"slow-bleed" plan

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The catchphrase "slow-bleed" plan—also referred to as the "slow-bleed" strategy—is being employed in political attacks by the leadership of the Republican Party and conservative media and bloggers to describe the Democrat's exit strategy from the war in Iraq.

Sequence of Events

First Use

According to Media Matters for America, Ryan Lizza, senior editor of The New Republic, in a February 13, 2007, appearance on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, "was apparently the first to use the 'slow-bleed' construction to characterize the reported strategy of the House Democratic leadership." [1]

LIZZA: "And look, they're reading the same polls that we're all reading, and they realize that the American public doesn't quite -- there's not a big majority for defunding the troops, so it doesn't look like the Democratic leadership is going to go there. Instead, what you're going to have is a strategy led by Murtha, which is going to be to limit the number of troops available to President Bush by putting some restrictions on what troops will be allowed to be brought over to Iraq.
"So that's the strategy that the -- that's the sort of two-part strategy: first, this non-binding resolution, and then restricting what troops Bush can use. So, it's a sort of -- a slow bleeding of our ability to do much more in Iraq." (Emphasis added.)

Enter The Politico

On February 15, 2007, John Bresnahan wrote in the online political publication The Politico:

"Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options.
"Led by Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and supported by several well-funded anti-war groups, the coalition's goal is to limit or sharply reduce the number of U.S. troops available for the Iraq conflict, rather than to openly cut off funding for the war itself." (Emphasis added.)

RNC follows up

The Republican National Committee (RNC) "followed with its press release, and numerous media then attributed the term to Democrats or quoted Republicans doing so without noting that it was not the creation of the Democrats," Media Matters reported March 1, 2007.

Bresnahan's article was cited February 15, 2007, by Mike Duncan, RNC Chairman, in a call-to-action—a.k.a. fund-raising—letter on "The Pelosi-Murtha 'Slow-Bleed' Strategy" to members.

The Politico clarifies

"The Democratic plan was characterized in The Politico as the 'slow-bleed strategy,' which was not a term used by any Democrats or the anti-war groups supporting their efforts.

"The RNC, however, attributed the phrase to Democrats, and it was used in their e-mail alert," John Bresnahan wrote February 16, 2007.

"The National Republican Congressional Committee and Senate Republicans are also preparing to use the 'slow-bleed' line in their own news releases, slamming Murtha and the Democrats," Bresnahan wrote.

WaPo picks up thread

Jonathan Weisman wrote February 15, 2007, in the Washington Post:

"The Murtha plan, based on existing military guidelines, includes a stipulation that Army troops who have already served in Iraq must be granted two years at home before an additional deployment, Marines must be given 14 months at home, and any troops sent to Iraq must be those deemed fully trained and equipped under existing military standards. The idea is to slowly choke off the war by stopping the deployment of troops from units that have been badly degraded by four years of combat." (Emphasis added.)

GOPUSA pitches in

"The Congressional Democrats are actually participating in their own unconventional, asymmetric tactics -- a type of political 'guerrilla warfare' -- that's designed to slowly grind down the Iraq war effort and, by extension, our military personnel. It's been dubbed the 'slow bleed'. Al Qaeda would be proud," Carol Devine-Molin wrote February 26, 2007, for GOPUSA.

The Politico editor confesses

On February 28, 2007, John F. Harris, editor of The Politico, confessed "I am the author of the Democratic Party's 'slow-bleed strategy' for ending the war in Iraq" and that he "had nothing to do with the details" of Murtha's plan "crafted to use the appropriations process to limit President Bush's options for mobilizing more forces in Iraq." [2]

"That's where I come in," Harris wrote. "'Slow bleed' is my phrase. Murtha had nothing to do with it. Neither did John Bresnahan, the reporter whose name was on the Politico story in which the 'slow-bleed strategy' made its debut." (Emphasis added.)

