Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved a portion of the funds requested by President Bush to be used to aid military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the New York Times reports that this approval comes with several qualifications; with the addition of these qualifications, the Senate is expected to block the passage of any such measure.
As expected, one of the qualifications placed on the expenditure of funds is that troop withdrawal begins within thirty days, and all troops are withdrawn by December, 2008. In preparation for withdrawal, focus of the mission in Iraq would turn to counterterrorism and ensuring that Iraqi security forces are properly trained and prepared.
Aside from troop withdrawal, the House has also included as part of their approval measures intended to counter acts of torture. In order to end these practices, the bill would require “all American personnel, including C.I.A. operatives, to follow Army Field Manual rules on torture, among them a ban on waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning without causing death.”
After a two hour debate, the bill passed by a vote of 218-203, with only four Republicans voting for the approval of the bill. In a statement released by the Press Secretary, it is alleged that this party-line vote calls for an “arbitrary withdrawal” date and fails to take into account “the needs of our military and their mission.” It is indicated in this statement, that should the legislation get passed by Senate (which appears unlikely), the President would veto the bill. The Press Secretary argues that “Congress has had ample time to pass legislation to fund our troops” and “because Congressional Democrats insist in going through another round of political votes and vetoes, Pentagon planners will be forced to focus on accounting maneuvers instead of military maneuvers.” In reading this statement, it certainly seems that the issue in contention is the troop withdrawal rather than any requirements that would help ensure the cessation of torture practices or aid in the training of Iraqi security forces.
Having had only access to the various news articles presented on this topic, it would seem that the Press Secretary makes a valid point that the House, in adding qualifications to the approval of the requested funds, is knowingly delaying actual aid to the troops as it seems somewhat clear that these measures will not get past the President, and perhaps not even past the Senate. While the withdrawal of troops is a worthy goal, while the troops remain overseas it is necessary to ensure that they are properly supplied. As the well-being and safety of the troops appears to be riding on the provision of proper funding, it would seem that the ideal goal would be to ensure that the proper funds are available when needed, and push for troop withdrawal in a separate measure either concurrently or at a later time. Of course, as is the case with most ideal situations, this seems unlikely as I imagine that the approval of funds may be the only bargaining chip Democrats have to ensure that they can advance their goal of troop withdrawal. The issue then comes down to Democrats and Republicans reaching an agreement that will guarantee that both the goal of the required funding and the goal of eventual withdrawal of troops are met. It is hoped that such an agreement can be reached quickly and efficiently so that no military personnel suffer due to a lack of funds.