ODOM ON ‘SUPPORTING THE TROOPS’….William Odom, a retired Army lieutenant general who was head of Army intelligence, Reagan’s director of the National Security Agency, and a professor at Yale, has taken a leading role in criticizing the president’s Iraq war policy. A few months ago, he wrote a devastating op-ed for the WaPo, debunking several pernicious myths bolstering war supporters’ arguments.

This week, Odom follows up with a piece documenting the stunning strain the Bush administration’s policies have put on U.S. troops.

To force [Bush] to begin a withdrawal before [the end of his second term], the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what “supporting the troops” really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for [use] in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.

The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the “high crime” of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.

I’m not quite sure keeping troops in Iraq is an impeachable offense — Congress did authorize and fund the war — but Odom’s broader point about what it means to “support the troops” is more noteworthy.

I’m just not sure he’s right about how to win the argument. As Kevin explained a while back, the rhetorical key here is to emphasize that the war in Iraq is undermining our national security interests, not necessary to fight over who loves the military more.

To be clear, I don’t think Odom’s wrong on the facts — the strain the president is putting on the troops is outrageous. But therein lies the rub: if the White House could somehow figure out a way to shorten troop deployments, treat PTSD, provide equipment and body armor, and give the troops longer breaks, the current war policy would still be a tragic mistake.

Dems obviously should continue to support measures that help those who serve in the Armed Forces — and for several years now, they’ve done a hell of a lot better job than the GOP — but in terms of changing the policy, “supporting the troops” isn’t enough. We need to “support the superior policy,” too.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.