Additionally, Harris wrote:

"If you Google 'slow bleed' and 'Murtha,' you get nearly 200,000 hits. Nexis recorded more than a hundred stories in the days after Bresnahan's article that used the phrase 'slow bleed.'
"'Slow bleed' was featured on CNN and on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. My former newspaper, The Washington Post, used the phrase the other day as if it were an established part of Washington lexicon, needing neither attribution nor explanation. 'Slow bleed' also played a starring role in a parade of House floor speeches by Republicans denouncing Democrats, and in a fundraising letter from Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan. 'Slow-bleed is exactly the right name for this incredibly irresponsible and dangerous strategy,' he wrote.
"Like many others who weighed in, Duncan incorrectly stated that 'slow-bleed' was the name that Democrats were using to describe their strategy."

Too little, too late: damage already done

"But the damage had already been done -- conservative bloggers were shouting 'slow bleed'from the rooftops, and congressional Republicans were dropping it into their speeches," Simon Maloy wrote March 7, 2007, in The Politico.

"Still," Tim Grieve wrote February 28, 2007, in Salon's War Room, "Harris isn't entirely apologetic, suggesting that his 'snappier' take on Bresnahan's original lead wasn't so wrong in the 'context.' That 'context,' he says, is that 'what is slowly bleeding away is the administration's political support to keep fighting the war.'"

Writing on another matter, Dan Froomkin commented February 28, 2007, in the Washington Post: "Interestingly, the Politico is turning out to be not just a chronicler, but a source, of Republican talking points."

Republican echo chamber

Hunter's critique

UPI reported March 9, 2007, that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and "one of the two conservative candidates currently in the running for the GOP's 2008 presidential nomination", was "critical of the new funding proposal for the conflict in Iraq that was unveiled [March 6, 2007,] by congressional Democrats. ... The Democrats' 'readiness proposal amounts to a slow bleed strategy,' Hunter said."

Cheney picks up the "slow bleed" meme

Vice President Dick Cheney "accused anti-war Congressmen of helping America's enemies by calling for deadlines and funding restrictions," the Journal of the Turkish Weekly reported March 14, 2007.

Cheney was quoted from his March 12, 2007, speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual convention:

"When members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines or other arbitrary measures, they're telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out ...
"When members of Congress pursue an anti-war strategy that's been called slow bleed, they're not supporting the troops, they're undermining them."

Blunt attack

Democrats "announce[d] a timetable for wholesale retreat, declare[d] their intention to hand over command-and-control authority in Iraq to 535 commanders in chief on Capitol Hill and, already on a roll, float[ed] the bizarre idea to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and import hundreds of the most insidious elements of the worldwide terrorist network to the United States to process like common criminals," Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote March 14, 2007, in the Washington Times.

Blunt added: "Democrats will attempt to follow up that performance by bringing their plan to committee for executing their slow-bleed strategy in Iraq. But what we understand of the product now is enough to tell me their plan would yield disastrous results." (Emphasis added.)


"Right wingers will say and do anything to cast Democrats as being against our people in uniform, especially those in harm’s way. It’s a desperate effort to eke some political gain out of the illegal, unnecessary, no-win war mess they’ve made in Iraq," S.W. Anderson commented February 19, 2007, at OH!pinion.com.

"Their slow-bleed red herring has been posed as a question and as a statement on CNN, naturally.

"Its been falsely attributed to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"It’s been heralded on legions of right-wing blogs.

"It’s as authentic as Saddam’s yellow cake from Niger, as valid as President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice’s claims about imminent danger of a mushroom cloud from Iraq’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

"It’s par for the course — and refreshingly, it doesn’t seem to be working," Anderson wrote.


"Just like every other talking point and Big Lie the White House and RNC try to shoot out there as Democratic policy, after you hear it long enough, you realize it means nothing ... except that the Republic[an]s are out of bullets," Steve Young wrote February 20, 2007, for OpEdNews.

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

February 2007

March 2007