The best thing that can be said of the House Democratic leadership’s bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that it is unlikely to pass the Senate, and in the improbable event that it does, President Bush will veto it.
The bill aims to do indirectly what its Democratic authors don’t have the support or political will to do directly — pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. It would accomplish that goal by micromanaging the war and imposing on Iraq a series of difficult-to-meet deadlines — the preferred euphemism is “benchmarks” — that could have us out as early as the end of the year and gone in any case by August 2008.
And what is so magical about August of that year? It is the start of the presidential election campaign and, as the corruption and incompetence of the old Republican Congress fade in the public’s memory, the war is the one reliable issue the Democrats have.
They won Congress last fall on an anti-war platform, and this bill would allow them to go to the voters in 2008 and say they delivered on what they promised. But there’s nothing very honorable about how they plan to get to that point.
Bush asked Congress for $100 billion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan plus $3 billion in standby disaster relief. The House bill proposes to give him $126.4 billion.
And the extra money? Much of it is pork to buy support for the bill from reluctant lawmakers. There is money for Gulf Coast cleanup and levee repair, for spinach growers, for restoring freezedamaged farmland, for peanut storage, for rice farmers, for wildfire suppression, for shrimp and menhaden fishermen.
This is hardly the frugal fiscal stewardship the Democrats promised us. Indeed, it smacks of the wheeling and dealing that got the Republicans in so much trouble.
Whatever one thinks of the war, we’ve created a situation that we can’t just walk away from, as simple and attractive as that option might sound. There has to be consideration of what we leave behind. Abandoning both the Iraqis who stood up for us and our geopolitical interests in the Persian Gulf should not be an option, but that is the choice this bill would make.