By Nick Winnie
The bitter debate between White House and Congress members on the prospect of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has solidified in the form of the War Spending Bill, which is likely to pass through Congress, but is estimated to face an immediate presidential veto.
President Bush requested Congressional legislation to fund the continuing war effort over eight weeks ago.
Last Monday, leaders from the Democratic majority in Congress agreed on the terms of the bill, which included $124 billion in military funding along with the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by March 1, 2008.
The next day, President Bush reiterated that he would veto any bill that included timetables for withdrawal, sharply criticizing Congress for contradicting U.S. military judgment and jeopardizing the United States’ readiness and safety.
Bush’s veto of this bill and the continued delay of funding to U.S. forces in Iraq could present a political quagmire to both parties in Washington, as well as a variety of problems for the military.
Jeremy Naves, treasurer of the UC Santa Cruz College Republicans, sees both sides of the argument but feels some sort of compromise is necessary.
“The delay in funding could put a halt to future operations and present logistical issues to the military,” said Naves, a former Marine who served three tours of duty in Iraq.
“But we do need a timetable for withdrawal. We can’t just give the president a blank check for an indeterminable amount of time.” Nave’s multifaceted view of the war reflects the complexity of the ongoing conflict and many of the concerns of both Democrats and Republicans. He emphasized that while a time constraint is necessary to avoid an unending commitment in Iraq, the U.S. also has an obligation to remain in the region for a period of time to protect Iraqis against the dangers of what he called the “political vacuum” that would follow immediate U.S. withdrawal.
As the fight over the terms of war spending and timetables continues to rage in Washington, it has become increasingly clear that Bush is continuing to lose public support. Bush’s comments clashed with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s recent statement that a timetable was necessary.
UCSC Politics Chair Dan Wirls said, “If he vetoes, Congress can’t override it, but he is in a weak position as far as public opinion [goes].”
A recent nationwide poll conducted by CBS News found that only 29 percent of respondents agreed with Bush’s stance that Congress should allow all funding for the war without timetables, with a clear majority of 58 percent in favor of timetables. Nine percent went even further, favoring a block on new military funding.
Janine Carmona, a member of Students Against War at UCSC, counts herself among that nine percent.
“Troops need to be withdrawn immediately in order to save more lives,” Carmona said, stating her view that the U.S. military, not sectarian militias, is perpetrating the bulk of violence in Iraq and that the U.S. needs to step back and allow Iraqis take control of the war-torn country.
When President Bush echoed on Tuesday that he would veto the bill Congressional Democrats propose, the political climate in Washington grew even more complex.
“No one wants a pure standoff,” Wirls said. “Some kind of compromise is likely.” What remains to be seen is the nature of this compromise and the inevitable concessions that both the administration and the Congressional majority will be forced to make.