Spare us your indignation, Mr. President and just sign the emergency supplemental bill if the funds are so desperately needed. The “political theater” is of your own making, and the country has been your acquiescent audience far too long.
Apparently, you didn’t have enough time to muster a sufficiently impressive crowd of uniformed patriots as you made your remarks; that straggle of witnesses on Friday was not up to your usual standards. For a refreshing change you might try speaking before those prosthesis-laden vets at Walter Reed or at Arlington National Cemetery where the full measure of our troops’ sacrifice can be acknowledged.
And it is well past time for your administration to take responsibility for the enormous waste of funds in Iraq and the high cost of hauling Halliburton from the brink of bankruptcy to solvency on the backs of the American taxpayer via Iraq and New Orleans. When you reference pork in the supplemental bill it only serves as a reminder of neglected emergencies close to home – – Gulf Coast recovery programs, disaster relief in California and parts of the Midwest, children’s health-care programs, low-income energy assistance among other things. Some call it pork; for those in crisis it is salvation.
Ironically it was barely two weeks ago that Senator Lieberman rose in opposition to Senator Obama’s bill stipulating that Homeland Security funds be allocated in a manner more reflective of realistic risk assessments. In defending what often seems to have become a federal slush fund Lieberman defined grants to states in the broadest of terms saying that such funding makes sense even when it isn’t used specifically for terrorism-related measures. There are many ways to defend the homeland he suggested.
That line of thinking may explain why states like Arizona have used their funds for local fire departments, Texas purchased a “homeland security trailer” that was used to transport machines to riding-lawnmower races, why a petting zoo was included in Indiana’s enormous list of potential terrorist targets while New York saw its homeland security funds slashed in 2006 and important, population-saturated sites like Times Square and The Empire State Building didn’t even make the risk-assessment list. As Obama suggested in a losing cause (his bill was defeated) homeland security funds should be distributed on the basis of perceived threats not politics.
Pork, however, seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Ongoing supplementals for the war are deemed necessary even though they are neither driven by results nor responsive to accepted accounting procedures. On the other hand, domestic programs, especially those for the neediest or in the area of education, must validate their existence with endless test results and meticulous oversight.
And whenever questions arise about the conduct of the war or when it should be considered, once and for all, unwinnable militarily, the president says progress is being made – – more time, more money, more troops are all that is required. It is some sort of weird progress perhaps that a rocket just missed the building where U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was meeting with Prime Minister Maliki last week or that Iraq’s Shiite Vice President was only wounded in an assassination attempt in February or that the Sunni Deputy Prime Minister wasn’t killed outright after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a mosque the other day.
There may indeed be signs of hope – – the return of some Iraqis to homes abandoned during the most violent days, a willingness of individuals to fight to protect their property and maybe even their country. But how much longer can our country sustain the human and financial toll of ‘staying the course’ without something much deeper and more sustained in the way of progress? If a year isn’t long enough to determine whether the goal of pacifying Iraq is adequate then what is realistic in terms of our commitment?
Of course the House bill with its timeline will probably die in the Senate and will, in any event, be vetoed by the president who is incapable of contemplating a date certain for the departure of American combat forces. But to utterly deny that possibility at any point is to doom our troops to combat situations for the long foreseeable future. To those who remind us U.S. forces remain in Kosovo it should be noted that we did not invade and occupy that part of the world nor did we lose ground troops there.
At least the new Democratic majority in the House has made a statement. The president and his supporters will, in the end, need to recognize a new sense of urgency – – something beyond mindless calls to “support the troops” with huge sums of money poured into a pit of unaccountability and contractors’ pockets. There may still be a chance that others in the region will become part of the solution. But that certainly will not happen if the United States is calling all the shots and working to establish a new economic bastion in the middle of the oil-rich Middle East.
An angry President Bush resembles a child stamping his foot and insisting on having his way. It would almost be funny if the issue were in fact something childish rather than about decisions impacting our country and the world so profoundly.

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