The withdrawal disconnect

Republicans say they'd bring the troops home if the Iraqi parliament asked them to.

Published May 17, 2007 6:10PM (EDT)

As the Politico's Ryan Grim reported Wednesday, some of the president's "key Republican supporters" are now saying that the United States should high-tail it out of Iraq if the Iraqi parliament asks us to leave.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said over the weekend: "I want to assure you, if they vote to ask us to leave, we'll be glad to comply with their request." And Rep. Adam Putnam, the No. 3 Republican in the House, says he suspects that the United States would "respect" Iraqis' wishes if they say it's time to go.

At the risk of engaging in gift-horse orthodontia, we can't help wondering if there isn't some kind of disconnect here. In the very same CNN interview in which he says that we'd leave Iraq if the Iraqis ask us to do so, McConnell warned of the consequences of withdrawing. "Do we want to allow Iraq to be a failed state? Do we want to embolden al-Qaida and really almost invite them to come back here again?" Similarly, in a floor speech earlier this year, Putnam said that withdrawing from Iraq would "put us one day closer to handing militant Islamists a safe haven the size of California."

Now, we understand that whole "Iraq is a sovereign nation" thing. We know that there'd be some welcome political cover if the Iraqi parliament were to ask the U.S. to leave. And, of course, when McConnell and Putnam were laying out the parade of horribles that would befall us if we were to withdraw, they were speaking about the consequences of a withdrawal prompted by Democratic legislation in the United States rather than a withdrawal brought about by democratic legislation in Iraq. But wouldn't the consequences of withdrawal be the same either way? If al-Qaida is going to "follow us home," as the president's supporters are wont to say, won't al-Qaida be following us home no matter why we leave Iraq? If the president's "key Republican supporters" have an answer to that question, we haven't heard it yet.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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