Thursday, March 29, 2007

Want the Troops Funded? Sign the Bill

By Christopher Truscott

President George W. Bush said Thursday that “when we have a troop in harm’s way, we expect that troop to be fully funded.”

If he continues with this line of thinking, he’ll announce next week that he likes nice spring days, enjoys baseball and that dogs are a commander-in-chief’s best friend. In other words: when you don’t have anything substantive to say, emphatically re-state the blatantly obvious.

No participant in the national debate over the Iraq Civil War wants a troop to go without the funding necessary to keep him safe while he’s deployed. That’s why both houses of Congress acted in a responsible manner and passed a massive funding bill for the bloody quagmire in the Middle East and the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

At this point, only the president is standing in the way of funding for the troops. By promising to veto legislation that includes a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the president is actually threatening to cut off the flow of deficit-spending needed to complete the mission he maintains is critical to “the security of the United States of America.”

He would also be denying funds to the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, the country that was home to the killers who actually attacked America and murdered nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia. The White House does remember Osama bin Laden, right?

To think, this is the same guy who in the 2004 presidential campaign accused Sen. John Kerry of trying to de-fund troops. The flip-flop is on the other foot now.

After more than four years in Iraq, it’s time for the government in Baghdad to start handling its own affairs. American troops and diplomats have toppled a dictator, made Iraq safe for elections and helped create a new constitution and government. All that’s remaining is for Iraqi leaders to take control of their country’s destiny.

It’s true that U.S. troops can’t simply leave Iraq tomorrow, even though many Americans and their political leaders might prefer that option. But a deadline for next year – preferably the House’s binding Aug. 31, 2008, withdrawal date – gives the Iraqi government the time needed to prepare for a life post-U.S. occupation.

Why won’t the president accept a deadline? Why won’t he really acknowledge that eventually the Iraqis must “stand up”? Why won’t he admit that the American military has done everything asked of it? Why does he fear accountability for his actions?

If the president is so adamantly opposed to a deadline, where does he expect us to be next year? Are Sunnis and Shiites to magically stop killing each other? We’ve been waiting since 2003 for Iraqis to move forward, but each year the situation deteriorates further. If the president says our commitment to Iraq is not “open-ended,” then when does it end? Does he want another Vietnam? Does he want worse?

It’s time to declare victory – since we did what we promised to do – and go home. Future victories, which will ultimately be required in Iraq, must be achieved by Iraqis. Predominately Christian and American soldiers and Marines cannot put down a civil war inspired by extreme interpretations of Islam in an Arab country.

For this president to use the White House as the setting for a political pep rally in which he implied that those Americans against a never-ending misadventure in the Middle East are somehow opposed to troops in the field is disgusting. We shouldn’t be surprised. But even after the last six-plus years, it’s still appalling to see the office of the presidency degraded and cheapened in such a manner.

According to a Gallup Poll conducted last weekend, 80 percent of Americans support requiring troops to meet strict readiness standards before deploying to Iraq. Another 60 percent support ending American involvement in the Iraqis’ war no later than next fall. Are these many millions of American citizens, Mr. President, somehow less patriotic than the shrinking minority who support your reckless and dangerous policies?

If Bush is truly committed to funding the troops, he’ll sign the legislation Congress sends to him. If he doesn’t the responsibility for what happens next is squarely on his shoulders.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at He agrees with Nancy Pelosi. The president really needs to “calm down.”

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