President Bush demanded a clean funding bill from Congress for the Iraq mission, and warned that he would veto anything that had timetables for withdrawal. If Congress doesn't pass the supplemental appropriation by Christmas, he warned that the Pentagon would have no choice but to shut down other operations to shift funds -- and that layoffs in the holiday season would take place:
President Bush warned Congress yesterday that the Pentagon will soon have to start laying off civilian employees and reducing operations at U.S. military bases unless lawmakers send him an emergency war funding bill that does not mandate troop withdrawals from Iraq.
Escalating a dispute with Democratic lawmakers over his request for $196 billion in supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush complained that a delay in providing the money is jeopardizing important military efforts.
"The missions of this department are essential to saving Americans' lives, and they are too important to be disrupted or delayed or put at risk," Bush said at the Pentagon after he received more than two hours of briefings. "Pentagon officials have warned Congress that the continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of this department."
Congressional Democrats blame Bush for the delay because he refuses to accept a $50 billion funding bill that includes a requirement to begin pulling combat troops out of Iraq and changing the U.S. military mission there. The House passed the bill earlier this month, but Republicans blocked it in the Senate.
We've seen this play before, and the Democrats lost it when they had a lot more reason to win than they do now. In May, they played chicken with the White House over the inclusion of troop-withdrawal language, and the Pentagon made the same threat then. When it became very clear that Bush would veto the bill even with substantial Republican dissatisfaction over the war, the Democrats decided that they could not withstand defunding troops in a battle zone.
Seven months later, much has changed, and all of it bad for the Democrats. The surge strategy succeeded in dramatically reducing sectarian violence. It chased al-Qaeda's terrorists to the margins of Iraq, where the bolstered American forces -- working with ever-increasing Iraqi Army units -- continue to aggressively pursue their remnants. It has even sparked a ground-up reconciliation movement by focusing on tribal alliances rather than top-down efforts by the central government, which has begun doing the same thing.
Even the war's biggest Congressional critic, John Murtha, has finally acknowledged reality and admitted that the surge strategy worked.
One might think that the Democrats would take a hint and abandon their old, failed strategies. President Bush tweaked them further by noting that the Iraqi National Assembly has already managed to pass a budget, showing more reconciliation than the American Congress. The House and Senate leadership that insisted on premature declarations of defeat will simply not have the credibility they had as late as last May, when they failed to infringe on the executive. They're not going to succeed now when their defeatism has been revealed to even John Murtha, who also acknowledged that the timeline offered by the House was unrealistic -- unless America abandons its heavy equipment and bugs out like the Democrats apparently desire.