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Slamming the Back Door

One of the things that many can agree on about the war in Iraq is that it has put a severe strain on our armed forces. We have been warned for months, if not years, that the repeated deployments and extended tours were harming not only the readiness of our armed services but also retention levels as well.

To help address some of those concerns, earlier this summer the Congress voted on an amendment by Sen. Jim Webb that would mandate that soldiers serving in Iraq be given the same amount of time at home as they were deployed. The amendment ultimately failed but buoyed by last week's recommendation by Gen. Petraeus and acceptance by President Bush of a limited troop drawdown, the prospect of passage has gained some momentum.

Which has naturally put the Bushies on the defensive because were it to pass, it would seriously hinder their efforts to keep Iraq at the status quo until it can be passed off to a successor administration. Thus they sent out a proxy in the form of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to argue against giving our soldiers adequate rest time between deployments. Here he was making the Sunday show circuit on Fox News.
I think that it’s a well-intentioned idea. I think it’s really, pretty much, a back door effort to get the President to accelerate the drawdown, so that it’s an automatic kind of thing rather than based on the conditions in Iraq, with all the consequences that I talked about earlier. I think, if as I believe, the President would never approve such a bill. It would mean, if it were enacted, we would have force management problems that would be extremely difficult and in fact create, I think affect combat effectiveness, and perhaps pose greater risk to our troops.

I find Gates' argument particularly aggravating because as everyone is no doubt aware by now, the drawdown to which the President acceded to was necessary regardless of "conditions in Iraq". Those "force management problems" were what compelled the drawdown, claims of success notwithstanding. Yet the media continues to portray it as a "concession", garnering just the sort of headlines the Bushies were hoping for.

Gates is right in calling Webb's proposal a "back door effort" to end the war. Because despite all the happy talk and drawdown dangling, the Bushies have every intention of keeping the "front door" firmly shut until Bush can sneak out a side window. That Gates would argue in favor of vetoing the measure despite his own apparent desires only illustrates he too will do his part to help bar the exits.

More from Digby and Kagro X.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

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