Local Commentary

Jim Moran

Chalk another one up for the President and his record of misinformation regarding the Iraq War.  Last month in a nationally televised speech, President Bush made a last ditch appeal to the American public for sending more troops to Iraq in an attempt to save his flawed policy.  The escalation plan, also known as the “surge,” was described as a deployment of 21,500 more soldiers into the growing Iraqi civil war.

Flying in the face of increasing public opposition to the war and a public that cast what amounted to a vote of disapproval of the President’s handling of the war last November, the President’s pitch did not go over well.  Sixty percent do not support sending more troops to Iraq.  It has now been confirmed that the public’s skepticism is warranted.

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report released last week sheds light on the true consequences of the President’s escalation proposal.  Not only is the President trying to put 21,500 more troops on the battlefield, but the escalation would require that an additional 48,000 soldiers be sent to Iraq to handle logistics for the surge.  That’s over three times the number of troops the President told the American public he would send, bringing the total to nearly 70,000!

President Bush has also misled the public with regards to the cost of the escalation.  The CBO found his original figure of $5.6 billion was $20 billion short of the actual amount of funding needed to implement the surge.  That would bring the total spent on Iraq since 2003 to over $400 billion.  And that is not even counting the President’s emergency supplemental request for Iraq and Afghanistan, thought to be in the ballpark of $120-$160 billion.

The Bush Administration has never been interested in leveling with the American people about the true cost of the war.  For the past four years, the President’s annual budget never once included a dime spent on Iraq.  This year, for the first time ever, the President included Iraq spending in his budget.  But in doing so, he left out the cost of the escalation.  This omission can be interpreted as either acknowledging the surge will be short-lived or – more likely – it is just another example of the Bush Administration trying to conceal the effects of their disastrous Iraq policy.

Next week, the House is scheduled to hold a floor debate on Iraq and the President’s escalation plan.  The point is to send a clear message to President Bush that we do not approve of his handling of the war and that his escalation policy is deeply flawed.  Congress, for the first time since the war began, will be on record disapproving the President’s handling of the war.  While a symbolic vote, it marks the beginning of the end for U.S. military involvement in Iraq.