While the headlines will read that the Senate voted to withdraw U.S. troops in Iraq, the peace movement recognizes that the Senate bill will extend the war not end it. The exit date in the bill is merely a goal for the removal of combat troops, and there are large loopholes that would allow a commander in chief to keep as many troops as s/he wants in Iraq. The bill provides $123 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan nearly $20 billion more requested by Bush.
The real issue now is whether the Democrats will cave into President Bush’s threatened veto by providing a funding bill with no exit requirements or whether they will challenge the president further. If they cave they will have given Bush new life he will no longer be a lame duck, but rather will remain “the decider.” The Congress will be seen as a “lame Congress.” How they respond will be determined after their April recess.
Many peace advocates held a demonstration shortly after the vote to protest the extension, rather than end of the war. The demonstration emphasized that the Democrats have the power to end the war and highlighted the deaths of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis with a series of gravestones and photos. The Hill described the protest as an “occupation” of the Hart Senate office building. See citation below for full article.
The vote was mostly a party-line 51-47 vote. Forty-eight Democrats and independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont were joined by two Republicans, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon, in voting for the measure. Opposed were 46 Republicans and Connecticut independent-Democrat Joseph Lieberman. Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), did not vote.
Regarding getting out of Iraq the bill requires beginning redeployment 120 days after the bill’s passage and sets a goal not a firm exit date of withdrawal of combat troops by March 31, 2008. Combat troops make up roughly half the troops in Iraq which are projected to peak at 171,000 when the president’s troop “surge” is completed. Thus, this could leave 80,000 non-combat troops in Iraq. However, the bill allows combat troops to remain to protect Iraq’s borders, fight terrorists, and protect the Embassy among other purposes. So, it is not clear how many troops will actually be withdrawn if the bill’s “goal” is met.
The bill now goes to a conference committee with the House version and then to the White Hose for a promised veto. The Congress will not respond to the veto until it returns from its April recess.
For More Information:
Chris Good, Protesters stage ‘occupation’ of Hart office building, March 29, 2007.
KEVIN ZEESE is director of DemocracyRising.US and co-founder of VotersForPeace.US.