"This is the stay-the-course, stiffen-the-enemy, begin-our-collapse
resolution," Texas Republican Louie Gohmert said of the resolution
opposing President Bush's decision to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq.
"The resolution the Democrats advance today is a vote for the status
quo," echoed the Republican whip, Roy Blunt, of Missouri, as the
Congress began a three-day marathon of debate in advance of a vote on
A vote for the resolution, Blunt said, is "a vote for the current
strategy because it's a vote not to change strategy. The current
strategy isn't working."
Which is why the president, on the other hand, "continues to come up
with new ideas to win this global war on terror," argued Georgia
Republican Lynn Westmoreland.
Yet, he said, "some people on the other side believe that if we pull
out, people are going to go back to tending sheep and herding goats."
Though dozens of Republicans are expected to break ranks by the end of
the week, the loyalists went first.
Clearly, they did not want to be on record as having predicted that the
escalation would succeed.
"I can't guarantee it will work," said Minority Leader John Boehner, of
Ohio. "Now, there's no guarantee of success," said Duncan Hunter, of
But they did cast opposition to the buildup as nothing short of treasonous.
"This debate is really about whether this is a great nation," said
Peter Hoekstra, of Michigan.
Indiana's Dan Burton likened criticism of the president to criticism of
Churchill's opposition to Hitler before World War II. And Georgia's Jack
Kingston argued that today's debate sent a horrible message to, well,
"What does this say to servicemen who've already lost their lives?
Sorry, but we didn't mean it?"
Many of the Democrats who spoke in the early hours of the debate were
combat veterans themselves, and several said the non-binding resolution
was only a first step toward withdrawal from a fight that had in fact
already been lost.
Stephen Cohen, of Tennessee, described himself as a fight fan and
likened the U.S. to the boxer Floyd Patterson, who was a great fighter
and the heavyweight champion, "but couldn't beat Muhammed Ali. Now, a
good trainer would throw in the towel, call a TKO and realize we can't
fight Ali. It's not our fight. There are certain places we can't go."
Not every Democrat tore the roof off, rhetorically speaking; Michigan's
John Dingell said his party's message to the administration was, "Find a
new mechanism to prevail in this matter."
But Iraq vet Patrick Murphy, of Pennsylvania, did, and without ever
raising his voice, which cracked as he named friends who had served with
him in the 82nd Airborne, and "never made it home."
"The time for more troops was four years ago," he said quietly.
At the Vietnam Memorial, just down the hill from the Capitol and a short
walk through the snow that fell on Washington today, he said, "half the
soldiers listed on that wall died after our leaders knew it could not be