Carson City’s congressman won’t back down from war stance | NevadaAppeal.com
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Carson City’s congressman won’t back down from war stance

Barry Ginter

Dean Heller is holding the line.

Every day seems to bring more news of misfortune in Iraq, whether it’s suicide bombers or more U.S. casualties. On Wednesday, a new report said that Iraq is making little progress toward a democratic society.

But the congressman from Carson City is unwavering in his position that it is too early to evaluate our progress.

The correct date to do that, he said, will be Sept. 15.

That’s when Gen. David Petraeus is scheduled to give a complete accounting of the effectiveness of the troop surge.

The report that came out Wednesday was a precursor to the Sept. 15 analysis, and it prompted a House vote Thursday ordering a U.S. troop withdrawal by spring.

Heller didn’t even consider voting for the withdrawal.

His reasoning? He said the surge has really only been in effect for three weeks, even though it was announced by Bush several months ago. He said he’s met with government experts who agree with his view. “They’re saying this is way too early to tell,” he said. “This report is really preliminary.”

In fact, Heller has signed onto a bill that supports following the findings of the Baker-Hamilton report on the war. One of its recommendations was the troop surge. It also recommends greater efforts at diplomacy in the region, more emphasis on training the Iraqi military, assessing the impacts the war has had on the U.S. military and increasing oil production in Iraq.

“I gave my word to Petraeus and the troops that we’d let this surge work,” Heller said before the vote on Thursday.

He expected others in his party to support a withdrawal. In a meeting Thursday with other GOP House members, Heller said, they were speculating how many Republicans they’d lose in the vote. “Some said less than five, some said as many as 10.”

The measure passed 223-201, and just four Republicans voted in favor.

Polls show that the majority of Americans do not support the war. One group, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, dropped a letter off at Heller’s Reno office on Thursday and has invited Heller to a town hall meeting in August.

“We are trying to move Heller into supporting a responsible end to the war,” said Jacqueline Ramirez, a spokesperson for the group.

I for one will be very interested to listen to Heller on Sept. 15.

Today is already July 13. It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which the Iraq situation can be turned from bad to good in two months, considering where the previous five years have brought us.

The insurgents have proven they’re not stupid. What happens if they lay low for the next two months? They could easily lull Bush into the same false sense of victory that led him to stand like a war hero in front of a sign that said “Mission accomplished.”

Or what if the insurgents do a surge of their own? We know our troops would rout them if it were a matter of facing each other on a battlefield. But that’s not how the war in Iraq is being fought. There’s more to fear from Improvised Explosive Devices and suicide bombers than there is with a person hiding behind a bush with a rifle.

•••

On another matter, Heller said the Nevada congressional delegation is unified on the need for fuels reduction in the forests around Tahoe, where the Angora fire recently wiped out entire neighborhoods.

Whether they’ll be successful in freeing up money to accomplish that remains to be seen. Part of the problem is impressing on others the seriousness of the situation.

“We’re trying to explain to these people who live on the East Coast we have counties that burn more acres than Rhode Island,” he said.

•••

It’s been interesting to follow the progress of Max Baer’s casino project in Douglas County. He clearly has plenty of passionate supporters and critics.

The Appeal ran several letters in support of the project earlier this year that began arriving at about the same time, all about the same short length and saying much the same thing. It didn’t seem like a coincidence, which was confirmed when I visited his Web site, http://www.jethroscasino.com.

There, he asks people to write letters to the Appeal and to The Record-Courier, and then to forward him an extra copy. He also encourages people to vote in a poll being taken at http://www.nevadaappeal.com on whether they support the project.

And that’s when I stopped running those letters. I respect Max for being a great promoter of his vision and of himself, but the letters section is not intended to be a tool for developers or others who are trying to create an illusion of support. Like most other papers, we simply won’t run form letters or anything resembling form letters.

• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at http://www.nevadaappeal.com