Monday, April 16, 2007

Bush Still Holds Upper Hand In Fight With Congress Over Iraq War Funding

The 'War At Home' Set To Grow Even Uglier As Bush Threatens To Veto Democrats Demands For Withdrawal Timetable

President Bush now acknowledges that Americans voted for a dramatic change in last year's mid-term elections on how the US goes about handling the war in Iraq. But Bush thinks this vote for change was answered by the "troop surge" plan first announced three months ago, which could see another 40,000 American troops mobilised and sent to Iraq within the year.

That is not exactly the kind of "change" Americans were voting for, and Bush knows it.

On Friday, during his weekly radio address, he again pummelled the Democrats over their delays in delivering the "emergency supplemental" bill to continue funding the Iraq War beyond July this year. The greatest holiday-taking president in history chastised Democrats for taking an extended Easter break and not coughing up the $100 billion of war funding fast enough.

The delay and the proposed timetables for withdrawal of American troops all play into the enemies' hands, claimed Bush, "giving our enemies the victory they desperately want."

Bush has agreed to meet with top Democrats this week to chew over the war-funding bill details, but Bush has already said he will veto any bill that includes timetables for withdrawals, or any firm markers of progress.

The president wants to keep the war money spigot turned on full, for as long as he can. The longer the money is guaranteed, the more time he has to turn around America's growing defeat in Iraq.

From CNN :
At Bush's invitation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are due at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the war, particularly a bill funding the military mission through September.

In both the House and Senate, Democrats have attached timelines for withdrawing troops to the bill containing $96 billion in military funding.

"Instead of approving this funding, Democrats in Congress have spent the past 68 days pushing legislation that would undercut our troops," (Bush) said in his weekly radio address. "They passed bills that would impose restrictions on our military commanders and set an arbitrary date for withdrawal from Iraq, giving our enemies the victory they desperately want."

In a statement, Reid, D-Nevada, responded: "Democrats are continuing to fight to fully fund our troops and give them a strategy for success worthy of their sacrifices. President Bush continues to insist that we follow his same failed strategy that has drawn our troops further into an intractable civil war."

"The longer Congress delays the worse the impact on the men and women of the armed forces will be," Bush said. "I recognize that Republicans and Democrats in Washington have differences over the best course in Iraq, and we should vigorously debate those differences. But our troops should not be trapped in the middle."

Both Bush and the Democrats have been arguing that the public is behind their position -- the president says Americans want success in Iraq, while Democrats argue voters backed an end to war when they put them in charge of Congress in the November elections.

On Saturday, the president agreed with Democrats that "the American people voted for change in Iraq." But he said that is what is happening now, under a new war plan he announced three months ago to send extra U.S. troops to Iraq to calm Baghdad and Anbar province and to install a new war commander, Gen. David Petraeus.

This Reuters report argues that the Democrats will clearly not cut off funding for America's troops in Iraq, so Bush, therefore, still holds "the upper hand" in the battle over war funding.

But Bush is running out of time to turn around the Iraq War :
Administration officials have set late summer as a possible benchmark to gauge whether 28,000 extra troops Bush has ordered to Iraq are succeeding in stemming chaos, particularly in Baghdad.

That is also a crucial time on the U.S. political calendar as candidates gear up for the 2008 election amid growing Republican fears they may face a further bruising after stinging defeats in last year's congressional races.

All three leading Republican presidential contenders, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, support Bush's Iraq policy. But McCain, struggling with sliding poll numbers and lackluster fund raising, has been the most outspoken supporter of the troop increase and appears to have paid a price.

"Bush is trying to use the bully pulpit of the presidency the way Clinton used it against the Republicans," said Stephen Wayne, professor of government at Georgetown University.

"The difference here is that public opinion is strongly formed against the war."

He said pressure on Bush to shift course on Iraq will build in coming months if signs of improvement do not materialize because more Republicans, including some of the presidential candidates, may abandon him. Eventually, this could force him to scale back the troop presence, Wayne said.

Polls show that a majority of Americans agree with Democrats that there should be a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

There are few military analysts who credibly claim that a major turnaround on the violence in Iraq will happen anytime before the 2008 presidential elections. It will take years, and no doubt dominate the first term of the next US president.

What is rarely discussed, at least openly in the media, is how the Bush administration and the Democrats, will deal with the growing anger of Americans over the continuation of the Iraq War.
It is slowly becoming a known reality to the tens of millions of anti-Iraq War Americans who voted the Dems back into control of Congress that the war will not be ending before Bush leaves the White House.

They will keep demanding their Democrat senators do something, and the senators will continue to blame Bush. But what will the American public do when they fully realise that the Iraq War will go on long after President Bush has left to open his library and work on his memoirs?

The Bush legacy on America will remain toxic for years to come, even if violence in Iraq drops substantially, and a staged withdrawal begins. It will infect and drag down the next administration, whether the president is a Democrat or Republican.