National Commentary

Helen Thomas: Congress Should Weigh In On The War

WASHINGTON — President Bush apparently could care less whether the House votes for a non-binding resolution opposing his escalation of U.S. troops in Iraq, now that the Senate has tied itself into knots because so many senators have chickened out on the No. 1 issue in America.

But the president does fear that Congress could theoretically take a stronger stand by cutting off funding for his strategy to augment U.S. forces. That is what Congress should do, if it wants to end the slaughter in Iraq.

But the lawmakers — always nervous about their political futures — seem to be buying Bush’s warning that a U.S. withdrawal from the war-torn country would have "disastrous consequences" for Iraq and the United States.

"We weighed every option," Bush told reporters. "I concluded that to step back from Baghdad would have disastrous consequences in America. And the reason why I say ‘disastrous consequences’ is, the Iraqi government could collapse and chaos could spread."

And so he continues the unprovoked war that he started and that has caused so much death and destruction and instability in the Middle East.

Meantime, a Gallup Poll released Monday showed that the public — by 63 percent to 35 percent — wants Congress to set a timetable for a pullout of all American troops from Iraq by the end of next year.

That’s much too late. We should have withdrawn our troops yesterday.

It’s actually in Bush’s own political interest to move on this issue soon because, if he continues to dawdle, the war would likely become THE issue in the 2008 election and boost the prospects of the Democratic presidential candidate, whoever he or she is.

During House debate on the non-binding resolution criticizing the troop escalation, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, reminded his colleagues that the "United States illegally attacked and invaded Iraq in a war based on lies. Now those same lies are being used to fund the war in the name of the troops."

The House Democrats — perhaps with help from some Republicans — are expected to prevail on the resolution which said that Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the armed forces who have "served bravely and honorably in Iraq" but that "Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10,2007 to deploy more than 20,000 additional combat troops in Iraq."

Some of the hawkish GOP leaders are playing a rear-guard action for Bush by trying to broaden the debate beyond the troop escalation to turn it into a discussion about terrorism.

The GOP leaders fear that the toothless resolution is merely a "first step," as some Democrats have said. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said "a vote of disapproval will set the stage for additional Iraq legislation, which will be coming to the House floor."

In the Senate, lawmakers seem to have lost their nerve after talking big and promising to take a stand against Bush’s so-called "surge" strategy, which he claims hasn’t been given a chance.

Actually, four years is surely enough.

Earlier, some senators who read the November election results had held out the prospect of leading us out of the Iraq quagmire. But they turned out to be easily intimidated.

Led by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, several Democratic senators signed on to an innocuous non-binding resolution which states simply that "the Senate disagrees with the ‘plan’ to augment our forces by 21,500 and urges the president instead to consider all options and alternatives for achieving the strategic goals" in the war.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the top Republican on the committee, agreed to co-sponsor the resolution after many amendments voicing support for American troops were added. But then Warner joined in supporting a procedure that blocked the full Senate from voting on the resolution, the same one that he had co-sponsored, showing that he can in fact have his cake and eat it, too.

Warner milked a brief shining moment of defiance of the Bush policy — but then he caved in and supported the White House. Now he is comfortably ensconced again as a party loyalist, a member of the conservative herd, supporting his commander in chief.

The current debate is the first time the nation’s lawmakers will have a say in the conduct of the war. Will they speak for the American people or for the stubborn administration that has lost touch with reality?


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