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Mike Gravel’s United States Armed Forces Withdrawal from Iraq Act

Spencer McNeil of the Mike Gravel for President campaign has just asked me to write about the legislative initiative Gravel has written regarding the war in Iraq. It’s entitled the United States Armed Forces Withdrawal from Iraq Act, and its brief text reads as follows:

Effective 60 days after this bill becomes law:

1. The Joint Resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq (H.J. Res. 114), approved by the House of Representatives on October 10, 2002 and by the Senate on October 11, 2002, is hereby repealed.

2. All members of the United States Armed Forces must be withdrawn from Iraq, except the Marine Corps guards serving on the sovereign territory of the United States at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and performing solely typical embassy guard duties. No member of the United States armed forces may remain within the borders of Iraq on and after the 61st day after this bill becomes law.

3. No funds authorized or appropriated at any time by any other Act of Congress or controlled by the United States or any of its officers, employees, or agents (whether or not the use of such controlled funds has been authorized or appropriated by an Act of Congress) may be used to conduct or support military or para-military operations (whether conducted by members of the United States Armed Forces or by military personnel or civilians of any nation) within or over the territory of Iraq (which territory of Iraq includes the waters within 3 miles of the Iraqi coast) except for travel by the Marine Corps embassy guards allowed by Section 2.

4. On the 62nd day after this bill becomes law and on the first business day of each month thereafter (for a period of one year following the 62nd day after this bill becomes law), each of the following officials shall deliver to the Congress a separate written certificate signed by the official under penalty of perjury certifying that since the 61st day after this bill becomes law the United States has complied with the sections of this law indicated immediately after each official’s position:

a. the President – sections 2 and 3

b. the Vice President – sections 2 and 3

c. the Secretary of Defense – sections 2 and 3

d. the Secretary of the Treasury – section 3

5. It shall be unlawful for any person willfully and knowingly to violate, or to conspire to violate, any provision of this law or to deliver a written certificate to the Congress as required by Section 4 which certificate is false. The provisions of this Section 5 shall not apply to any person who, at the time of the violation, was a uniformed member of any branch of the United States Armed Forces below general officer or flag rank (below the rank of Brigadier General or below the rank of Rear Admiral). Any violation of any provision of this law, and conspiracies to commit such a violation, occurring outside the United States, shall be prosecuted only in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over any such prosecution. Each act constituting a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of $1,000,000 and by imprisonment for five years (without the possibility of parole, probation, or reduction in fine or sentence for any reason other than a written certificate from the prosecuting attorney representing the United States to the effect that the convicted person has provided information necessary to a conviction actually obtained of some person of higher rank for a violation of any provision of this law). Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in the event any fine is not paid as ordered by the court, the Secretary of the Treasury shall deduct the unpaid amount of the fine from any funds otherwise payable for any reason by the United States to any person convicted of a violation of any provision of this law. Such deductions shall continue until the fine has been paid in full. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any prosecution of a violation of any provision of this law must commence within fifteen (15) years after the violation occurred.

Gravel has written an accompanying statement regarding the Act which you may find helpful to read. It contains some dubious claims, such as:

“And now that the American public knows that the unprovoked invasion of Iraq war was based on deliberate lies, the majority of Americans want our troops to leave Iraq.”

This is true in the sense that 63% of Americans surveyed in the latest CBS/New York Times poll of May 18-23, 2007 agreed that “the United States should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq sometime in 2008.” But I haven’t seen any polling to suggest that the majority of Americans want our troops to leave Iraq in the manner Gravel suggests. Indeed, a supermajority in that same latest nationally representative poll — 69% — endorsed the option that “Congress should allow funding, but only on the condition that the U.S. sets benchmarks for progress and the Iraqi government are meeting those goals.” Only 15% agreed with the idea that “Congress should block all funding for the war in Iraq no matter what.” — an action that would in effect achieve the same end Gravel’s Act accomplishes. A CNN poll from early May 2007 shows 60% opposition to a straightforward withdrawal date of March 2008. The same poll indicated that support and opposition for a bill revoking the war authorization of 2002 and asking Bush to re-apply for authorization (a weaker idea than Gravel’s 60-days-and-out plan) were at levels statistically indistinguishable from one another. That’s not an American consensus for a straight-ahead “get ‘em out!” policy. It’s not treasonous to the anti-war cause to state these polling numbers, it’s just what appears to be the case.

