By Patricia Wilson-Smith
On Thursday, the House and Senate passed a measure to continue to fund the war in Iraq through September of this year. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both making news for voting against the 95 billion dollars in war funding. No surprise there. What I do find surprising in all this however, is the Right’s insistence that a vote against continuing to fund this misguided war is a vote against the continued support of the troops. As if casting a ‘no’ vote for the measure is akin to voting to rescind food rations for the many brave men and women who are serving in Iraq. That irks me, and strains credulity.
Speculation abounds over the damage that voting against the measure could do to both Hillary and Barack if they happen to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination. Many are of the opinion that their votes against the bill make them look soft on terrorism. Not so. In addition to what I am sure is their desire to see this pointless, bloody conflict end, there is another little reported on aspect to this issue that may further explain the Senators’ lack of enthusiasm for the bill.You see, if you look at this empirically (you know, do the very simple math), it’s not that hard to see why anyone would vote against such a measure. Ponder this: with the additional over 95 billion dollars that this bill appropriates, the total cost of the conflict in Iraq grows to over 300 billion dollars. Now – is it just me, or is 95 billion dollars a crap load of money to spend in just four months? If the additional 95 billion gets us to over 300 Billion, that means that over the course of the last five years, the troops have fought the war on 205 billion dollars, or a little over 40 billion dollars a year. That comes out to about 10 billion dollars a quarter, when compared to the 95 billion dollars being appropriated for the next four months according to the bill. What is that? Inflation? Really expensive new war technologies?
The bill contains lots of money for reconstruction – cleverly tied to a “condition” that the Iraqi government is required to show progress to receive funds, while also providing a provision for President Bush to override the enforcement of such a condition at will. With no known previous plan for achieving a decisive victory and subsequent withdrawal, and with an admittedly shaky go-forward strategy that doesn’t include any foreseeable end to the conflict, the significantly higher numbers seem curious. It makes it look as though we’re just throwing money at the problem. So – I for one can see why the Senators voted against the measure. On the surface, it seems like more money will help the situation; it’s not hard to find Republicans and Dems alike who agree with the bill and its intent (to provide more money for weapons, deployments, etc.). Opponents of the bill point out, however that it blatantly ignores both the need for a planned withdrawal, and language on what happens post September. Will we have to cough up more billions? Will we celebrate a magical victory made possible by the infusion of cash, what? What’s worse, the bill introduces a strategy for empowering the Iraqi government to step up sooner rather than later, that does nothing to ensure a contingency should Iraq continue to descend into anarchy and sectarian violence.I like the way Obama fairs here – in my mind, voting any other way would have been a major flip-flop for the man, considering how staunchly resolute he has been about his opposition of the war from the very beginning (see Obama’s Remarks Against Going to War in Iraq from 2002). Yes boys and girls, unlike Clinton, Obama voted against the war early, and bemoans the never-ending conflict regularly. As a result, I don’t believe he will have the credibility problem with his stand on the war that Hillary will later. For sure, the troops need our love and support, and it probably wouldn’t hurt for them to have access to all the weaponry that they can get considering the voracity of the attacks they’re enduring on a daily basis. But Americans want out of this now – we want a plan for a systematic troop withdrawal that ensures the welfare and safety of as many of our men and women in combat as possible. Order (if not full Democracy) for the Iraqi people would be nice too, but most Americans these days just want this over with. What’s needed is decisive leadership – a real plan, and a real date to bring it all to an end. I’m tired of watching our boys come home in body bags – like the rest of the country, I’m no longer willing to accept it, not even to democratize a struggling, war-torn nation that got that way in part because of us and our flawed intelligence. Our eventual withdrawal will be painful for Iraq no matter what – warring factions will continue to war, and those who were bred to hate us will continue to do that as well. In the absence of any real eminent danger from Iraq (a-la Iran), it’s time to shut it down.
And finally – who in their right minds wouldn’t support the troops in Iraq? See, that’s my biggest problem with all of this. By suggesting that Senator Clinton and Obama somehow don’t support the troops because they disagree with this bill is like saying to the American people “hey, you bunch of collective idiots – we can throw all kinds of unsubstantiated rhetoric at you whenever we want and you’ll believe it!” Shame on those who would do such a thing. I don’t question the support that anyone in this country is willing to give for the innocent young soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice each day to keep us safe, because I know most Americans are deeply grateful for their service. Unfortunately for some, it’s easier to sling mud and blur the issue with political wrangling than it is to deal with the real issues and bring this all to a real resolution. And that sucks.