Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bush vetoes war appropriation bill

As expected, Bush today vetoed a timetable-laden war-funding measure -- four years to the day after his infamous "Mission Accomplished" photo-op on board an aircraft carrier, where he declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq.

Here's his statement, and here's the response from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Bush laid it on thick. While correctly criticizing the hard October 1 deadline, he then moved briskly on to scaremongering.

It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing. 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.

First, we could only wish that the insurgents would stop the attacks and sit back for six months "gathering strength." That would give us the time we need to establish actual security and rebuild infrastructure.

Second, he conflates Sunni insurgents with "terrorists", as if Al-Qaeda -- which represents a tiny and resented fragment of that insurgency -- actually stands a chance of taking over Iraq. Not even the Sunnis stand much chance of doing that. So I guess by "terrorists taking over Iraq" he means "Shiite militias backed by the Iraqi government."

He then gripes about the restrictions on U.S. troop deployment following the withdrawal:

After forcing most of our troops to withdraw, the bill would dictate the terms on which the remaining commanders and troops could engage the enemy. That means American commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, D.C.

Again, this is patent nonsense. All the bill does is something that is well within Congress' purview: define the scope of the mission it is choosing to fund. You can disagree with that definition, but painting it as micromanaging makes little sense. Congress is simply defining the mission, not dictating how to accomplish that mission.

Lastly, he (rightly) criticizes the pork larding the bill, for which Democrats should be ashamed.

He then goes on to explain why the surge deserves time to show it can work, something I again agree with him on. But in so doing he uses carefully parsed language to imply that Al-Qaeda is a major part of the threat in Iraq instead of a minor part. For instance, he said: "It's true that not everyone taking innocent life in Iraq wants to attack America here at home. But many do." This implies that most -- but not all -- of the insurgents are terrorists, which simply isn't true.

Other than that, he gave no indication of where he might be willing to compromise with Congress on a bill. Not that I really expected him to -- that will wait for the closed-door negotiations. But I would like some indication that he has abandoned the "my way or the highway" approach to negotiations that has been his hallmark for most of his presidency.

On the other side of the argument, Reid said nothing of import. I'm growing less and less impressed by him. He alternates between saying and doing very little and saying and doing stupid things, not to mention the ethical and legal questions surrounding some of his business dealings back home.

Pelosi, however, was forceful and clear.

The president vetoed the bill outright, and, frankly, misrepresented what this legislation does. This bill supports the troops. In fact, it gives the president more than he asked for for our troops -- and well they deserve it.

They have done their duties excellently. They have done everything that has been asked of them. All of this without, in some cases, the training, the equipment, and a plan for success for them.

The president wants a blank check. The Congress is not going to give it to him.

Score one for the Speaker.

Democrats, too, gave no indication of where they might compromise. Look for intense private discussions accompanied by vituperative public statements, and then a funding deal in the next week or so. Most observers agree that getting a bill passed by mid-May is the only way to prevent a major cramp in military operations. Neither side wants that to happen, and they especially don't want to be seen as the party responsible for that happening. For now I stand by my prediction that Congress will pass a "clean" but very short-term bill -- perhaps with minor and largely symbolic strings, like the waivable readiness requirement -- then revisit the matter in the fall as the results of the surge become clear.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it rather odd that Dems object to the attacks inside Iraq being referred to as "terrorist attacks" when Bush calls them that.....while at the same time, they use the same attacks inside Iraq to back up their claim that "terrorist attacks are increasing since we went into Iraq."

So, which is it?

5/01/2007 11:14 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

An interesting point!

The distinction is twofold.

1. Bush tries to paint all of our opponents in Iraq as terrorists. They're not. Even by a broad definition of the term, only a fraction of the combatants qualify.

2. There are different kinds of terrorists. The ones we legitimately are interested in are the kind that can hurt us -- classic terrorists with global reach, like Al Qaeda and the Palestinian terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s.

Sending suicide bombers into crowds in Iraq is a terror attack. But it's small scale and local, more of a battle tactic than a terrorist plot. The people carrying them out do not constitute the kind of "terrorist" we vowed to fight after 9/1l. They're more akin to the Palestinian suicide bombers that have been plaguing Israel for years -- and which weren't and aren't a serious security problem for the United States.

5/01/2007 11:23 PM  

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