In short, I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that Gravel’s “just get out” policy contained in his USAF Withdrawal Act can be justified by appeals to its strong popularity with the American people. This is important, because a major plank of Mike Gravel’s platform is the idea of legislation by national initiative. Gravel has argued that laws should reflect ideas with strong popularity among Americans — indeed, his National Intiative idea suggests that legislation should be put up in a national election if it is popular in an opinion poll. If Gravel’s proposed legislation doesn’t match the national will, why should it be enacted, by the logic of his national initiative idea? Popularity is also key to the strategy Gravel spells out for getting his bill enacted into law — to bring his bill up for a vote again and again and again and again before the Senate, tying up the legislative body, until the American people rise up in support of it and push Congress to finally pass it. I like the romantically outraged sound of it all; the plan makes me think of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But the American people don’t appear to sympathize enough with Gravel’s agenda to go along. This makes Gravel’s Act and accompanying plan for passing it strategically questionable.

Let’s set aside the popularity question — which given Gravel’s policy platform is essential if he wishes to be consistent — and consider the substance of the legislation apart from its association with the candidate Mike Gravel and his constellation of other policy ideas. The assertion of the legislation is that getting the American military quickly out of Iraq within 60 days, with no ifs, ands, buts, or responses to changing circumstances in Iraq, is the best way to end the war in Iraq. I think it’s a recipe for disaster. I’m no military strategist, but to give any military 60 days to have a national occupation completed so that only an embassy guard remains seems to me a very tall order. Such a withdrawal would involve tearing U.S. military presence abruptly from neighborhoods and cities, with little time to put anything else in its place. Do you remember what happened in the circumstances of last power vacuum in Iraq, when Saddam’s military was abruptly routed? Looting and mayhem. I think this time, without careful and time-intensive preparation, things would be much worse. Why rush out? Why not ease out?

Gravel’s strategy for withdrawal does not provide a justification for this abruptness. Instead, it provides an assurance that once the U.S. leaves everything can be fixed:

Passage of the United States Armed Forces Withdrawal From Iraq Act will allow our nation to remove our soldiers from harm’s way and then permit the United States to pursue a diplomatic solution with nations in the region and with the United Nations to end the bloody civil war the Bush unprovoked invasion brought to Iraq.

Well, if that’s the goal — “to end the bloody civil war the Bush unprovoked invasion brought to Iraq” with a diplomatic solution pursued by the US, UN and regional nations — why not do that now? Why not make that the policy, and why not make U.S. withdrawal an incentive for all nations in the region currently irritated by American presence? After the U.S. withdraws, it will have no standing or advantage to exert leverage in pursuit of the end of a civil war. It seems to me that Mike Gravel’s got his order backwards. The path to pursue, starting today, is the multilateral diplomatic path that George W. Bush has allowed to wither. Why not use diplomacy to achieve a political solution, and withdraw American troops incrementally as that solution is implemented?

I know, I know, that’s assuming that the Bush administration is interested in diplomacy. But we’re already speaking in afactual terms, since the assumption of Congressional majorities for Gravel’s precipitous withdrawal isn’t supported by the actions we’ve seen on the Hill this week. So if we’re going to play the fun counterfactual game, why don’t why just imagine a plan in which the concerned parties sit down, talk, and negotiate a solution among themselves? I know, we don’t get to impeach anybody right away. But fewer people die, and junk like that.

So Mr. McNeil has what he asked for — my consideration of his candidate’s plan. I think it’s divorced from practical reality. But that’s just my person’s opinion. If you’ve read Gravel’s plan and accompanying strategy to implement his plan, I’d love to hear what you think about it. And hey, who knows, maybe someone from the Gravel campaign might be listening.

13 comments to Mike Gravel’s United States Armed Forces Withdrawal from Iraq Act

  • Spencer

    Unfortunately you are challenging your readers to understand the plan when a simple explanation would have been as follows:
    United States Armed Forces Withdrawal from Iraq Act.
    Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel has a plan that will end the war in Iraq by September 2007 with all US troops home by Christmas. This plan recognizes that under the United States Constitution the power of the Congress is superior to the power of the Presidency.

    Mike’s plan is to pass a law in the Congress making the war in Iraq illegal. Failure to comply with the law would be punishable by 5 years in jail without possibility of parole. Understand that the President of the United States is required to follow the law just as is any other American citizen.

    Of course, once the law is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is likely that President Bush will veto it. Mike Gravel’s plan would call for the Senate and House Democratic leadership, Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to bring the bill to a vote day after day, 7 days a week, 30 minutes per day, forcing the media spotlight to shine on those Senators and Congressman who are prolonging the war until pressure from their constituents produces a two-thirds majority sufficient to override the Presidential veto. (If the law is filibustered in the Senate initially, the same procedure would apply.)

