"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


July 21, 2011

What have our representatives been saying about Iraq lately?

The last time United for Peace of Pierce County reviewed the positions of our representatives in Washington on the Iraq war was back in February 2007.  We found then that Norm Dicks (D-WA 6th) wanted "a phased withdrawal," Adam Smith (D-WA 9th) wanted to keep "a far, far smaller U.S. military presence" to "fight al-Qaeda in Iraq" (apparently indefinitely), and Dave Reichert (R-WA 8th) just wanted "to win."

Four and half years later, the same men are representing Pierce County in the House of Representatives. Residents of Pierce County, Washington, live in one of three congressional districts.  The 8th covers the eastern half of the county, from Orting east to Mt. Rainier.  The 9th cuts a swath through the county's midsection, and includes the county's southwestern portion, bordered by the Nisqually River and including Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  The 6th includes the city of Tacoma, the town of Gig Harbor, and the Key Peninsula.  The 6th has been represented for more than thirty-four years now by 70-year-old Norm Dicks (Democrat), the 9th for more than fourteen years by 46-year-old Adam Smith (Democrat), and the 8th for more than six years by 60-year-old Dave Reichert (Republican).

So, based on their websites, what have they been saying about Iraq lately?

Adam Smith is now the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.  On his website, he has posted a statement on "Iraq, Afghanistan, and Fighting Terrorism."  So you can see right away where he's coming from.

Smith's statement begins by saying that "Like all Americans, I want to see a successful outcome in Iraq."  This is a disappointedly inane way to begin, given that you couldn't get "all Americans" to agree on the ingredients of iced tea, much less what "success in Iraq" might mean, and also given that the Iraq war was a war of aggression that violated international law (not that that counts for much in today's world, at least in the U.S.) and the Nuremberg Principles, which the United States proclaimed in the aftermath of World War II.  Understanding those facts complicates just a tad what a person might think about what "success" might mean to "all Americans" in this context.  By the way, Oct. 10. 2002, Smith did vote for HJRes 114 authorizing the use of U.S. military force against Iraq.  But to his credit, in November 2005 he called for a congressional investigation of the Bush administration's duplicity, saying:  "It appears that the WHIG misled Congress and the American people about prewar intelligence.  Americans must know whether their activities were an organized effort of deceit."

Smith goes on, in the leading statement on Iraq now on his website, to say that the U.S. "should continue to show leadership in bringing stability to the country" but that "we can not afford to continue our open-ended commitment of military personnel in Iraq."

Next, Smith declares that "The conflict in Iraq is largely a sectarian power struggle in which al-Qaida is only a minor player," and that the country's "concentration on Iraq has lead to a policy that has lost sight on the broader terrorist threat entrenched in Afghanistan and other safe-havens for extremist ideology."  This amounts to pretty much the same position Smith took in February 2007, when he said:  "Al Qaeda is in Iraq and we should continue to target them, but that effort will require a far, far smaller U.S. military presence than we have there today."

Smith says that "we do not have enough people or resources on the ground to confront the threats in Afghanistan," and declares that "We cannot devote adequate assets in Afghanistan and other terrorist safe-havens until with begin to draw down in Iraq."  Is he still gung-ho for sending more troops and money to Afghanistan?  And just what would be "adequate," in Smith's view?  He doesn't say.  Hasn't Smith heard that the U.S. is drawing down its forces in Afghanistan?  After a trip there in December 2010, Smith did acknowledge the plans for a drawdown, but said he remained "very concerned" about the "significant national security threat in the region" and said that "we must make certain that there is a clear, more cost-efficient policy to both ensure the security and stability of Afghanistan and to responsibly draw down our military forces."  It sounds like he has his doubts.

Turning to Norm Dicks's website, Iraq does not appear on the "Issues" page, and if one can believe the results of a search of materials on his site, he hasn't said anything about Iraq since April 2008, when he expressed "continuing concern."  Like Smith, on Oct. 10, 2002, Dicks also voted for HJRes 114 and now regrets it.  Dicks admitted that the Iraq war was a "mistake" in an interview with the Seattle Times published on November 25, 2005.  Angered back in 2005 at efforts to smear his friend John Murtha (then D-PA 12th; Murtha died in 2010) and those questioning the Iraq war, Dicks reversed his stand.  "The American people obviously know that this war is a mistake," he told reporter Alicia Mundy, adding that "I can't remember anything quite as traumatic as this in my history here."  Given Dicks's time in office, that's saying something.  But what really riled Dicks about criticizing the war in Iraq was that it led to his being "lumped in with peaceniks," Mundy reported — that is, being associated with people like the members of United for Peace of Pierce County.

