Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Commander Guy" Vetoes Iraq War Funding Bill

Bush And The NeoCons Are Betting The House On A More Peaceful, Vastly Wealthy Future For Iraq

Photo selection from The Huffington Post

President Bush said he'd do it, and now he's done it :


I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 1591, the “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007.”

He didn't like the fact the bill included a timetable for US withdrawal from Iraq, or "the timeline for defeat" as the NeoCons and their media lackeys like to call it, he didn't like all the added "pork" and he didn't the idea of not being the "decider" when it comes to announcing that American troops are coming home.

Here's the basic coverage :

US president George Bush vetoed legislation to pull US troops out of Iraq in a showdown with Congress over whether the unpopular and costly war should end or escalate.

In only the second veto of his presidency, Bush last night rejected legislation that would have required the first US combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by October 1, with a goal of a complete pull-out six months later.

He vetoed the Bill immediately on his return to the White House from a visit to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, headquarters of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

Democrats made a last-minute plea for Bush to sign the Bill, knowing their request would be ignored.

“The president has put our troops in the middle of a civil war,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid. “Reality on the ground proves what we all know: a change of course is needed.”

But lacking the votes to override the president, Democratic leaders quietly considered what might be included or kept out of their next version of the £62 billion spending Bill.

It was a day of high political drama, falling on the fourth anniversary of Bush’s “mission accomplished” speech on an aircraft carrier and his declaration that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.

The seriousness of the Veto Event has been underscored by another almost-childlike comment from President Bush, which has inspired the usual round of blogger mockery. Bush used to call himself "The Decider", now he's tagged himself with a new moniker that's inspired much mirth :
“The question is, ‘Who ought to make that decision, the Congress or the commanders?,’’ Mr. Bush said. “As you know, my position is clear – I’m the commander guy.”
How soon will a mock online comic book about 'The Commander Guy' appear? We'll give it a few days, or less.

Excellent coverage on the Veto Event and important comment, as usual, from Dan Froomkin at White House Watch. He also has a good round-up of the American commentariat reaction :

With the public resoundingly against him, Republican support wearing thin, and -- most importantly -- Congress in Democratic hands, President Bush today finds himself in the unusual position of actually having to negotiate.

The question is: Does he have it in him?

A day after vetoing legislation that would have established a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, Bush has invited congressional leaders to the White House for a sit-down.

"I am confident that with goodwill on both sides, we can agree on a bill that gets our troops the money and flexibility they need as soon as possible," Bush said in a short televised address last night, announcing the veto.

But the president's language was inflexible: "It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing," he said. "All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength -- and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq. I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East, and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments. Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure -- and that would be irresponsible."

With no apparent sense of irony, Bush described the Democratic plan as "a prescription for chaos and confusion."

So what happens now? Will Bush refuse to genuinely engage with his critics? (His traditional response to Democrats who disagree with him.) Will he try to find some way to make it look like he's compromising when he really isn't? (His traditional response to Republicans who disagree with him.) Or will he start talking in earnest about ways both sides can compromise?

The conventional wisdom is that the White House's big concession will be to entertain discussions about benchmarks for the Iraqi government. But it's important to keep in mind that the White House has been talking about such benchmarks for many months now. In his prime-time address in January, Bush even announced: "America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced."

The administration has even previously indicated it had some deadlines in mind for those benchmarks. It's just that none of them have been met. On the same day in January that Bush made his announcement, senior administration officials promised that the Iraqis would deliver three additional Iraqi brigades to Baghdad by the end of February. That didn't happen. And the following day, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged in Senate testimony that without progress toward some key benchmarks within "one or two months . . . this plan is not going to work." It's now been four months, with little or no progress. (For background and links, see my Thursday column, Keep Your Eye on the Benchmarks.)

So the central issue is not whether there are benchmarks, or even timetables. The central issue is whether failure to meet those benchmarks has any genuine consequences -- and whether those consequences include the withdrawal of American forces.

So what's next? Bush will meet with key Democrats in the coming days to hash out the new bill to keep funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democrats are widely seen as having got their point across, that the president will not have an easy time letting the Iraq War drag on forever, and they've given some satisfaction to the more than 50% of Americans demanding that the US troop withdrawal from Iraq begin before the end of the year.

But there will be no US troop withdrawal before the 2008 presidential elections. The power brokers in the Republican Party have all but admitted that they don't have a chance of keeping control of the White House through 2009-2012.

It will take an even more horrifying US body count in Iraq for a sudden shift in the long term plans of the Bush administration to maintain a heavy presence in Iraq, and therefore the Middle East, for decades to come.

President Bush, following recent lines by Vice President Cheney and General Petreaus, is setting the scene for a very violent future for Iraq, which will have to be accepted by Americans as something close to normal :
"... the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives. And that's what we're trying to achieve."
As Think Progress points out, an Iraq that has to learn to live with car bombings and suicide attacks is a long, long way from the democratic, and peaceful, Iraq used to sell and re-sell the continuation of the war and occupation :
During the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) explained that success against terrorism will occur when terrorist acts, such as those in Iraq, are reduced to the level that “they’re a nuisance.” Kerry explained gains can be made against terrorism when “it isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.”
Now Bush, Cheney and key generals are virtually repeating Kerry's formula for lesser success verbatim.

Although the Iraq War will have cost close to $580 billion by the end of 2007, it is still only a small slice of the more than $5 trillion the US spent fighting World War 2, and as far as the Republicans, many Democrats and the still powerful NeoCon alliance in Washington is concerned, the stakes in the Iraq War are as just as important for the long-term security and economic survival of the United States as World War 2 was, while it was being fought, and proved to be in the following decades.

Iraq's oil riches may total up to $12 trillion, and the United States intends to remain as the chief non-Iraqi stakeholder in the country's future. The security situation is grim indeed, and more than 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes and neighbourhoods in the past three years. More than 500,000 Iraqis have been killed, and the locals call Baghdad a dying city.

But the United States is betting on vast returns of their investment in re-creating Iraq as a democratic, free market, and extremely wealthy Middle East nation ten to twenty years from now.

When the oil is flowing at a projected rate of 4 million barrels a day, and Iraq becomes an IT and high-tech centre of development for the gradual transformation of the entire Middle East, the United States clearly intends to be the Iraqis gateway to a more prosperous future.

Of course, all of that remains, literally, a pipe dream for now. But the long-term presumption amongst the NeoColonialists is that the Iraqis can't keep fighting the occupation of their nation forever.

If a possible peoples revolution in the United States spawned of anger over the tragedy and losses of the Iraq War can be suppressed long enough, the NeoCons are likely to be proven right about Iraq. But that is a day decades away, and the Middle East may fracture further between now and then, or sink into outright war.