Sunday, September 09, 2007

No more Iraq funds without limits: key Democrat

No more Iraq funds without limits: key Democrat
By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate said on Friday he could no longer vote for funding the war in Iraq unless restrictions were attached that would begin winding down American involvement there.

"This Congress can't give President (George W.) Bush another blank check for Iraq," said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, who has always opposed the war but until now voted to fund it.

"I can't support an open-ended appropriation which allows this president to continue this failed policy," he said in a speech at the left-leaning Center for National Policy.

Durbin, from Illinois, said he and Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin were working on limits that could be attached to the next war funding bill, such as limiting troops to conducting counterterrorism operations and training Iraqi security forces.

"I believe Congress should strictly tie future funding for the war in Iraq to a new role for our troops there," he said.

Congress this fall takes up legislation on Pentagon policy and spending, in addition to a separate war funding bill.

The White House is expected to ask for some $200 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the fiscal year that starts on October 1. Durbin said he thought the Senate would take up the war funding bill by early October.

Since September 2001, Congress has provided $602 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with about 70 percent of that going to Iraq. The most recent funding bill, approved by Congress in May, took months to pass. Bush vetoed the first version after Democrats attached a withdrawal timeline.

Although he was one of 23 senators who voted against the use of force in Iraq in 2002, Durbin said he was increasingly troubled by his votes to pay for military operations there.

"Now I just realized I can't do this. It's perpetuating a policy that is taking more American lives. We have to wind this war down," Durbin said, adding he would not use his leadership post to demand other Democrats follow his lead.


How Hillary Clinton Can End the Iraq War, Speak for the American Military and Kill Osama Bin Laden
How Hillary Clinton Can End the Iraq War, Speak for the American Military and Kill Osama Bin Laden
-Brent Budowsky

First, let us cut through the propaganda, lies, disinformation, media misrepresentations and political cowardice that may well be leading Democrats, John Warner Republicans and so-called moderates to another shameless surrender to George W. Bush that will extend the catastrophe and tragedy of the Iraq war.

Here is a short list of those who believe that President Bush and Gen. David Petraeus are dead flat wrong in their obsession to continue the long-term escalation of the Iraq war:

1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff.

2. Admiral Fallon, head of Central Command, Gen. Petraeus’s boss.

3. Former NATO Supreme Commander and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones and the members of the commission he leads, who argue that American troop strength in Iraq should be reduced, that American forces should be redeployed, that the American footprint of being an occupation force in Iraq should be ended, and that the current escalation in fact will discourage, not advance, the political solution the “surge” was intended to bring about, but obviously has not.

4. Most and possibly all of the global command structure of the United States Army, which has been decimated by the Iraq war and the long-term escalation, and the United States Marine Corps.

5. The weight of opinion throughout the American intelligence community, which, despite political pressure, threats of retribution and political editing of intelligence reports, has produced one national intelligence estimate after another that have directly contradicted the views of the president and vice president.

The truth is, on the matter of reversing the escalation of the Iraq war, reducing American troop strength in Iraq significantly in the coming months, ending what has been one of the most corrupt and ill-considered occupations in world history, ending torture and closing Guantanamo, the views of the leadership of the U.S. military and the majority of the strongest critics of the Iraq war policy are indeed very much in line.

It is Petraeus, Bush, Cheney and their allies in the Congress who most substantially differ from all of the above.

My view of the matter, rejected by Democratic leaders and Republican leaders alike, from the beginning of this war until today, is that when we send our troops to war, we should never allow partisan or political considerations to be put above the lives of our troops and the honor and security of our nation.

History will judge harshly the current president and Congress, who from Sept. 11, 2001 until Sept. 11, 2007 have shared for their own reasons complicity in one of the greatest disasters in American military history, and have shared for their own reasons complicity in the international and domestic crimes of torture that violate cardinal rules of Americanism and international law that have been commonly accepted from the days of George Washington until the origin and execution of the Iraq war.