And it's true:  Dicks, long been a pillar of the U.S. national security state, has never wanted to meet with UFPPC, whereas we've lost count of the number of times Adam Smith has met with us.

All things considered, it's hard to understand why Dicks took so long (three and a half years) to realize that the Bush administration was cooking intelligence about Iraq, and so long to realize the unprincipled character of the George W. Bush administration.  This was clear to many "peaceniks" long before the war broke out.  Perhaps the shift in public opinion polls makes certain things easier to perceive.  Perhaps, too, paying more attention to peaceniks would help him avoid such "costly" mistakes in the future.  That's the term he now uses, "costly":  "It is clear that our nation’s involvement in Iraq during more than five years has been far too costly," he says, noting the number of U.S. killed and wounded and the impact on the national debt, "with trillions more in future costs that will be incurred no matter how quickly we are able to extricate ourselves."  Trillions of dollars and thousands of lives:  yes, you could say that's "costly" for us.  But what about for Iraqis?

Our impression is that just talking about Iraq makes Dicks depressed.  The "congressman from Boeing" would rather talk about the contract for the U.S. Air Force tanker (the KC-46A).  There are four statements about the tanker contract on his "Issues" page.  Dicks played a key role, as chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, in swinging for Boeing what is one of the Pentagon's largest contracts, "on the order of $100 billion," according to the New York Times (March 8, 2010).  Dicks had his work cut out for him, since only two years ago Boeing was thought to have lost the contract to a proposal from Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS).  At the time, a journalist chortled about Boeing's having (supposedly) failed to get the tanker contract:  "Boeing's arrogance and corruption lost them the contract, and to overturn the results of the open bidding to provide the USAF with a new tanker would be rewarding their misdeeds."  But so what:  it's not like it's the first time misdeeds have been rewarded, is it?

As for Dave Reichert, he's still a big supporter of the war.  Back in 2007, the Republican fantastically mischaracterized the Iraq war as "a war for our freedoms on a scale that we have never experienced before," and invoked the determination needed to prevail in World War II, the Civil War, and even the American Revolution.  Reichert said the alternatives were "winning" or "losing."  Guess which one he prefers.  Why?  Because "the consequences of losing are devastating."  Because "we face an enemy that wants to destroy our way of life."

For Reichert, losing is still unacceptable now.  He's still for the war in Iraq.  According to the most recent statement on his website (Aug. 31, 2010), the U.S. has brought "a measure of peace and stability to Iraq."  A "measure"?  Like a teaspoon or a pint?  "We" have "made progress", thanks to "the stellar capabilities or the sacrifice of our courageous military men and women" and "their leaders."  The present "phase of the war" is coming "to a close, but "the situation in Iraq is still fragile" and we must "we must give our troops every possible resource and advantage to complete the mission set before them."  Reichert is currently supporting President Obama's approach, provided that he "will listen to the Generals he has trusted to implement his policy decisions, and that he ensures they have the support they need to be successful."  In other words, if the commander in chief will take his orders from his generals.

Summing up, we can't say we find much evidence of further thought about the Iraq war on the part of our congressional reps.  Their positions are pretty much unchanged from February 2007.  In general, Dave Reichert appears to have learned nothing from the Iraq war.  But have Adam Smith and Norm Dicks learned anything?  We'd like to think so.  Dicks, in particular, has become a vocal critic of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.  "When you are faced with these incredible cuts we’re making in the domestic programs and the social safety net of this country — you know, to do nation building in Afghanistan?  I’m having a hard time," Dicks said in early June of this year (Politico, June 2, 2011).  And according to the Kitsap Sun (June 11, 2011), Dicks "wants to see troop reductions before the 2014 timeline in place now, saying Afghanis don't appreciate our presence and that we could spend that money on something more useful."  We hope Adam Smith is listening.


"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."