The Iraq Factor: upcoming midterm elections
On November 7, the United States goes to the polls for the 2006 midterm elections. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for election, along with 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate. The election presents a real opportunity for the Democrats: the Republican party currently holds the presidency, plus narrow majorities in both the House and Senate.
If the Democrats are successful in taking a majority in the House in this election, they will significantly change the dynamic in Washington, forcing the Bush administration to cater to their demands in order to get anything done. And, if they succeed in swinging the majority in the Senate as well, George Bush will serve out the remaining two years of his term as a lame duck president, his policies dependent on the opposing parties.
The stakes are high, and the Democrats know it. They also know from poll results that many voters are uneasy with many elements of the Administration's performance, much of which centers on Iraq and the War on Terror in general. Some examples:
The amazing disappearing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD): if you turn back to 2003, the whole purported reason for going to war in Iraq was because Iraq supposedly had an active program to develop biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and thus presented a clear and present danger to the United States and its allies. They didn't.
The failure to catch bin Laden: Five years after 9/11, the SOB who masterminded the thing is still out there on the loose. To make it worse, the US forces had bin Laden pinned down in Tora Bora. If they had the resources there to do their own dirty work and had not been depending so heavily on Afghan proxy fighters with shifty loyalties, they'd have caught or killed bin Laden then.
Administrative bungling in Iraq: It can easily be argued that Iraq could have been a success had it not been for certain short-sighted management decisions. Disbanding the Iraqi security forces was arguably the single biggest error.
Guantanamo Bay: The legal quagmire is just becoming apparent here. The Bush administration setup the Guantanamo facility as a way to detain enemy combatants without giving them rights under the US court system - a true legal limbo. The Supreme Court ruled against this, giving detainees the right to challenge their detention in US federal court, and ruled against the administration's plan to try detainees with military tribunals. The administration's current attempt to alter the evidence standards for these tribunals, allowing classified evidence the defendant is not allowed to see and allowing confessions obtained under duress, seem likely to be thrown out by the Supreme Court even if they are passed by the House and Senate. One can easily imagine how angry the American public would be if a major terrorist was acquitted because the evidence obtained was done so under duress.
The Iraq war's effect on terrorism: Recent intelligence reports have suggested that the Iraq war has served as a rallying point for terrorist-supporting ideologies, and has proved a good recruiting incentive for terrorist groups. These reports suggest that the US is at greater risk of terrorist attacks now as a result of the Iraq war.
The failure of the Iraq war to meet its objectives: Three years ago, Americans had high hopes for Iraq developing into a model of democracy for the Middle East. Today, those hopes seem very far from being fulfilled.
The losses incurred in the Iraq war: More Americans have been killed in the Iraq war than died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And, if you look at the number of Iraqis killed, you have over ten times that number.
I have not seen any Democratic attack ads drumming up any of these themes yet, but that does not mean they are not under development. If the Democrats choose to use ads like this, they will not likely want to roll them out until the voting gets closer, saving the worst of them for the few days before election.
This will be an interesting election indeed....