If Murdoc had his way, once the emergency spending bill was sent on to the White House, President Bush would give a speech explaining why he was going to veto it. And it would go something like this:
My fellow Americans,
I hope you won’t mind if I ask for a few minutes of your evening to discuss with you a matter of national importance.
Earlier this week, the emergency spending bill was sent up from Congress for my approval. After carefully reviewing the bill, discussing it with senior military and administration leaders, and exploring alternatives, I am officially announcing that I will veto this bill tomorrow morning.
Now, I have only vetoed a single bill that has made it to my desk since I took office in 2001. And I don’t veto this one lightly. Congressional Representatives and Senators are elected to their offices by the people of the United States, and the people of the United States are the ones who ultimately run the American government.
But this bill, originally written to fund the efforts of our military overseas and at home in the War on Terror, includes a requirement for a deadline to withdraw American forces from Iraq. And that requirement is simply unacceptable.
Withdrawal from Iraq before that nation is fully prepared to provide for its own security and stability, particularly a requirement to withdraw by an artificial deadline sometime next year, would be devastating for our troops, for our military, and for our nation.
Many commentators and pundits are fond of comparing the situation in Iraq to the war in Vietnam. While some of these comparisons are valid, many of them simply do not hold water. But if playing Vietnam games is what gets everyone’s attention, I’ve got a Vietnam analogy for you: In the decade following our withdrawal from Vietnam in the early 1970s, over ONE MILLION civilians were killed by Communist forces in the region. Some of these killings were retaliation for choosing to stand with America during the war. Some of these killings were politically motivated. But many of the murders were committed simply because killing is how the enemy we fought in Vietnam interacts with the rest of the world; death and destruction are the language they use to communicate with those who do not convert to their cause.
THAT is what will happen in Iraq if we allow the extremists and the terrorists free reign. Perhaps a million dead, or more, because America decided that it was just taking too long.
But, as shameful as that would be, I’m not going to veto the bill because it would sentence many freedom-loving Iraqis to torture and death. I’m not going to veto the bill because a shattered Iraq would unbalance the Middle East even further and risk the interests of our nation and of our allies. I’m not even going to veto the bill because an extremist-controlled Iraq would be a serious blow to the cause of freedom and liberty that is struggling to take root in many former subjugated areas of the world.
I am going to veto the bill because early withdrawal from Iraq would be a major defeat for our military. It would signal to the world that we have been beaten and would give hope to other potential enemies who would defeat us as well if given the opportunity.
I am going to veto the bill because early withdrawal from Iraq would be an insult to the men and women of the armed forces who have worked so hard, made so many great sacrifices, to help establish democracy in a land that has long been ruled by tyrants and despots.
I am going to veto the bill because America cannot afford to give up on a cause that has come so far. Make no mistake. There is still a very long ways to go. And, sometimes, it seems like we’re not moving forward. But while freedom can be granted in a day, it takes years, generations perhaps, for freedom to really get a hold on a people and for people to really get a hold on freedom. To quit now, simply because we haven’t finished a decade-long job in four years, would signal that we don’t have the heart and determination to see our cause through.
America is a great nation. It was born in a war that followed the Declaration of Independence, and it took another great war to extend that Declaration to all Americans. Even today, more than 230 years later, we struggle to meet the standards laid down in 1776. So, while we all wish that things in Iraq were progressing more quickly, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s only been four years since the regime of Saddam Hussein was exchanged for a rule of the Iraqi people.
Our nation is a nation of compromises. Politics and everyday life are filled with an endless series of compromises. Rarely does everyone get everything that they want, but we accept these compromises as necessary to keep moving forward toward the greater good.
One thing I will not compromise, however, is our military in a time of war. There is no middle ground between victory and total defeat. Many Americans will debate what “victory” really means, but there’s no debating that withdrawing from the fight is admitting defeat.
Congress knows that their bill cannot overcome my veto, and they knew all along that I would veto it if it included a deadline for withdrawal. I told Congress many times that I would veto the bill if they did not remove that language. But they passed it anyway, knowing full well that it would never be signed into law and that they would never overcome the veto that I promised I would make.
