Thursday, February 15, 2007

Republicans come out against "surge"

The debate over a resolution opposing Bush's "surge" in Iraq has exposed some interesting and deep Republican divisions over the war.

On the second day of a four-day showdown over the nonbinding resolution, Democrats looked on as Republican dissidents denounced what they called Bush's ill-conceived plan to put 21,500 more combat troops in the middle of a sectarian civil war.

Some of the 11 Republicans who publicly broke with Bush were long-time opponents of the war, such as Reps. Walter B. Jones (N.C.) and Ron Paul (Tex.). But others, such as Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.) and Jim Ramstad (Minn.), had never sought the limelight and were almost apologetic in their speeches....

Those 11 could be just the tip of the iceberg. One Republican lawmaker close to the leadership, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said GOP leaders have 50 to 60 Republicans on their watch list, with between 40 and 60 expected to break with the White House tomorrow.


The article goes on to say that while the resolution exposed deep divisions among Republicans, GOP leaders expect a debate over funding Iraq would rally their members while similarly exposing deep divisions among Democrats, some of whom want to shut down all funding for Iraq.

It also mentions Democratic plans to shut down the military prisons at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. Whether this is a good idea or not depends on what steps are actually taken. Given the notoriety of the two sites, Shutting them down is a smart PR move. But why are they notorious? Mostly because of how they have been used, not their mere existence.

So on the one hand, I'd be satisfied with simple reform: Treat it as a secure holding pen for dangerous people awaiting trial, rather than a legal black hole, and I'm fine with it.

On the other hand, shutting them down doesn't take away the need to put dangerous bad guys somewhere. So some of their functions will simply be transferred elsewhere. Thus unless the legal abuses that led to the notoriety are also remedied, closing them will simply move the same bad behavior elsewhere -- and possibly hide it from sight until, inevitably, it is discovered again in another spasm of bad press.

Should be an interesting month.

Update: The Senate has shelved its troubled version of the resolution and adopted the simpler House version, scheduling a vote for Saturday.

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