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Senate: $98 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan wars
$5 billion more than Bush requested;
Democrats try to salvage ‘antiwar’ posture

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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 15      April 16, 2007


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Senate: $98 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan wars
$5 billion more than Bush requested;
Democrats try to salvage ‘antiwar’ posture
(lead article)
AP/Sgt. Armando Monroig, US Army
U.S. soldiers of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, in Baqouba, Iraq, some 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, on March 15.

WASHINGTON, April 3—The U.S. Senate approved an emergency funding bill providing $98 billion for the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan March 29. This is about $5 billion more than the White House had requested.

The House of Representatives had passed a similar bill six days earlier.

As in the House vote, the leadership of the Democratic majority in the Senate tried to give an “antiwar” gloss to the measure, because the bill contains a nonbinding proposal that U.S. troops begin withdrawal from their combat role in Iraq by March 31, 2008.

In a March 28 speech to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, U.S. president George Bush said he would veto any bill that includes a time line for pulling U.S. troops from Iraq.

Five days after leading passage of the war spending measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a move aimed at salvaging the Democrats’ “antiwar” posture, said that he would push to cut funds for the war if Bush carries out his veto threat.

However, Sen. Barack Obama, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2008 elections, said that if Bush vetoes the emergency spending bill in its current form, Congress would quickly approve funding for the war. “I don’t think that we will see a majority of the Senate vote to cut off funding at this stage,” Obama told the Associated Press. “I think that nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground.”

The Senate bill mirrors a similar measure the House passed March 23. It provides $100 billion for the wars, about $7 billion above the White House request. Each of the bills included more than $20 billion in domestic spending for Gulf Coast hurricane relief, aid to spinach and cattle growers, and facilities for peanut storage, in a failed attempt to win Republican votes.

The House version sets a deadline of Sept. 1, 2008, to complete a phased redeployment of U.S. troops from combat operations in Iraq. The Senate bill sets a nonbinding deadline of March 31, 2008, for such a “ pullout.” In both versions an unspecified number of troops would remain in Iraq to equip and train Iraqi security forces and conduct target operations against al-Qaeda.

Under the circumstances, even a number of liberals have assailed the description of these bills as “antiwar.” A column by Alexander Cockburn in the April 16 issue of the Nation magazine, headlined “That Was an Antiwar Vote?” said, “On Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi’s website we find her portrait of what U.S. troops will be doing in Iraq following this withdrawal, or ‘redeployment,’ should it occur late next year on the bill’s schedule. ‘U.S. troops remaining in Iraq may only be used for diplomatic protection, counterterrorism operations and training of Iraqi Security Forces.’ But does this not bear an eerie resemblance to Bush’s presurge war plan? Will the troops being redeployed out of Iraq even come home? No, says Pelosi, as does Senate majority leader Harry Reid. These troops will go to Afghanistan to battle Al Qaeda.

“So the bill essentially adopts and enforces Bush’s war plan and attendant ‘benchmarks’ as spelled out in his January 10 speech,” when the U.S. president announced the biggest escalation of the war in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country.
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