Among the things that Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, have in common is their consistently optimistic outlook about Iraq.
Cheney, who spoke at a fundraiser for Inhofe in Tulsa today, said in June 2005 on CNN: “The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”
Earlier this month, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the vice president said: “I do believe we can win in Iraq. I think it is a worthy cause. I think it’s absolutely essential that we prevail, and I think the United States of America, at the beginning of the 21st century, is perfectly capable of winning this fight against these people and setting up and establishing an Iraq, a democratic government that can defend itself. That’s basically our mission.”
Inhofe has made several trips to Iraq and has returned each time with an upbeat assessment.
In August 2003, just a few months after the invasion, Inhofe said, “I felt much better (about the progress) after being there. My overall assessment is things are going very well.”
After a trip to the Sunni Triangle in April 2005, he said, “We’re light years ahead of where I thought we were. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Then, in December 2005, he returned from a trip to Baghad and Fallujah and reported, “Each time, it’s been better, but the progress has never been as dramatic as this.”
Last April, in a speech on the Senate floor, Inhofe said, “You almost have go to there and see these people, and see what they are doing now that they say they couldn’t have done. It is very difficult for an American to walk through the streets _ whether it is Tikrit, Fallujah, Baghdad or anywhere else _ without people running up to you and saying my daughter can now get married, our girls can now go to school, now we have water we can drink, now we have a sewage system that we haven’t had since the end of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”
And Thursday, Inhofe said on the Senate floor, “We now see an improved Iraq. We see hospitals. We see manufacturers that are making clothing. We see girls that are going to school. This has never happened in the history of Iraq. We’ve seen all this progress …”
Needless to say, Democrats don’t share the optimism.
This week Democrats in both houses pushed through a war spending bill that would set timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops, with a goal of having most of them out by next April.
Sen. James Webb, D-Virginia, a former Navy secretary whose son is serving in the Marines in Iraq, said on the Senate floor on Thursday: “We won this war 4 years ago. The question is, When do we end the occupation?
“Iraq has been in turmoil for thousands of years. It will be in turmoil of one kind or another long after we leave. The U.S. military is not going to change the societal makeup of Iraq. The Maliki government is not going to bring peace among Iraq’s competing factions without the strong, diplomatic cooperation of other countries in the region.”
Optimistic or not, Democrats and Republicans must now find some middle ground and craft a war spending bill that will fund the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. But then the debate will begin on funding for the war in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.