The occupation in Iraq will begin to end on the day that Democrats — and responsible Republicans — in Congress decide to stop meeting the demands of the Bush-Cheney administration for more money to fund their imperial endeavor along with the massive war-profiteering by administration-linked firms such as Halliburton and Blackwater.

This is a simple reality. But it remains one that most members of Congress, including many Democrats who should know better, fail to recognize.

The essential document in the current Iraq debate is a letter of commitment, now endorsed by 89 members of the House, that says the signers “will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during FY08 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq before the end of President Bush’s term in office.”

In an important new letter to President Bush, the 89 representatives — 88 Democrats and Texas Republican Ron Paul — say, “More than 3,800 of our brave soldiers have died in Iraq. More than 28,000 have been seriously wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or injured in the hostilities and more than 4 million have been displaced from their homes. Furthermore, this conflict has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and U.S. taxpayers have paid more than $500 billion, despite assurances that you and your key advisors gave our nation at the time you ordered the invasion in March, 2003 that this military intervention would cost far less and be paid from Iraqi oil revenues.

“We agree with a clear and growing majority of the American people who are opposed to continued, open-ended U.S. military operations in Iraq, and believe it is unwise and unacceptable for you to continue to unilaterally impose these staggering costs and the soaring debt on Americans currently and for generations to come.”

At a time when the president is requesting an additional $50 billion to maintain his escalation of U.S. military operations in Iraq through next April, on top of the $145 billion he requested to continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the 2008 fiscal year, the letter says what all of Congress should be saying: No.

What is now the most important anti-war initiative in the Congress began in July when the following House members signed on: Rep. Lynn Woolsey (CA); Rep. Barbara Lee (CA); Rep. Maxine Waters (CA); Rep. Ellen Tauscher (CA); Rep. Rush Holt (NJ); Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY); Rep. Diane Watson (CA); Rep. Ed Pastor (AZ); Rep. Barney Frank (MA); Rep. Danny Davis (IL); Rep. John Conyers (MI); Rep. John Hall (NY); Rep. Bob Filner (CA); Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY); Rep. Bobby Rush (IL); Rep. Charles Rangel (NY); Rep. Ed Towns (NY); Rep. Paul Hodes (NH); Rep. William Lacy Clay (MO); Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR); Rep. Albert Wynn (MD); Rep. Bill Delahunt (MA); Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Rep. G. K. Butterfield (NC); Rep. Hilda Solis (CA); Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY); Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY); Rep. Michael Honda (CA); Rep. Steve Cohen (TN); Rep. Phil Hare (IL); Rep. Grace Flores Napolitano (CA); Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL); Rep. James McGovern (MA); Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL); Rep. Julia Carson (IN); Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA); Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ); Rep. John Olver (MA); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Rep. Jim McDermott (WA); Rep. Ed Markey (MA); Rep. Chaka Fattah (PA); Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ); Rep. Rubin Hinojosa (TX); Rep. Pete Stark (CA); Rep. Bobby Scott (VA); Rep. Jim Moran (VA); Rep. Betty McCollum (MN); Rep. Jim Oberstar (MN); Rep. Diana DeGette (CO); Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA); Rep. Artur Davis (AL); Rep. Hank Johnson (GA); Rep. Donald Payne (NJ); Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO); Rep. John Lewis (GA); Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY); Rep. Neil Abercrombie (HI); Rep. Gwen Moore (WI); Rep. Keith Ellison (MN); Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI); Rep. Donna Christensen (USVI); Rep. David Scott (GA); Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL); Lois Capps (CA); Steve Rothman (NJ); Elijah Cummings (MD); and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Since Congress returned from its summer break, the following members have joined this burgeoning effort to end the occupation: Rep. Chris Murphy (CT); Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL); Rep. Corrine Brown (FL); Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS); Rep. Mel Watt (NC); Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY); Rep. David Loebsack (IA); Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY); Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH); Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR); Rep. Sam Farr (CA); Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA); Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA); Rep. John Tierney (D-CA); Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX); Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH); Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA); and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and other key Democratic leaders have so far refused to commit to the only meaningful challenge to the Bush administration’s war-without-end demands.

What Pelosi, who admitted over the weekend that the Congress has not done enough to challenge the administration’s Iraq policies, needs to understand is that the time has come to stop the senseless killing and maiming of young Americans in a distant civil war. The time has come to end what is by any honest measure a colonial occupation and to allow Iraqis to decide their own destiny. The time has come to restore a measure of balance and decency to American foreign policy.

Perhaps most importantly, the time has come to ask whether those who fail to recognize the necessity of standing up to this administration — unequivocally, consistently and without political calculation — understand that their duty is to serve their constituents, their country and its Constitution — as opposed to the mad whims of George Bush and Dick Cheney.