"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

The Nervous Caucus: Republican Senators and the War

June 7th, 2007 by mopns · No Comments

By Matthew Continetti (excerpted)

The most prominent Senate hawk is John McCain, but his presidential campaign often takes him away from Washington. That leaves most of the pro-war lobbying to McCain’s fellow Arizonan Jon Kyl, who is number three in the minority leadership, and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham. Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn is also important. In February, Coburn was among the 10 Republican senators who voted against confirming Gen. George Casey, Petraeus’s predecessor, as Army chief of staff.

Among the ten anti-Casey Republicans was Missouri’s Kit Bond, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee whose son is serving in Iraq. Bond’s colleagues say he is a key player in fostering Republican support for the president’s policy. Bond is no blind follower of the president, however. He is critical of the administration’s decision to reject the original chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Jay Garner, in favor of Paul Bremer. He is critical of the scandal-plagued Iraqi police. And he shares in others’ frustrations with the Iraqi political class.

Yet he also says the new war strategy is showing results. In early May, Bond visited Iraq with Republican senators Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Olympia Snowe of Maine and California GOP congressman Darrell Issa. One day the group drove into downtown Ramadi in a Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. Not long ago in Ramadi, al Qaeda ruled. When Bond visited, the place was–relatively speaking–quiet. Bond, his colleagues, and Maj. Gen. W.E. Gaskin–the commander of Multi-National-Force-West–along with two U.S. Marines carrying M16s, took in the old city college and visited Marines. They stood at Firecracker Corner, so called because of all the firefights that have taken place there. They saw a mosque that American soldiers had rebuilt.

Bond was amazed. To him, the progress was palpable. Months ago, a visit to Ramadi was unthinkable. But the Sunni sheikhs who dominate Anbar politics had turned against al Qaeda in Iraq and joined forces with the Americans. Things were changing.

When the group returned to America, Bond did everything he could to get the word out to his fellow GOP senators. Read more…

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