Just days after it was revealed that she was briefed in 2002 on the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques by U.S. interrogators an raised no objections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is preparing to ask Congress to approve a dramatic increase in funding for the occupation of Iraq that has been sought by the Bush administration.
This $70 billion spike in spending for the president’s Iraq project that, despite the absurdly optimistic spin now being advanced by the administration and its media echo chamber, remains a disastrous failure that shows little promise of ever producing political stability or security in the Middle East nation that the U.S. invaded under false pretenses in 2003.
While Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, achieved their positions as part of a 2006 Democratic sweep that was powered by public fatigue with the continued occupation — and by a sense that Democrats would move to end the endeavor and to hold those responsible for it to account — this new spending plan is expected to advance with no strings attached.
What can only be described as a major “win” for the president comes as part of a behind-the-scenes agreement between Congressional Democratic leaders and the White House to enact a omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the coming year. Instead of provoking a showdown with the administration that might have forced the president to accept a timeline, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, have botched another negotiation.
As a result, another $70 billion is U.S. tax dollars will likely be directed into the quagmire that is Iraq — or, more precisely, into the accounts of profiteering contractors such as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and Blackwater. Because occupation funding moves through the pipeline slowly — tens of billions of dollars that have been authorized by Congress have yet to be spent on the president’s occupation project — this new allocation includes money that will maintain a massive U.S. troop presence in Iraq after Bush leaves the White House in January, 2009.
But Pelosi will not get the money for Bush without a fight from an increasingly restive anti-war bloc in the House.
Out of Iraq Caucus chair Maxine Waters, D-California, and the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Lynn Woolsey, D-California, and Barbara Lee, D-California, have written a letter urging Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders to change course and refuse the authorization of more funds for Iraq without a timeline for withdrawal.
“As leaders of the Progressive Caucus and Out of Iraq Caucus, we write to urge you not to include funding for the continued military occupation of Iraq in any Fiscal Year 2008 omnibus spending bill unless it requires these funds to be used solely for fully-funding the safe and timely redeployment of our troops and military contractors from Iraq within a specified timeline,” the letter begins. “Should legislation come to the House floor that does not strictly limit funding to protecting our troops and a timeline for commencing and completing their complete redeployment out of Iraq, we will not be able to support such a bill.”
Arguing that “the only way to end the violence against US forces and bring stability to Iraq and the region is to declare that forces will be redeployed from Iraq as soon and safely as is possible and that we have no designs to have an indefinite military presence there,” Waters, Woolsey and Lee say: “It is critical that we keep faith with the clear majority of Americans who voted us into the majority last year to end the disastrous U.S. military intervention in Iraq, use the momentum we have gained to end our occupation of Iraq and bring our troops and military contractors home, and strictly fence any additional appropriated funds accordingly.”
Congress will be hearing from the clear majority of Americans. The anti-war group with which Waters, Woolsey and Lee are closely associated, Progressive Democrats of America, is mounting a campaign to: “Flood both your senators and representatives with phone calls through the Capitol Hill switchboard (202-224-3121) with this message: ‘Vote NO to any funding for the occupation of Iraq that does not require the rapid withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors.'”
The vote on the bill, which could come as early as Tuesday, will provide another measure of the extent to which Pelosi has abandoned the constituency that put her in the Speaker’s position. It will, as well, indicate the extent to which Democrats in the House and Senate are willing to do what the House Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader are unwilling to do: Respond to the will of the people rather than the demands of the White House.