Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Profound Failure: Congressional Inability to Debate the Iraq Escalation

Posted by K.E. White on February 6, 2007


U.S. Congress

Today a non-binding resolution critical of the Bush administration’s Iraq escalation died in the United States Senate.

Even the support of Sen. John Warner (R-VA) could not propel the bill to the needed sixty votes.

And, therefore, the opportunity for senators to pass symbolic judgment on President Bush’s Iraq policy has vanished.

Many anti-war voices may have used the immortal words of Peggy Lee to describe this weak, non-binding resolution, ‘Is that all there is?’

But they are wrong; and the American republic, based on co-equal branches of federal government, is today weaker.

Indeed, these voices are not without support. The resolution neither pulled the American plug out of Iraq, nor promised to rein in one of the most inept administrations witnessed in American history.

But any progressive that cheers or quick adjustments to this bill’s defeat should know this vote represents a profound political failure. Not only does it represent a still fledging and inept wartime Congress, one that will haunt Americans for years to come, we have anti-war Democrats to thank for this continuing crippling condition.

I’ll start with the latter half of this perhaps controversial claim.

While the media’s first read of this story highlights unified Republican opposition, the unraveling of support may have more to do with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI).

Last Wednesday Sen. Feingold introduced his Iraq Deployment Act of 2007 that called for cutting Iraq funds within six months of its passage.

Feingold’s favored this approach since it 1) would end war quickly and 2) would exercise the constitutional war powers Congress explicitly holds—slamming the national purse shut.

But after decades of erosion to Congress’s wartime role, this approach was little more than anti-war posturing: Geared more for the 2008 primaries than the sentiment of today’s American public.

While some may agree with Feingold’s position, it 1) opened the door for Republican opposition around the banner of supporting troops already deployed and 2) did not represent a useful tool for Congress to reassert itself in wartime oversight.

Imagining how the American people will react to Congress failing to even hold a debate about the Iraq escalation.

Here’s my guess: ‘Is that all there is?’

And opponents of the administration will again be seen as members of a party without a plan.

The Bush administration could not have asked for a better rhetorical launching point for their failing plan.

But had the newly elected majority pulled off the sixty vote tally tonight for Sen. Warner’s compromise position, it would have represented a historic development in congressional-executive relation.

It would show, at a critical moment in American history, the Congress offering a strategic counter-weight to the President.

Could this momentum lead to the guarantee of active debate over half-baked national security strategies (read: the Iraq “debate” of 2003), regardless of a president’s momentarily popularity?

That is now a question relegated to history books.

But, for a few, concerns over who would be President in 2008 trumped both the matter at hand and the long-term health of our republic.

Am I holding one party to a higher standard than the other?


The nation has gone through too long a period in the wilderness, and hungers progress too much to have excuses wipe legislators’ hands clean.

That is unless, following the words of Miss Lee, we should tolerate a nation that sacrifices even more to the marvelously tragic spectacle that Iraq now represents:

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to a circus. The greatest show on earth.
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears.
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads.
And so I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle.
I had the feeling that something was missing.
I don’t know what, but when it was over,
I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is to a circus?’


This post also appears on Campus Progress.

3 Responses to “Profound Failure: Congressional Inability to Debate the Iraq Escalation”

  1. […] Press has chatted on the constitutional construction of our nation’s war powers, and today notes the University of Virginia has launched a commission to investigate that very […]

  2. […] has poured discussed our the constitutional construction of our nation’s war powers, and notes today that the University of Virginia has launched a Commission to investigate that very […]

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