Getting the message

Who’s really in charge of the U.S. combat effort in Iraq? President Bush would have us think it’s the generals on the ground. That’s why he vetoed a $124 billion war spending bill Tuesday (May 1), insisting that its inclusion of a timetable for withdrawal “would impose impossible conditions on our commanders in combat.”

The problem is that they aren’t in charge of this war: Bush is. It’s the president and his minions who have gotten America and the world into this fix, by invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and then bungling the occupation. Now, four years, half-a-trillion dollars and thousands upon thousands of lives later, our reputation in the world is ruined, our treasury is drained, our military is depleted and the most dangerous region on the planet is frighteningly destabilized.

What Congress understands is that this conflict is not winnable militarily and Bush’s claims of progress are bogus. As fast as American soldiers kill insurgents, new ones take their places.

As the Iraq Study Group reported, the greatest hope for ending this terrible conflict lies in some kind of regional agreement. Reluctantly, hesitantly, Bush is moving in that direction, but he, the Iraqi government and the leaders of the other nations in the area need further incentives. They need to know that Congress and the American people are not going to underwrite this boondoggle forever.

The American people elected a Democratic Congress in 2006 because they wanted a change in direction, especially in Iraq. A recent Pew poll shows that fully 59 percent of the American people want their member of Congress to back a war-funding bill that includes a timeline for withdrawal. Congress should continue sending the president this message until he finally gets it.