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Security politics

 

The marquee event today is the House vote over the $124 billion spending bill that contains a provision for US combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by fall 2008. As we mentioned yesterday, the bill appears headed for passage after liberal House Democrats dropped their objections to the measure that it doesn't go far enough. The Bush White House, however, has threatened to veto the bill. And it's doubtful that the Senate can muster the 60 votes to pass a similar measure there.

What's most striking about today's Iraq debate is that the people's house is about as divided and unsure of how to get out of Iraq as the public. It's not a lack of will on the issue but a lack of confidence on what the right course should be. The predicted slim victory for Pelosi -- not to mention Bush's veto threat -- only serves to remind folks that Congress isn't going to be able to do much about Iraq. Republicans will crow that this shows Democrats are all talk on the campaign trail but can't get it done on the governing front. True, but if no Democratic plan is enacted regarding Iraq and if the Republicans in Congress and the White House continue to reject any Democratic influence on policy, then the war remains theirs in political terms.

The Washington Post: "A Senate committee also passed a spending bill yesterday setting a goal of bringing troops home within a year. The developments mark congressional Democrats' first real progress in putting legislative pressure on President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces."

The New York Times front-pages that in his first few weeks on the job, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that the detention facility at Guantanamo should be closed. But: "Mr. Gates's arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said."

Could the news that as many as 15 British sailors were detained by an Iranian ship impact any of the debate over Iraq and the Middle East?