End game in Iraq

More than three months after President Bush declared victory in Iraq, the fighting continues. American forces are experiencing higher casualty rates than ever, and Iraqi civilians continue to be caught in the crossfire. The country’s infrastructure is still in ruins. Terrorism and sabotage continue to increase, costs keep getting higher, and there is still no timetable for bringing home the troops.

This cannot continue.

With the president asking Congress for an additional $87 billion to fund the ongoing occupation, it’s time to ask some serious questions about our nation’s future in Iraq, and it’s long past time for some answers. Having misled the country again and again in preparing for the war, the Bush administration must define a clear and convincing plan for peace before it receives another penny of support.

It’s now painfully clear that the administration has not been truthful in representing its plans for Iraq. Prior to the war, the president claimed that an invasion was necessary because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was supporting terrorists. When it turned out Saddam had no links to terror, the reasoning shifted, and Bush insisted he had proof Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction. Yet recent months have brought revelations that no such proof ever existed, and members of the administration have admitted that pumping up the threat of those weapons was simply a way to sell the war to a skeptical public.

Moreover, it’s now clear that plans for postwar reconstruction were bungled. Convinced that American forces would be greeted with open arms, the administration grossly underestimated the number of troops needed to restore order. It has failed to restore basic services or provide for the safety of the populace. Rather than bringing freedom to the Iraqi people, we have made their country a focal point for terror, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Meanwhile, costs have spun out of control. Having already spent the $79 billion appropriated last spring, the administration has had the nerve to propose pay cuts for combat troops and to request funding from the very countries that begged us not to invade in the first place. Bush is also asking taxpayers for an additional $87 billion—more than the combined total the government spends annually on education, job training and social services.

Needless to say, these requests only prove what many of America’s allies and what millions of protesters said prior to the conflict: that winning the war against Saddam’s military would be easy compared with winning peace in Iraq. Bush was unwilling to listen then, but he can be made to listen now.

The president can’t continue his campaign in Iraq without more funding, and Congress must use this as leverage to insist that the administration provide a clear, workable and humane plan for restoring order in Iraq before any additional funds are allocated.