George Bush, the most ideologically-driven and politically calculating president in American history, wants Americans to believe that he has suddenly discovered a moral high ground from which to make grand declarations about who he must maintain the occupation of Iraq.
After vetoing legislation Tuesday that gave him the money to continue his war but required that he accept loose limits of its ultimate duration, the president told the nation, “I recognize that many Democrats saw this bill as an opportunity to make a political statement about their opposition to the war. They sent their message, and now it is time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds they need.”
Bush has made his position clear: Democrats, many of whom rightly argued four years ago that going to war in Iraq would be the huge mistake it has turned out to be, and who have since been far ahead of the White House in identifying the nature of the crisis that has since developed, are now to be dismissed as the players of political games when they advocate for a strategy that would begin bringing US troops home from the conflict on a schedule beginning October 1.
That’s a remarkable line of analysis from a president whose inability to recognize the flaws in his own neo-conservative vision has rendered his wrong at every turn, and whose determination to play politics with life-and-death decisions has defined not just his approach to the Iraq war but his tenure as president.
Yet Bush is not giving up on his faith that he can frame the argument about Iraq as a fight between Congressional Democrats who are out to score political points and a presidential administration that is motivated merely by a desire to respond appropriately to practical realities on the ground in Iraq.
“Twelve weeks ago, I asked the Congress to pass an emergency war spending bill that would provide our brave men and women in uniform with the funds and flexibility they need,” said Bush in framing his veto message. “Instead, members of the House and the Senate passed a bill that substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders.”
The problem with Bush’s “I’m-so-above-politics” line is that he has been disregarding advice from military commanders since before the war began.
Consider the response to his veto from top military men who commanded troops in Iraq.
“The President vetoed our troops and the American people,” says retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste. “His stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq is incomprehensible. He committed our great military to a failed strategy in violation of basic principles of war. His failure to mobilize the nation to defeat world wide Islamic extremism is tragic. We deserve more from our commander-in-chief and his administration.”