U.S. Rep. Brian Baird said Thursday that his recent trip to Iraq convinced him the military needs more time in the region, and that a hasty pullout would cause chaos that helps Iran and harms U.S. security.
“I believe that the decision to invade Iraq and the post-invasion management of that country were among the largest foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. I voted against them, and I still think they were the right votes,” Baird said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
“But we’re on the ground now. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and a strategic interest in making this work.”
Baird, a five-term Democrat, voted against President Bush ordering the Iraq invasion — at a time when he was in a minority in Congress and at risk of alienating voters. He returned late Tuesday from a trip that included stops in Israel, Jordan and Iraq, where he met troops, U.S. advisers and Iraqis, whose stories have convinced him that U.S. troops must stay longer.
With Congress poised next month to look at U.S. progress in Iraq and a vote looming on U.S. funding for the war, Baird said he’s inclined to seek a continued U.S. presence in Iraq beyond what many impatient Americans want. He also expects Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees U.S. troops in Iraq, to seek a redeployment of forces. “People may be upset. I wish I didn’t have to say this,” Baird said. He added that the United States needs to continue with its military troops surge “at least into early next year, then engage in a gradual redeployment. â€¦ I know it’s going to cost hundreds of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.”
What made Baird come to this conclusion?
Baird said he would not say this if he didn’t believe two things:
â€¢ “One, I think we’re making real progress.”
â€¢ “Secondly, I think the consequences of pulling back precipitously would be potentially catastrophic for the Iraqi people themselves, to whom we have a tremendous responsibility â€¦ and in the long run chaotic for the region as a whole and for our own security.”
Gasp! I wonder when we’ll start seeing denialists like the left’s favorite selective fact quoter Glenn Greenwald, among others, digging deeply in order to try and find out that this guy, too, supposedly “never really was a war critic” in an attempt to discredit his opinion?
Jim Geraghty wonders:
What happens if a signficant number of congressional Democrats say, “we’re willing to stay some time longer, to ensure the job is finished properly,” while their presidential candidates are chanting, “Get out now, get out now”?
Now that would be an interesting development, wouldn’t it?
Whether or not Baird’s remarks will start a trend in diehard Democrat wing in the House and Senate remains to be seen, but Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Bob Casey (D-PA) have both recently conceded that progress is being made in Iraq as a result of the surge. They’re not changing their minds on how they feel about the war in Iraq, of course, but it’s a far cry from comments they’ve made about it in the past.
Jeff Goldstein makes a good point here:
But what strikes me about Baird’s statements is how obviously conflicted he is about making the admissions that he’s making, and how careful he is to lay out his anti-war bona fides as a way to bolster his credibility — not because he hopes it makes a better case for supporting the surge, necessarily (it does, but that seems almost secondary here), but rather because he hopes it will buy him a bit of forgiveness from the New American Center, who is given to purging its apostates in the service of “unifying the narrative” and defending their own peculiar brand of “democracy.”
In other words, it seems to me that Baird is torn between his conscience, and the likelihood that his picture will show up on Jane Hamsher’s blog in blackface.
It must really suck to be an anti-war Bush-hater these days. Well, it’s probably always sucked, but especially now, considering the turn-arounds we’re seeing in opinion from Democrat members of Congress, other war critics (more here) and the American public (Jules Crittenden has more on that here).
Expect the far left push to discredit or downplay each and every war critic whose opinions have changed to go full throttle immediately. Even from the get go to that particular crowd, winning was never an option. Losing was and is the only acceptable option to hardcore Democrats who have hated Bush ever since he ‘stole’ the election, and who have undermined him every chance they’ve gotten ever since. As I’ve said before, America’s standing and reputation in the world comes second to political revenge to these people. Nothing else but “defeat in Iraq” – at any cost – will do.