particular legal consequence. They may be a venting of emotion.
There may be resolutions or plans that the Congress could adopt that have some effect on this. But my plea is to the president — not to the members of Congress, to the president — to come forward with a plan now that gives us a chance of a bipartisan conclusion. All the rest of the conclusions are very partisan, and I think will not work.
LAUER: Senator Richard Lugar, at the Capitol this morning.