Can the Democrats
live up to one of the
key promises which
swept them into
The American Spark
House Democrats Advance Iraq War Plan
By Cliff Montgomery - Mar. 8th, 2007
In a direct assault on President Bush's "fruitless nation-building" in Iraq, House Democrats are advancing
legislation which would require the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the fall of 2008.
Democratic officials who spoke to the Associated Press (AP) about the measure said the timetable would be
accelerated to the end of 2007 if the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki does not meet set goals for
providing Iraq's security.
The conditions, described to AP as tentative until presented to the Democratic rank and file Thursday, would be
added to Bush Administration legislation calling for nearly $100 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The officials who described the timetable to AP did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized
to speak on the tentative measure until it had been presented to all Democratic lawmakers.
Underscoring the lack of consensus among Democrats, several opponents of the war issued a statement late
Wednesday saying they "have had a constructive dialogue with members of our party's leadership. [...] However,
at this time, we have not reached any final agreement."
Still, the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced plans for a Thursday news conference to
unveil the measure, but provided no details. The office said Pelosi would be joined by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA)
and other key lawmakers.
Murtha is chairman of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Pentagon's budget, and is one of the
most outspoken congressional opponents of the Iraq war.
Pelosi and party leadership have struggled in recent days to come up with an approach on Iraq which would
satisfy liberals reluctant to vote for continued funding without driving away arch-conservative "Democrats"
unwilling to be seen as anything but Republicans in cheaper suits.
The decision to impose conditions on the war is a popular one with the American public, and practically begs for
a major confrontation with the Bush Administration and its neo-conservative allies in Congress.
But with its usual weakness of a non-unified party, the Democrats seem equally ready to somehow snatch defeat
from the jaws of victory, creating the possibility of a highly embarrassing defeat on a highly popular measure. The
spending legislation will probably reach a vote later this month.
Concessions have been made here and there, to make the overall measure more politically attractive.
Democrats have agreed to add money to Bush's call for military operations in Afghanistan; a dollar amount
exceeding Bush's request for veterans' health care and medical programs for active duty troops at facilities such
as the scandal-scarred Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington; and increased funds for a health care
program for low-income children. The last program is popular among governors of both political parties, though
the Bush Administration has not signaled an agreement to the additional money.
Democrats familiar with the emerging House legislation told AP that the bill would require Bush to certify whether
the U.S.-backed Iraqi government was making progress toward stability, allocation of oil revenues and a fair
system for amending its new constitution.
They added that if Bush certified the Iraqis were meeting these benchmarks, U.S. combat troops may remain
until September of next year. Otherwise, the occupation deadline would move up to the end of 2007.
The legislation further calls for the Defense Department to adhere to its existing standards for equipping and
training American troops sent overseas, and for providing time at home between combat tours.
Yet in a clear weakening, it also allows Bush to issue waivers of these standards, making the legislation a mere
non-binding resolution. Democrats concede the final effect will be to permit the Bush Administration to proceed
with plans to deploy five more combat brigades to the Baghdad area over the next few months.
This last measure emerged from days of private talks among Democrats after the collapse of Murtha's original
proposal, which wisely would have required the Pentagon to meet readiness and training standards without the
possibility of any presidential waiver.
Several arch-conservative "Democrats" spoke out against Murtha's plan, however. And again employing their
already tired rhetoric, Republicans sharply attacked the reasonable legislation as an 'abandonment of troops
already in the war zone'.
We're sorry, but the Bush Administration and you neo-conservatives abandoned our troops the moment you
began lying to them to get them--and keep them--into a country they never had to invade, then abandoned them
again at veterans' hospitals so shoddy that they sicken any true American.
Yes Republicans, we're all terribly impressed with your uncanny ability to project your sins onto your opponent.
But there's too much at stake for such childish tricks to work this time around.