In short, they want to put their names on the record. They want to make it known what they stand for, and that is their prerogative. Why they want to make sure everyone knows that they support the defeat of the US military, even as they carry on about how much they ‘support the troops’, I cannot say. A few weeks after bickering over and nearly* passing a non-binding resolution that could have no legal effect, they bickered over and finally passed a piece of legislation that they know will never take effect. It doesn’t make sense to me.
The biggest talk in last fall’s campaign was about the ‘culture of corruption’ in the Republican Congress. Now, I’ve got a surprise for you: Sometimes politicians are corrupt. Sometimes politicians make too many compromises because they can personally benefit from the deal. Sometimes they argue for legislation because their state or their district will reap the rewards at the expense of the rest of the nation. Sometimes the politicians themselves are simply liars, cheats, or thieves. This is shameful, and the country suffers every single time crooked politicians, no matter their party, rip off America. So running on a promise to end such practices sounds good and makes sense.
The problem, though, is that it appears that many in the Democratic Party seem to have had a change of heart about corruption now that the perks and benefits are coming their way for a change. In both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the expectation was that the withdrawal deadline language would need to be removed from the Emergency War Funding bill before it could pass.
But in the weeks before the votes, the tide changed and both houses passed the bill with the withdrawal deadline present. How did this change come about? It’s hard to say, of course, since compromises, back-room deal-making, and party politics all weigh heavily on every issue. But let’s take a quick look at a few of the items included in this Emergency War Funding bill, this legislation to keep our troops equipped and supplied in their fight against the extremists and terrorists who would destroy Iraq and attack America if the opportunity presented itself. It’s coming to my desk with about $20 billion dollars’ more spending than I asked for after conferring with our military leadership. That’s twenty billion. Billion with a ‘B’.
Here is just a sample of some of the items that extra $20 billion is paying for:
$100 million, $50 million each, for the two political parties to hold their conventions.
$13 million for a “ewe replacement and retention program”. That’s “ewe”, as in sheep.
$24 million for sugar beet growers.
$95 million for dairy farmers.
I should point out that these millions for sheep, sugar beets, and dairy programs are not for Iraqi farmers to help that war-torn nation recover from decades of neglect. They are for American farmers.
$3.5 million for the Capitol’s guided–tour program. Now, the tour is great, but how does that help our troops win the war?
$20 million for, in part, insect infestation control in Nevada. I would think $20 million would come in handy for terrorist infestation control in Baghdad, myself.
Christmas trees will benefit from the money designated for the Tree Assistance Program. Now, I haven’t actually looked, but I don’t think they grow many Christmas trees in Iraq.
There’s a lot more pork in there. There must be if the total comes up to $20 billion. And not all of it is bad policy. But to use these items to buy votes in support of a military defeat shows a gross disregard for the good of the American people and a betrayal of our military. It’s bad enough to sell votes for pork-barrel spending. It is much worse when the vote you’re selling will sell out the American troops and their mission.
Maybe some hope their little programs fall through the cracks, unnoticed during the heated debate over the deadline. If so, if that is what they’re trying to do, it is even more shameful because it means they’re playing games with the war in order to create a smokescreen for their pet projects.
This, from the party that promised to “end the culture of corruption.”
In order to keep things a little more simple, I’ll spell it out clearly to avoid that heated debate. I will veto every single bill that comes to my desk that includes a deadline to withdraw our troops from Iraq. When Congress sends me a rational bill with rational budget authorizations and without a withdrawal deadline, I will sign. Not before.
I will veto the bill at about 9:00 AM. By lunchtime, I expect that the media will be filled with reports of how the President is denying our troops the funding they need because he vetoed the spending bill. Just remember that the spending bill I vetoed would require our defeat on the battlefield and ask yourselves who is really denying our troops what they need.
As a soldier in Iraq said after hearing about the withdrawal deadline: “How can they complain about the Iraqi government not stepping up, when the Congress is all but falling down?”
Do not forget our troops and the great things they’re doing. Do not let your representatives undermine all that those troops have accomplished. Do not allow your Congress to legislate the defeat of America. Do not let them fall down.