Yesterday President Bush vetoed the bill Congress sent to him to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq because it included deadlines for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, calling it “a prescription for chaos and confusion.” Apparently, the authority to create chaos and confusion in Iraq belongs to Bush and Bush alone.
Now the Democrats face a stark choice: to fund, or not to fund the war? That is the question.
And we already have the answer. House Democratic Majority leader Steny Hoyer has said in response to the veto “We are going to fund the troops, we are not going to leave our troops in harm’s way without the resources that they need.” In all likelihood, Democrats in Congress will pass a bill funding the bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan that requires Bush to certify that the Iraqi government is meeting “benchmarks” to warrant the continuation of the war as well as political support for and financial aid to the Iraqi government. How anyone can spin this as a “course correction” in Iraq is beyond me – Bus has been touting “progress” in Iraq ever since his “Mission Accomplished” speech on May 1, 2003. How the U.S. is losing despite uninterrupted progress in Iraq also remains to be explained.
Anti-war sentiment propelled the Democrats into power last November. Since then they have done zero, zip, zilch, nada to end the war. To cover their asses, Democrats have come up with pathetic excuses as to why they haven’t lifted a finger to stop Bush. Basically their argument is: “we can’t cut off funding for the war because that would mean depriving the troops of equipment, food, water, and weapons they need to defend themselves. President Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, can veto our bills and there aren’t enough Republicans to help us override that veto.” The not-so-subtle-subtext is: vote for us in ’08. Only when a Democrat is in the White House will we have the power to end the war.
That’s a lie. They have the power to stop the slaughter right now. It only takes one Senator to filibuster and kill the war funding bill in the Senate. All it would take is one well-timed, long, boring, verbose speech by a Senator to save the lives of literally thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Senators John Kerry and Joe Biden love to give those kinds of speeches to mostly-empty Senate seats and C-SPAN cameras, so why don’t they do it when it counts? Hillary Clinton promises she’ll end the war in Iraq if she’s elected, but why wait until January of 2009? What about liberal wet-dream Barack Obama? He wants voters to believe that he’s different, that he’s an outsider to the dirty and corrupt business of Washington politics, why not prove it? Senator Reid says “this war is lost” – so why doesn’t he move to end it?
This reminds me of the scene in Fahrenheit 9/11 when members of the Congressional Black Caucus begged a Senator, any Senator, to sign onto their objections regarding the massive disenfranchisement of black voters in Flordia where Bush Jr’s bro was governor. Doing so would have prevented Bush and his gang of incompetent neo-con nut-jobs from taking office in the first place. Not one Democratic Senator gave a damn about black voters enough to sign on, even though it would have put a Democrat into office for the next four years. After they were unable to get the support of a John Kerry, a John Edwards, or a single one of their colleagues, Al Gore (who as Vice President also served as the President of the Senate) out-shouted, overruled, and shut down Caucus speakers.
Since taking Congress, the Democrats have passed a non-binding resolution against Bush’s surge. Then they voted unanimously for the men Bush picked to implement the surge they voted to oppose, Gen. Petraeus who is the top general in Iraq and Admiral Fallon who heads all U.S. forces in the Middle East. This was “I voted against it before I voted for it” squared.
After that, they passed a war funding bill they knew Bush would veto that had dates for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. (60,000 out of 140,000 troops in Iraq are combat troops, meaning 80,000 troops would still be in Iraq even if Bush signed the bill into law.)
All of this noise about non-binding resolutions and withdrawal schemes attached to war spending bills is just posturing for the 2008 race for the White House. They want to look like they are doing everything they can to get out of the hole while handing Bush all the shovels he needs to dig deeper. They have a big incentive to keep the disaster in Iraq going until November of next year so that they can repeat their victory of last year. As one Democratic strategist explained to a journalist from the New York Review of Books: “We don’t want to own this war. It’s Bush’s war, and we want him to keep owning it.”
It gets worse. After a few minutes of research on Google, I found that the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committe, David Obey of Wisconsin, included funding for the construction of permanent bases in Iraq in the war funding bill that Bush just vetoed. This is the same guy that called an anti-war military mom a “liberal idiot” for wanting to cut off funding for the war in Iraq on YouTube. His idiotic response to the demand of “liberal idiots” to cut off funding for the war was “we don’t have the votes to get it through.” Obey didn’t have the votes to pass the bill that funded the wars and the construction of bases that Bush just vetoed either, but it didn’t stop him from trying.
Of course, Obey’s bill doesn’t refer to the four enormous military installations that are being built in Iraq as “permanent bases.” Over the course of the last few years, they’ve morphed from permanent bases, to enduring bases, to contingency operating bases. Contingency has a very temporary sound to it – the contingency being that if Iraq unexpectedly runs out of oil, they’ll close those bases and the tens of thousands of troops stationed in them can come home.
Both sides of the aisle in Washington are angling to stay in Iraq permanently in one form or another. The difference is that the Republicans are open about it, while the Democrats are trying hard to fool us into thinking they want out of Iraq ASAP.
Fortunately, people are taking action to hold the Democrats to their (false) promises. Student activists in the Campus Antiwar Network held a sit-in at Wisconsin Democratic Senator Herb Kohl’s office demanding an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, full funding for veterans health care, reparations to the Iraqi people, banning the use of depleted uranium munitions, and money for jobs and education and not occupation. Militant activism by grassroots activists like this is the only hope for ending this war.