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William Rivers Pitt: A Veto Inked in Blood

A Veto Inked in Blood

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist

Wednesday 02 May 2007

There are some similarities, of course. Death is terrible.
- George W. Bush on comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, April 19, 2007

Four years after a humiliating strut across the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, four years after declaring major combat operations in Iraq ended and the mission accomplished, four years and more than three thousand dead American soldiers later, four long years to the day, George W. Bush delivered a veto that only ensures more wretched and bloody carnage.

"Bush used his veto pen for only the second time Tuesday," reported NBC News, "after Congress sent him a war spending bill that would impose timelines to withdraw US troops from Iraq, which he called a 'prescription for chaos.' The bill is unacceptable because it 'substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgments of our military commanders,' the president said in a nationally televised address to explain why he was vetoing a bill that would also provide more than $100 billion in emergency spending for the war."

Take a moment to absorb the twin-bill nonsense within that explanation.

The now-vetoed, multi-billion-dollar Iraq spending bill, which contained withdrawal timelines demanded by Congressional Democrats, "substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgments of our military commanders," according to Bush. Many of us must have missed the memo explaining how Bush, Cheney, and the rest of this administration aren't politicians anymore. We also missed the memo explaining how it was the "judgments of our military commanders" that sunk us into this mess to begin with.

Speaking of military judgments, here are two worth considering; both came after Bush deployed the veto pen on Tuesday.

Major General John Batiste, USA, Ret.: "The President vetoed our troops and the American people. His stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq is incomprehensible. He committed our great military to a failed strategy in violation of basic principles of war. His failure to mobilize the nation to defeat worldwide Islamic extremism is tragic. We deserve more from our commander-in-chief and his administration."

Major General Paul Eaton, USA, Ret: "This administration and the previously Republican-controlled legislature have been the most caustic agents against America's Armed Forces in memory. Less than a year ago, the Republicans imposed great hardship on the Army and Marine Corps by their failure to pass a necessary funding language. This time, the president of the United States is holding our soldiers hostage to his ego. More than ever apparent, only the Army and the Marine Corps are at war - alone, without their president's support."

When a Major General of the United States Army publicly declares that "the president of the United States is holding our soldiers hostage to his ego," matters have gone badly awry.

Speaking of badly awry, we also have this from Bush in explanation of his veto: "This is a prescription for chaos and confusion," he said, "and we must not impose it on our troops." More than one hundred US troops were killed in April; 3,352 have been killed since the war began; more than 20,000 troops have been wounded; untold tens of thousands of Iraqis have been slaughtered and maimed; hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted and stolen; there is no functioning Iraqi government whatsoever; and Iraqi neighborhoods are ruled and ravaged by sectarian gangs waging a horrific civil war.

But that's not chaos and confusion. Not at all.

The response from Congressional Democrats was swift and damning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) spoke of the vetoed bill by saying: "We had hoped the president would have treated it with the respect that bipartisan legislation supported overwhelmingly by the American people deserved. Instead, the president vetoed the bill outright and, frankly, misrepresented what this legislation does. This bill supports the troops. In fact, it gives the president more than he asked for our troops; they deserve it. They have done their duties excellently; they have done everything that has been asked of them, all of this without, in some cases, the training, the equipment and a plan for success for them."

"The president wants a blank check," continued Pelosi. "The Congress is not going to give it to him. The president said, in his comments, that he did not believe in timelines, and he spoke out very forcefully against them. Yet, in 1999, on June 5, then-Governor Bush said about President Clinton, 'I think it's also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.' Despite his past statements, President Bush refuses to apply the same standards to his own activities. Standards: That's the issue. If the president thinks that what is happening on the ground in Iraq now is progress, as he said in his comments tonight, it is clear to see why we have a disagreement on policy with him."

Representative Barbara Lee (D-California) echoed Speaker Pelosi's sentiments by saying: "Rather than change course, the administration offers only increasingly desperate rhetoric about victory and surrender. The fact is that you cannot 'win' an occupation, just as there is no way for the United States to 'win' an Iraqi civil war. The American people get this. They recognize that this failed policy is making our nation and the world less safe, even if the Bush administration refuses to [admit it]. The American people are standing squarely behind us in our efforts to end the occupation of Iraq and to bring our troops home, and history will record the president's veto of those efforts with the same ridicule as it has his 'mission accomplished' remarks four years ago."

So that's that, for now. An attempt to override this veto may be in the offing, but will be extremely difficult to achieve. Another supplemental Iraq bill will be cobbled together, with contents as yet unknown.

And more will die tomorrow in Iraq - our soldiers and their civilians alike - tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow again, with no end in sight, because that end was vetoed by Bush on Tuesday afternoon. So it goes.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

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