With the newly emboldened and newly Democratic Congress finally putting the Iraq War at the forefront of its agenda where it belongs - finally reflecting the American public's concerns - Ben Nelson has been an inspiration and, I dare say, a vision of moral clarity.
Personally, I do not believe there is a Senator more in touch and attuned to the American people on the issue of Iraq than Nebraska's own Ben Nelson.
Now, that is not wholly praise because we all bear some burden for this situation ever getting to the sad point at which it now stands. But, it remains to Nelson's and Nebraska's credit that he now offers such a voice of passionate pragmatism that will no longer stand silent as the U.S. Armed Forces and the Iraqi people suffer for President Bush's "stay the course" status quo.
Nelson - like the voters he represents, like the American public - has given Bush the benefit of the doubt and has strived, for four years, to see our mission in Iraq clearly articulated with honest and achievable goals. Finally - in unison, in Nelson's voice - Bush's bluff has been called after a painful period of realization forced by Bush's plan to escalate military operations without any real change in our disastrous course.
We, the people, are torn by the Iraq War. Most of us do not have the luxury to claim, in any absolute terms, that we know how to make the best of this horrible situation. What we do know and what unites us is the simple understanding that President Bush and the Republican Congressional leadership are, each day, failing this country and our troops by steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that their strategy and their assumptions have been so flawed that we must totally rethink this war or suffer casualties and long-term consequences almost unimaginable in scale.
The line has been drawn. There is no single, dominating idea for where we go from here, but the people will not and should not tolerate more of the same. Yet, "more of the same" is precisely what Bush proposes, and that defiance of reason and democracy has wakened the unexpected wrath of Nelson, a mild-mannered Midwestern Senator who has often been a Bush ally but who can not stand for this persistent imperiling of American lives in the name of a cause that long ago lost any shred of credibility or pretense of principle, giving way to more empty and cynical war-mongering rhetoric than was seen even during the Vietnam War.
In the last month, Sen. Nelson has emerged as a titan in the shadows demanding an honest debate of our policy in Iraq. More than that, he has demanded that the American people at last be heard in opposition to Bush's escalation. There have been legitimate questions about how best that opposition should be expressed - not all have agreed with the resolutions that Nelson has played such an indispensable role in crafting - but Nelson has earned the respect and the thanks of the nation for the integrity he has displayed in making every attempt to forge a powerful and substantive statement of opposition that could achieve the true bipartisan support it holds in the American public but not in the halls of Congress.
Best of all and truest to Nelson's character, he has made himself clear on this issue not by putting himself front-and-center in the media spotlight but by doing the work and by getting things done. No other U.S. Senator has been as close to this debate and as essential to forcing each Senator to take a stand on Iraq as Sen. Nelson. And, certainly, no other Senator has played so great a role with so little fanfare and self-aggrandizing. That's just who Ben Nelson is.
The New Nebraska Network takes this opportunity to salute Sen. Nelson - thanking him for all he has done and will do to give the American people the debate and our Armed Forces the honesty that is the very least they all deserve.
In closing, I will let Sen. Nelson speak for himself - quoting, first, his statement from the Senate floor preceeding yesterday's vote on the House Resolution and, second, his expression of outrage and dismay at the Republican leaderships' continued tactics suppressing the dissent of the American people whose voice they so clearly fear.
Above, Nelson may speak for himself, but he expresses the frustration and outrage of a democracy that will no longer be denied this overdue debate. Nelson may be Nebraska's junior Senator, but - on the issue of the Iraq War - he has proven himself an unheralded leader to the entire nation.Before Vote[T]oday I think it's pretty clear there's been much debate about the debate. My friend from Kentucky indicated that he is frustrated. I think we are all frustrated.
We're frustrated because it's time to end this charade and move forward to the consideration of the Resolution so that the Senate can be on record with senators voting for or against the surge plan. The American people can see what's happening here. They know that some want to prevent a vote at all costs....
Let us debate and vote on this Resolution. We owe it to the American people. We owe it to the American people because of the importance of this Resolution to making clear that we do not support...putting our troops in harm's way in the middle of a civil war or a war that is simply between Shias and Sunnis, Shias and Shias, and other civil groups within the community.
We don't have to understand 1400 years of this battle to know that this is an inappropriate to put our troops into the middle where it's impossible to identify the enemy. We put our troops into a situation where they are going door-to-door, hopefully with some support from the Iraqi troops, hopefully with some support from Prime Minister Al-Maliki, hopefully with some support from the Iraqi government. But, in any event, the surge, which the president has said is going forward, will put our troops in that situation.
I, for one, do not believe that that is an appropriate use of our troops, and I believe today that this is the opportunity for the Senate to be able to say "no" by saying "yes" to moving forward on this ResolutionAfter VoteThis is a dark moment in the history of the United States Senate. By failing to consider this measure, the institution has failed the American people. Blocking an up-or-down vote on this Resolution prevents the Senate from expressing its opinion on the most pressing issue facing the nation: the proposed deployment of troops to the crossroads of civil war in Iraq.
The Majority has offered the Minority several proposals to allow votes on different resolutions. All offers have been rejected. And now, again, the Minority has obstructed an up-or-down vote on the Resolution passed by the House of Representatives yesterday.