    What is important to understand is that Mike served two terms in the US Senate fighting for “unpopular” causes and winning against the odds. Mike is a legislative strategist and you will see that his plan for ending the war will work, if adopted. Most other options for ending the war fall into the “do the right thing” category or involve timelines that extend far off into the future. Rather than wait, let’s force our elected representatives to listen to the will of the American people by introducing Mike Gravel’s draft legislation, the United States Armed Forces Withdrawal from Iraq Act, and end this destructive and unnecessary war now.

  • Jim

    What? Spencer, you’ve got to have your tongue in your cheek, right?

    Spencer McNeil, the New Hampshire State Director of Mike Gravel for President, has got to understand that Gravel’s National Initiative plan for direct votes on legislation only makes sense if the American people are capable of reading and understanding legislation.

    But you just told me that I “unfortunately” expected people reading this blog to be able to read and understand the rather simple legislation that Mike Gravel is proposing. Then you offered a “simple explanation” for Irregular Times readers instead. This “simple explanation” is a cut-and-pasted set of talking points that is being reposted verbatim around the world wide web.

    So surely you’re joking, right? Tell me it’s a joke.

    Of course I trust people who read Irregular Times to be capable of reading legislation directly. The alternative would be to assume that the public is full of complete idiots who should only be spoon-fed processed talking points. But, sorry, you know that already, because that was the premise of your very clever joke.

  • The Animist

    Even I can understand it.

  • Anonymous

    WHAT???? It is UNFORTUNATE for readers to understand legislation?!!!!

    If media consultants like McNeil have their way, the American voters will be treated like mushrooms: keep them in the dark and feed them manure.

    And does Mike Gravel really believe that “under the United States Constitution the power of the Congress is superior to the power of the Presidency”? Hasn’t Gravel ever heard of the system of checks and balances?

    If you have not yet read the Baker Hamilton Iraq study group report, you can download it here:
    http://www.usip.org/isg/iraq_study_group_report/report/1206/index.html

    The report considers several options, including 1)precipitate withdrawal 2) staying the course 3)more troops for Iraq 4)devolution to three regions, then goes on to discuss the idea of setting objectives for the iraqi government. I’m still only about halfway through the report–it’s about 80 pages, but very readable.

    It looks like Gravel has chosen option #1, for reasons he does not disclose.

    Instead of a president that bases public policy on popularity, we need someone who can think and provide leadership.

  • Jim

    Oh, lookee! Spencer McNeil is so proud of his pasteurized processed talking points that he just started up a pro-Gravel blog this afternoon, with his cut-and-paste job as the only post, complete with “what is important to understand.”

    Apparently, “what is important to understand” for us little people isn’t the actual proposed legislation. McNeil doesn’t even link to the proposed Act. Nope, all we need is Mr. McNeil’s explanation. Righty-right!

  • mullah cimoc

    mullah cimoc say ameriki needing for remember vietnam war ending.

    when last helicopter fly away usa embassey how long before gun of war go the silent?

    Answer: 3 day and then peace more than 30 years among vietnam people. back then time usa govt and control media say the same lying excuse for continue the kill.

    special important: not the single viet cong coming for attack amerika during all this thirty year.

    now patriotc ameriki man him needing for destroy israeli spy operations in usa start with eliminate neocon spy ops in usa.

    then ameriki becoming the free again.

  • Jim

    Right. Peace in Vietnam. Right. How many were killed in the aftermath, again?

  • IH

    I remember the announcement of end of Vietnam in 1972.

    In the 1980′s my in-laws had two Vietnamese boat people refugee boys stay with them. They found jobs in factories and sent all their money back to their families. It was a very bad time for their families in Vietnam. Their families were hungry and afraid.

    In the 1990′s I did practice teaching for ESL in Minneapolis, Minnesota. All of the Hmong people from Vietnam live there. They are a very sad people because the government tortures their families in Vietnam and their families disappear.

    Free Vietnam.
    Peaceful Vietnam.
    Happy, happy, Vietnam.

  • Stryder

    I’m all for get them out NOW, always have been, always will be, but I wouldn’t mind the diplomatic route, IF they’d do it. Hard to do when the President doesn’t want to use the diplomatic route. I don’t see Gravels plan succeding, just because Congress backed down on the timetable/funding vote, what makes anyone think they would stand up for THIS? It’s a talking point, NOT an honest attempt, in my opinion.

  • The Animist

    It seems like we’re forever blocked out of congress. How can we penetrate this shell that is blocking us?

  • Tom

    Hey Animist, wanna start the American Electorate Lobby? That might get Congress to pay a little more attention.

  • The Animist

    I can’t because of age and time restrictions, but when I’m a little older I’ll give it more thought.

  • Iroquois Honky

    And if you could get the attention of Congress, what exactly would you lobby them for?

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