WASHINGTON, March 28 — A defiant President Bush vowed today not to negotiate with Congress about setting a date for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, and he said the American people would blame lawmakers if there is any delay in approving money for the war effort.
“Now, some of them believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely,” Mr. Bush said. “That’s not going to happen. If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible.”
The president, speaking to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association here a day after the Senate endorsed the withdrawal of most American troops by March 31, 2008, said that the people of Iraq had already shown their desire to run their own country by voting in free elections, that Iraqi security forces are gaining strength with American help, and that the outcome in Iraq “will affect a generation of Americans.”
Far from sounding conciliatory, Mr. Bush hurled a dismissive dart at the lawmakers as he asserted that the emergency war-spending bills approved by the House and under consideration by the Senate were loaded with special-interest items, some of them downright silly.
“There’s $3.5 million for visitors to tour the Capitol and see for themselves how Congress works,” Mr. Bush said, drawing laughs from the friendly audience. “I’m not kidding you.”
“Here’s the bottom line,” Mr. Bush went on. “The House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders and an artificial timetable for withdrawal. And I have made it clear for weeks if either version comes to my desk, I’m going to veto it.” (Mr. Bush has used his veto power only once, in 2005, to reject a measure that would have expanded federal financing for embryonic stem cell research.)
The $122 billion emergency bills do include nonmilitary spending items, some with little or no connection to national defense. But about $100 billion would go to the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.
Shortly after the president’s speech, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic House speaker, said Mr. Bush should “calm down with the threats.”
Democrats will try to put the onus on Mr. Bush for any delay in providing money for the military, arguing that he is the one who is holding it up by vetoing the spending measure. “We will have legislation that will give him every dollar he asks for for our troops and more, but with accountability,” Ms. Pelosi said.
The House and Senate bills have significant differences, which would have to be reconciled before a measure could be passed by the full Congress. The House bill, passed a week ago, would require the president to bring most combat troops home by September 2008. The bill being considered by the Senate, on the other hand, would set a nonbinding goal of March 31, 2008, for withdrawal.
The House bill passed, 218 to 212. A vote on the overall Senate bill is expected as early as tonight, although the March 31, 2008, withdrawal goal was endorsed in a 50-to-48 vote on Tuesday that rejected an amendment to erase the date.
Given the closeness of the votes so far, it is highly unlikely that opponents of Mr. Bush’s policies could muster the two-thirds necessary in both houses of Congress to override his veto. And Mr. Bush’s speech today was a message to Democrats that they should not assume their negotiating position is any stronger because of their narrow victories last week in the House and Tuesday in the Senate.
Mr. Bush did talk about issues of keen interest to the cattlemen, saying, for instance, that if foreign leaders “want to get the attention of the American people in a positive way, you open up your markets to U.S. beef.” But at least half his speech was devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan and the wider battle against terrorism, which he again insisted was linked to the Iraq campaign, despite his critics’ assertions to the contrary.
“The best way to protect this country is to defeat the enemy overseas, so we don’t have to face them here at home,” Mr. Bush said, to applause.
The president said the new push to secure Baghdad through reinforcements should be given a chance to succeed, not undermined by Congressional votes that might cause America’s foes to question its national will.
Mr. Bush also differed, as he has many times before, with those who say that he has falsely linked the Sept. 11 attacks to Iraq, and that the war there is a distraction from, rather than an integral part of, the fight against terrorism.
Alluding to a chilling new tactic by Iraqi insurgents, using children to lull security guards, Mr. Bush said, “That evil that uses children in a terrorist attack in Iraq is the same evil that inspired and rejoiced in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that evil must be defeated overseas so we don’t have to face them here again.
“If we cannot muster the resolve to defeat this evil in Iraq, America will have lost its moral purpose in the world. And we will endanger our citizens, because if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here.”
Tens of Thousands March on the Pentagon and Call for Impeachment
The Demonstration Stikes A Nerve
Disgraced Tom Delay went on television Sunday morning and complained on Meet the Press that "we shouldn't have had what we had yesterday...in Washington, D.C." with people calling for "impeaching the commander in chief." Much as Tom Delay would probably like to see the First Amendment removed from the Bill of Rights, the stark reality that he and the White House faced was a huge outpouring of people from across the United States calling for the Impeachment of Bush, Cheney and other high officials. Feeling the heat from mass demonstrations around the country, Bush was forced to go on national television Monday and "plead for patience" from the people of the United States.
Led by a contingent of Iraq war veterans, active-duty service-members, Gold Star families, and veterans from other past and present wars, the demonstration received a large amount of media coverage. CNN featured the demonstration, which the report described as a march of tens of thousands, in its rotation Saturday and Sunday. There were hundreds of articles in US newspapers and world wide, and photographs featuring thousands of impeachment signs including, "Guilty of War Crimes, ImpeachBush.org." The major French newspaper, Le Monde, ran a significant article under the headline, "More than 50,000 People Protest Against the War in Iraq," about the March on the Pentagon and wrote that the protestors were calling for the impeachment of Bush for war crimes. The rally was broadcast live on C-span and Al-Jazeera. Ramsey Clark; Cindy Sheehan; Cynthia McKinney; Jonathan Hutto and Liam Madden, co-founders of Appeal for Redress; Iraq Veterans Against the War; Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson; constitutional rights attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, and others spoke. You can view the rally by going to http://www.cspan.org/ and clicking on the March 17 anti-war rally under the video section. Ramsey Clark's speech is available on YouTube by clicking on this link.
The March on the Pentagon was not a solitary action but one of more than 1,000 protests that are taking place in the U.S. between March 17 and March 20. ImpeachBush.org played a major role in co-sponsoring the March on the Pentagon as well as the Los Angeles demonstration that drew 50,000 and the San Francisco demonstration of 40,000 that filled 15 blocks of Market Street, a six-lane avenue. Impeachment supporters have been out at rallies around the country all week.
A great thank you is owed to the committed volunteers who endured a torrential downpour of freezing rain though Friday night to help set up the assembly and rally sites. People stayed overnight with the equipment and then began working again at 5:00 am in complete darkness. The assembly area had become a lake on March 16 and filled with mud by the time the march stepped off. The windchill in the early hours was not far above zero. At the rally site the large tents, including the Impeachment Tent, and canopies blew down. Volunteers continued to work long hours after the rally ended to take-down, pack, clean the entire area and unload trucks. The anti-war movement and impeachment movement are growing both numerically and in their organizational capabilities and the tireless work of volunteers forms the core of this success.
Pentagon Prevents People from Joining the Rally
The Pentagon and Virginia State Police, many clad in riot gear, wearing gas masks and wielding batons, blocked people coming from the subway/metro who wanted to attend the demonstration. They also blocked buses from accessing the Pentagon in contravention of the agreements reached in the permit. This required people to walk nearly two miles to get to their buses following the rally.
Many people who came to the rally after it had begun - some who had seen the huge march at a distance as it crossed over the Memorial Bridge across the roadways and wanted to then join the activity - were blocked by the Pentagon and the police from entering the rally site through a maze of misdirection, road closures and threats of arrest at multiple different locations. March organizers worked to get people in and they and their attorneys went to the site of sudden police confrontations and shutdowns, but many people were still unable to get in including the hip-hop artist Immortal Technique who was scheduled to perform.Ramsey Clark on Impeachment and the War
As Ramsey Clark stated at the Pentagon rally, the effort to Impeach Bush has immediate and long term consequences. The Bush regime is rotting from within. Growing scandals are an indicator. The public revulsion to the endless lies about Iraq has set the stage even more so. Impeachment can and must become a reality and we can do it with your continued support.