Iraq troop withdrawal begins; first returnee chosen by lottery

Marine Lance Corporal  Smedley Butler will be withdrawn from Iraq by Christmas, President George W. Bush and the Defense Dept. announced today, beginning the careful and deliberate drawing down of US forces there.

Democratic Congressional leaders hailed the move and said they now would no longer press for larger or faster troop withdrawals.  

“This is progress, and progress is what we’ve been after,” said Sen. Carl Levin, (D-Mich.) “This is what the American people said they wanted when they voted last year, and now they’re going to get it.”


Levin said some more militant anti-war Democrats had hoped that two, or even as many as four, American service members would be withdrawn before the end of the year, but that appears to be an unrealistic goal, based on the judgment of commanders on the ground.


“We can live with this,” Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said.  “We all want the troops home, but not if it means giving up on victory in Iraq.  The briefings we’ve received indicate that the war can proceed as usual without Lance Corporal Butler.


Lance Corporal Butler, 24, of Dismal Seepage, Mich. – a constituent of Levin’s --  has been assigned as a supply clerk in the Marine Corps’ Force Logistic Command, in the secure Green Zone in Baghdad.  He was chosen in a lottery among the 160,000 US troops now stationed there.


“I’ve mostly been responsible for counting desert boots to make sure we have enough in all sizes,” Butler said.  “I’m not sure who’s going to do it when I go home, but I’m glad to be going.”


A Pentagon source said there was hope that an Iraqi Army member could be trained during the next three months to assume Butler’s duties.  If that effort fails, Butler’s time in Iraq could be extended, the source said. 


While welcoming the troop withdrawal, Democrats said they would continue to keep the pressure on Bush to continue to bring troops home.

 “It’s a major breakthrough, but it’s just the beginning,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.  

“Unless the Bush administration maintains its commitment and brings another service member home in January, and another one or maybe two in February, and so one, we are going to continue to be unhappy,” Reid said.  “We may not do anything about it, but we won’t be happy campers.”

With Republican leaders on the defensive and Democratic leaders unsure of the legislative path forward, moderates sense that their moment has arrived.            

Several groups of centrists have begun quiet discussions about banding together to force the leaders of both parties out of their trenches.             

"In both parties, there is a push that comes out of a pure desire for resolution," Rep. Marcy Kaptur D-Ohio) said. "The question is how you get there. It's going to require a bipartisan effort."

Just before the August recess, more than a dozen lawmakers met to forge a new, centrist push. A major meeting is planned in the next two weeks to bring disparate, ad hoc groups together into a cohesive caucus that would be large enough to force showdowns, even if it meant using parliamentary tactics to embarrass the party leaders into concessions.


(It’s getting a little harder to tell fact from fiction.  This is all fantasy, of course – except for the last four paragraphs, which are from the )



September 7, 2007 - 12:26pm