The College Democrats and College Republicans clashed over hot-button issues surrounding the Iraq War Tuesday night in a crowded Marvin Center Amphitheatre.
The debate, moderated by political science quarterly The GW Discourse, covered topics including the progress being made in Iraq and the best policy options for the future of that war-torn nation.
Early in the debate, CR Vice Chairman Brand Kroeger – also the executive vice president of the Student Association – challenged the Democrats’ views of American progress in Iraq. He said it was a bad thing for the Democratic party and denounced the Democrats’ handling of Iraq as a “political football” and “un-American.”
“For the Democratic party to succeed, America must fail,” said Kroeger, a junior.
CD President Tanya Choudhury, a junior, argued that the American people went to the polls in November and mandated a change with their vote. However, Democrats have been met with resistance in both Congress and the White House, she said.
“Republicans would rather critique Democrats than work towards a solution,” Choudhury said. “To them, ‘bipartisan’ is considered yet another dirty word.”
The veracity of the Iraq progress report submitted by General David Petraeus, head of the multi-national force in Iraq, was a sticking point during the debate.
Junior Cory Struble, CD communications director, argued that in this report “progress has been overrepresented to make it seem like things are going better than they actually are.”
He said the Government Accountability Office report released in August offered a more comprehensive and realistic view of the situation, stating that Iraq had only made progress on three of 18 benchmarks.
“The Bush administration has used General Petraeus,” Struble said.
Sophomore Connor Walsh, CR director of political affairs, said data from the Petraeus report indicated undeniable progress. He said that since this summer’s troop surge, the number of weekly attacks has decreased as have the number of attacks in Anbar province, previously the most dangerous section of Iraq.
Kroeger further questioned the ability of a group of accountants in D.C. to assess the ground situation in Iraq. He argued that the GAO has “zero access” to domestic and military intelligence, unlike organizations such as the National Security Agency.
“Should we trust these accountants in Washington, or should we trust the generals on the ground?” Kroeger asked the audience. A number of supporters yelled, “Generals!”
Both Choudhury and Struble advocated for timetables for withdrawal and said the United States needed to encourage political reconciliation among the factions in Iraq.
“But it is up to (Iraqis) to make these decisions,” Choudhury said. “They need to stand up for their own country.”
Kroeger and Walsh condemned the idea of a timeline saying that a timeline has “never achieved victory in the history of time.” They said it was important to continue to train Iraqi forces and provide a context of security in which the Iraqis could form and maintain their government.
The organizers and participants in the debate were pleased with the outcome overall.
“I was glad to see so many students from both sides,” said senior Peter Glessing, CR director of public relations.
“I think the most important thing was to let students know what’s going on in Iraq and let them make an informed decision themselves,” said Choudhury.