On one issue after another — there is no need to fully recapitulate them all here — things have been done in the name of God, country and the American troops that have in truth been opposed by a strong majority of American military leaders, and are so far out of the traditions of American values and American history that they have never, not once, been pursued by any American president or so submissively accepted by any American Congress on such a morally and militarily grotesque scale.

For Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the current crisis offers a golden moment for her to act as a true commander in chief would act, to lead as a great president would lead, and to make her voice and her actions those of the true leader of the Loyal Opposition and — this is the central point — the authentic voice of the majority of American military leaders, American troops in combat, American military families and American veterans.

She should speak loudly, forcefully, and clearly the central truth of the debate, which is this: The overwhelming majority of American military leaders favor dramatic changes in the current Iraq policy and they, not Gen. Petraeus, are the true voice for what is best for our security, our country and our troops.

She should offer a comprehensive policy for a new strategy in Iraq that would follow the advice of the majority of American generals, and advocate the proposal of Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) for troop reductions of approximately 5,000 before Christmas 2007, and additional troop reductions to leave 120,000 American troops in Iraq by April 2008, at which time the president and Congress would confer before a new congressional vote to determine the feasibility of further American withdrawals at that time.

Under this plan, Sen. Clinton would offer an amendment that would zero out all new money from Guantanamo effective June 1, 2008, and would require either in the defense bill, or as condition for confirmation of a new attorney general an independent investigation of the Abu Ghraib crimes and any potential cover-up of those crimes.

Under this plan, Sen. Clinton would state during the September debate that when the Senate considers the supplemental war money vote, probably in October, if there is a majority of the House in favor of this binding proposal, she will lead a filibuster in the Senate in which 41 senators will put a stop to this escalation then and forever, once and for all, and force the president to negotiate in good faith with the Congress — or there will be no further funding for this war.

Finally, under this plan, Sen. Clinton would become the authentic voice of American troops and American veterans and demand that the Congress call on every American to meet the $500 billion of unmet, unplanned, unbudgeted long-term medical, health, research, financial, psychological, disability and veterans’ centers needs financed either through a Soldier Bond or a tax increase because this is what we owe our troops and vets as a matter of national patriotism and honor.

The sound you hear would be the applause of military families throughout America and, yes, veterans joining progressives in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary and a march to the next presidential inaugural with an iron commitment that it is high time and long overdue that Americans be treated like Americans, that veterans be treated with the respect due veterans, and that America once again act the way America should act, and has acted, until the presidency of George W. Bush.

In this program, Sen. Clinton would lead the Congress and the nation to reverse the catastrophe of the Iraq war and launch the war that should have been launched long ago, to unite the nation in the single-minded drive to kill Osama Bin Laden instead of the simple-minded and disastrous drive to do everything but that in the pursuit of a war that most generals now realize must be wound down, to achieve the best outcome.

Enough discussion of the United States being virtually blackmailed by an obstinate, disastrous president and an obstructionist minority of Senate Republicans into the elimination of the United States Senate from its constitutional mission that has been shamefully and catastrophically allowed since Sept. 11, 2001, a tragic day so brazenly and dishonorably exploited to create fears though lies and drive the country to a war that should never have been fought, whose major beneficiary was the criminal who killed our brothers and sisters seven years ago in lower Manhattan and Northern Virginia.

Sen. Clinton has an extraordinary golden moment to be the voice for the true America, the voice of our national honor, the voice of the majority of American military leaders, the voice of saving the United States Army from further destruction, the voice American troops and veterans who should never be asked to die preventable deaths, suffer preventable wounds, or endure preventable humiliation or injustice from politicians who wave the flag while they treat heroes like second class citizens and use their pictures in partisan ads while they shortchange wounded troops and tolerate scandals for disabled vets.

In a new book David Addington, the Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney, is quoted as
saying: “We’re going to push and push and push until some larger forces make us stop”.

Senator Clinton should lead the Democrats, the Congress, the majority of Americans, the vast army of civilians and military leaders who hunger for a new day and new policy, and say to one and all: here it ends, now it stops, and in the coming weeks she will take the floor of the United States Senate and force a rendezvous with destiny.