May 24, 2007

A Wall Overflowing

Thursday night, the Democratic congressional leadership capitulated completely to President Bush's threatened veto of any Iraq War supplemental spending bill that contains time lines, or even benchmarks requiring certification. Mr. Bush got exactly what he wanted: unrestrained power and the financial wherewithal to further pursue his criminally negligent war of half-measures in Iraq. His unfettered abuse of our military continues, and the Democrats rolled over, permitting this president to continue chasing policies that endanger the very ability of the United States to protect itself.

To be sure, Democrats don't have the votes to overcome a presidential veto - that was proved when they sent their first time-table-inclusive bill to the White House and were turned back - and they are - or at least believe themselves to be - in some tricky political waters. Nonetheless, while echoes of the unpopular government shut-down orchestrated by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1995 more than likely served to weaken their resolve, there is little question that the 2006 election was a mandate for ending our disastrous adventure in Iraq, and fully two-thirds of the public disapproves of the president's handling of the war.

Terrified that they would be branded as "not supporting the troops" if they cut off funding for military operations, Democrats collapsed. Republicans of course, will still claim that Democrats do not support the troops, only now, they will also be (justifiably) tarred as weak and fractured. Despite Democratic claims that, when it is time for additional funding authorization in October, they won't take "no" for an answer with regard to time tables, there is something more important than two-handed political ass-covering on Capitol Hill; something much more important. The fact of the matter is that, with the passage of this new supplemental bill, more American lives will be lost in Iraq, and that country will be no closer to stability.

Unbeknownst to most of the public, Mr. Bush is already quietly engaged in a "second surge" that will boost the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to new heights. This, despite declarations that the current escalation would be enough to bring violence to a level tolerable enough for substantive progress toward pulling Iraq back from failed statehood, and wide-ranging evidence that said escalation has already failed. As reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
This "second surge" of troops in Iraq, which is being executed by extending tours for brigades already there and by deploying more units, could boost the number of combat troops to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year. When support troops are included, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 - the most ever - by the end of the year.

The efforts to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq are being carried out without the fanfare that accompanied President Bush's initial troop surge in January.

Retired Army Major General William Nash, the U.S. commander who led NATO troops into Bosnia in late 1995, when asked to comment on the analysis of deployment orders, said: "It doesn't surprise me that they're not talking about it. I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this."
It is no wonder that this president fights every effort to impose accountability; the legacy he has reportedly believed he would leave - that of a world changing historical figure - has come true, but only in the most twisted, negative and tragic fashion. He ignores the will of the people, the interests of the nation, and the plight of Iraqis, all while studiously denying the potentially irreversible damage he is doing to the armed forces and international standing of the United States. What is confounding however, is why Democrats act as if there is any doubt about what the vast majority of this country's people want: our troops home and the U.S. out of Iraq. As Keith Olbermann put it in his special commentary Tuesday night:
The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only served to reduce the security of America.
The irony of this capitulation, this weakness, this failure of the opposition to use the legislature's power of the purse to end the terrible farce that is the Iraq War, is that it comes just before Memorial Day weekend. Certainly, there is no more appropriate time to fully consider the cost of this war in human life, and to weigh it against the infinitely smaller mass of what has been "accomplished." And if such contemplation fails to move us, then we need only visit the Rayburn House Office Building to view the "Wall of the Fallen," a memorial listing the names of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and note the grim fact that it is already full, with no end to the conflict in sight.

As Paul Krugman wrote this week in the International Herald Tribune, the nation is in "a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President George W. Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders - the troops - if his demands aren't met." The Democrats, the people elected to be our hostage negotiators, have failed.

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