We haven’t said much about the Democrats’ stunt in the Senate last night, because we didn’t think it merited a lot of comment. For the record, the Democrats’ cloture motion failed on a 52-47 vote; so the Dems were eight votes short.
There were no new Republican defectors. Hagel, Smith and Snowe voted with the Democrats and have said that they support a pullout deadline. Susan Collins voted for cloture but says she opposes the Levin-Reed amendment.
In my view, the most noteworthy event that took place in Washington yesterday was Vets For Freedom’s appearance at the Capitol to argue for victory in Iraq. Others apparently didn’t share that opinion, however. The Washington Post made no mention of VFF in today’s paper. One might have thought that the Minneapolis Star Tribune would be interested, since Lt. Pete Hegseth, the group’s executive director, is a Minnesotan. No article there, either. And the Associated Press didn’t do a story.
We got a transcript of the press conference in which Lt. Hegseth participated. Here are his remarks:
HEGSETH: Well, first of all, I want to express what an honor it is to be standing with such an esteemed group of senators as well as Iraq and Afghanistan veterans here.
On behalf of this entire group and thousands of veterans, and I want to thank the senators here today for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. It’s not just the folks standing here, but a lot of senators on the Hill.
The men you see standing behind me today, veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, represent just a tiny fraction of the combat veterans who have fought and bled for America’s freedom since 2001.
Some bear the scars of battle, a permanent reminder of their duty and sacrifice.
Many here today wear the medals of combat or wear medals of combat. In fact, we have multiple recipients of the Silver Star and Purple Heart in our midst.
And all understand the stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, having stared the enemy eye to eye and seen the destructive nature of the radical world view they seek to impose on Iraq and the Middle East.
Make no mistake, the group you see here, which was assembled in just four days and paid for on their own dime, is not alone. We’ve got a lot of our guys out there still meeting with senators as we speak. And you should know these guys represent thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are deeply troubled at the defeatist sentiment emanating from Capitol Hill.
We think we can win in Iraq. We know we can win in Iraq. We’ve seen it; we’ve been there; we understand the stakes. And setting a deadline for defeat is just not an option.
We’re on Capitol Hill today, and we’ll be back again in September, to tell our representatives and senators to give our nation’s warriors, led by General Petraeus and his new counterinsurgency strategy, the time and resources necessary to defeat America’s enemies.
His strategy is working. Security is improving. Al Qaida and company are on the run.
But make no mistake about it. We are in a fight in Iraq. We’re facing a radical enemy there who’s capitalized on three-plus years of failed policy and knows that while they cannot defeat American troops on the battlefield, they can seek to undermine America’s political will, through suicide bombers, roadside bombs and snipers.
And that’s why we’re here today — to tell Congress and the American people that we cannot allow politicians in Washington, motivated by election cycles, to make decisions about this war. Too much is at stake.
General Petraeus just received the troops he needed in Baghdad. The strategy he has is showing progress.
And while Iraqi political progress is certainly not where it should be, the security improvements American soldiers are purchasing in blood and sweat are a necessary precondition for political progress and a stable Iraq that denies haven to Al Qaida and company.
So we say to Congress, let General Petraeus and the troops do their job. They want to win.
This week I received news that Mayor Mahmoud (ph), the mayor of Samarra, who we worked with on a daily basis when I was there, was executed in Samarra. He left behind a baby boy named Abdul Kattar. His crime in that city, trying to rebuild the golden mosque that Al Qaida had destroyed when I was there in February 2006.
The perpetrators of both that bombing and that killing: Al Qaida. And the people and the senators who think we can just come home and declare a responsible end to the war still don’t get it. Our enemies, radical Islamists led by Al Qaida, will stop at nothing to kill Americans and those who help them. Our hasty exit from Iraq would embolden them, not to mention other radical groups looming in the region.
So what we do in Iraq and in the Senate chamber tonight and in the weeks to come will reverberate for generations. But you’re not going to have to stay up all night to figure out what leaving before the job is done does. It weakens American interests, it emboldens America’s enemies and it would leave behind one heck of a bloodbath for Abdul Kattar and millions of Iraqis.
So the vets standing here behind me, I’m proud to say, understand this firsthand. We lived it. We breathed it. Our buddies died for it. And we ask Congress to stand with us, just as these senators are standing with us today, and stand with the troops in Iraq.
Pete’s eloquent talk drew exactly one question from the assembled reporters. Only a handful of questions were asked in total, nearly all of them hostile. One reporter asked, “Senator McConnell, what do you think should happen after September, if progress has not been made?” McConnell declined to speculate, and John McCain interjected:
You know, I always enjoy hearing what we’re going to do if General Petraeus’s strategy doesn’t succeed. What are we going to do if the withdrawal results in chaos and genocide?
We don’t hear that question. I’d like to hear that asked a little more often.
We’re delighted to pass all of this on. It’s too bad you aren’t likely to read about it anywhere else.
The photo below shows Lt. Hegseth in the foreground, along with John McCain and Mel Martinez:
To comment on this post, go here.