On Friday, May 2, 2003, President Bush stood behind a banner that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished.” In his remarks, the president told the nation that major combat operations in Iraq have ended. Who will ever forget the president thanking the troops for their “courage and willingness to face danger for your country and for each other”? Bush went on to say that the troops “made this day possible.” Indeed, they have made this moment possible for us to start to bring them home.
Four years later, with thousands of Americans dead or wounded, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, and millions afraid to venture to the market or evening prayers, the president has a chance to join Congress in planning for our troops’ return home as recommended in the 2007 emergency supplemental funding bill now before him. Honestly, I just don’t see the picture the president wants us to see — of a free, stable, democratic Iraq without the leadership of the Iraqi government and support of the people. They, too, must want it as badly as the president. If not, why are we still there?
The president has vowed to pull the long-threatened veto pen out of storage and send the 2007 emergency supplemental back to Capitol Hill. Now, the Democrats must regroup and decide what to do next.
I would advise them not to back down, but to use their power to help bring this war and occupation in Iraq to an end.
Although the bill provides everything the president requested, including $91.5 billion for continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House will return it to Congress and demand a “clean” bill. Congressional leaders, who worked hard to pull together the necessary coalition for the bill’s passage, must not agree to White House demands for a watered-down bill without benchmarks and other measures that could in the long term garner bipartisan support.
Republicans on Capitol Hill know we’re not succeeding as planned in Iraq, but once again they have decided to hold their tongues and buy more time. Perhaps they will gain the courage later this year, when Gen. David Petraeus is slated to return to give a report on progress to date. But all you have to do is read the papers and listen to the Iraqis themselves to understand that the will is not there to make the necessary political compromise to secure the peace.
I wonder who really is calling the shots or giving the orders. Is it the commanders on the ground or Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who, according to news reports, is firing people responsible for tamping down on the militias? Is it the generals who have called for longer periods of deployment of our troops while the Iraqi government takes a two-month recess? Go figure?
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.