Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Funding Cuts Could End Iraq Occupation

Jason Leopold, Senior Editor and Reporter for Truthout, sends me most of his articles for republishing on my own blog. This particular article, along with others he has written about funding of the Iraq Invasion and Occupation and other subjects such as the outing of former CIA Agent Valerie Plame-Wilson's identity, and his series of video interviews of former U.S. Attorneys in the Attorneygate Scandal, as with all of Jason's articles, is in my opinion very good and worth a close read.

[Cross-posted at Edgeing]

Funding Cuts Could End Iraq Occupation
By Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report, Monday 17 September 2007

Next week, Congress is expected to take up a $50 billion emergency supplemental bill to continue funding the so-called "surge" in Iraq and military operations in Afghanistan.

The bill, which is expected to soar through both Houses, would bring the cost of both wars to more than $600 billion. It would also mark at least the sixth time President Bush and the Pentagon have called on Congress to finance the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan through its emergency supplemental request. Emergency supplemental requests allow the Pentagon to use accounting sleight-of-hand to spend money on military operations that normally require Congressional oversight, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Since 2001, the Pentagon has grossly mismanaged the $510 billion spent thus far in Iraq and Afghanistan, has used money earmarked for equipment upgrades to finance fighting on the battlefield, and has refused to provide Congress with a transparent accounting of the money it has spent and intends to spend, according to a report issued in March by the CRS, the investigative arm of Congress.

Democrats in Congress are expected to introduce several competing pieces of legislation this week - they say - aimed at changing the direction of the occupation and at reducing the number of ground troops, bills Bush has already indicated he would swiftly veto if any of them crosses his desk.

In a separate CRS report also released earlier this year, the agency recommended Democrats use "the power of the purse," a politically unpopular route that would no doubt lead to a constitutional showdown with the White House, if they are serious about bringing an end to the occupation or forcing a change in military strategy.

Two months after Democrats defeated Republicans to sweep both Houses of Congress last November, due in large part to a public outcry over the direction of the US occupation of Iraq, the investigative arm of Congress highlighted instances in which Congress has used "funding cutoffs or significant restrictions," most notably during Vietnam, to either end a war or force a president to make significant changes to military operations.

"In cases of significant differences with the President over foreign policy, especially deployments of U.S. military forces abroad, Congress has generally found that use of its Constitutionally-based "power of the purse" to be the most effective way to compel a President to take actions regarding use of U.S. military force overseas that he otherwise might not agree to," says the January 2007 CRS report, "Congressional Use of Funding Cutoffs Since 970 Involving U.S. Military Forces and Overseas Deployments."

Earlier this year, Democrats hammered out legislation tied to a $94 billion emergency-spending bill for Iraq that placed specific benchmarks on withdrawing and redeploying troops. Bush vetoed the legislation. In July, Democrats surrendered to White House demands and criticism by Republicans who mocked Democrats for their "cut-and-run" strategy and issued the administration another blank check to fund the occupation without any restrictions resulting in a widespread backlash against Democrats.

The March CRS report, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," said during previous wars Congress used the "power of the purse" to rein in the administration's out-of-control spending on military operations. The report said such lawmakers could implement such legislative maneuvers to change the dialogue surrounding the occupation of Iraq.

"Two well-known proposals - the McGovern-Hatfield amendment and the Cooper-Church amendments - were also part of this jockeying between the administration and Congress. The first prohibited expenditure of previously appropriated funds after a specified date "in or over Indochina," except for the purpose of withdrawing troops or for protection of US troops during the withdrawal, while the second prohibited the expenditure of any funds after July 1, 1970 to retain troops in Cambodia "unless specifically authorized by law hereafter. Overall, funding restrictions have generally proven more effective than the War Powers Act, which has been challenged by the executive branch on constitutional grounds," the report says.

Last week, following two days of testimony by General David Petraeus, the Pentagon's top commander on the ground in Baghdad, who claimed progress is being made in the region due in large part to the so-called "surge" in ground troops, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed a change in strategy.

"It seems to me that Gen. Petraeus is presenting a plan for at least a 10-year, high-level U.S. presence in Iraq," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) during a news conference Monday following a meeting with President Bush. "No matter how successful our troops are, still the Iraqi government refuses to make the political changes necessary. This sounds to me, at least, like a 10-year open-ended presence in Iraq. The president added 30,000 troops, and now he's saying a year and a half later, nearly two years later, we'll be back to where we started. Please, that is an insult to the people."

"This war in Iraq is not the Petraeus war. It is the Bush war," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who also attended the meeting with Bush. "What we find with what has been stated in recent days is that the surge is not going to last for 30 days, but now the testimony indicates that this surge is going to last for 18, 19 months, ending sometime next August. There is no change in mission - this is more of the same. In two weeks, we're going to get a request for another $200 billion for the war in Iraq - $200 billion," Reid said. "Is there anything logical about this picture, anybody? The answer is no."

But whether Democrats adhere to their own rhetoric will be determined in large part on how they vote in the weeks ahead on the emergency-spending bill to fund the occupation of Iraq.

So far, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) has emerged as the only Democrat willing to go on the record to say he may vote against further funding the occupation. But he would not lobby his colleagues to follow his lead.

In a speech to the Center for National Policy a couple of weeks ago, Durbin said Congress now faces a "moral obligation" to stop funding the occupation.

"This Congress can't give President Bush another blank check for his war in Iraq," Durbin said. "The Constitution gives Congress a means to force the President to change course: the power of the purse. For the sake of our long-term national security interests, Congress needs to use that authority now."

Jason Leopold is senior editor and reporter for Truthout. He received a Project Censored award in 2007 for his story on Halliburton's work in Iran.

For more detail on funding/defunding the Iraq Occupation also see:

A Message For Congressional Democrats

The Washington Consensus Of Iraq Reality Is Delusion

Defunding Iraq: Misperceptions, Disinformation And Lies

Iraq Occupation Funding - Bush And Pentagon Cooking The Books?

War And Occupation Funding: More Cooking The Books By Bush And Pentagon?