The Most Expensive Year of the War
Today, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee to request an additional $50 billion from Congress to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, on top of $141.7 billion that has already been appropriated. The announcement comes just two weeks after Gen. David Petraeus testified before Congress and argued for the continuation of the “surge” well into 2008. “The new spending request is likely to push the cumulative cost of the war in Iraq alone through 2008 past the $600-billion mark — more than the Korean War and nearly as much as the Vietnam War.” If the Defense Authorization Bill is approved with President Bush’s budget request, “2008 will be the most expensive year of the Iraq war.” “After nearly five years of this war, more than 3,800 deaths, over 27,000 casualties, and no end in sight, we must change course. This war, this draining, desultory, dreadful occupation of Iraq must end,” stated Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) on Monday.
PAYING FOR MORE BLOOD: In February, President Bush requested $141.7 billion “to sustain combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year” for the fiscal year beginning Oct 1. That request, however, “did not allow financing for a surge in troops [in Iraq] that would last through mid-summer 2008.” Today, Gates will request an additional $50 billion, bringing “the amount the administration is seeking to finance the war effort through 2008 to almost $200 billion.” “Most of the additional funding in a revised supplemental bill would pay for the current counteroffensive in Iraq, which has expanded the U.S. force there by about 28,000 troops.” Nearly a quarter of the new money “would go to build additional mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs.” The administration’s request this year dwarfs that of previous years. “In 2004, the two conflicts [in Iraq and Afghanistan] together cost $94 billion; in 2005, they cost $108 billion; in 2006, $122 billion.” “Everybody predicts declines, but they haven’t occurred, and 2008 will be higher than 2007,” states analyst Winslow T. Wheeler. “[T]hus far it has continued to get bloodier and more expensive.” Even if the Bush administration reduces the size of the force in Iraq in 2008, “analysts expect the 2009 budget to remain between $170 billion and $200 billion.”
FUNDING AN ‘OPEN-ENDED COMMITMENT’: Last weekend, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said she would support cutting off funding to force a change in war policy, announcing her opposition to the President’s $50 billion request. “I will vote against funding again in the absence of any change in policy,” she said. “I don’t believe we should continue to vote for funding that has an open-ended commitment.” Byrd “said that he plans to attach ‘strings‘ to the supplemental war funding bill in an effort to bring troops home more quickly.” “In the House, antiwar lawmakers have gathered 80 signatures on a letter they plan to send to Bush expressing their opposition to ‘appropriating any additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq other than a time-bound, safe redeployment.'” “If one is unhappy with our progress in Iraq after four years of war, voting to de-fund the war makes sense,” said Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).
THE ‘DANGEROUS’ IRAN AMENDMENT: Today, the Senate will debate an amendment to the appropriations bill introduced by Sens. Jo Lieberman (I-CT) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), which seeks to escalate the possibility of armed conflict with Iran. The amendment states that the U.S. should support “the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq,” including “military instruments” against alleged Iranian agents in Iraq. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) called the amendment “Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream,” as “it could be read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action, without one hearing and without serious debate.” “Iran is a threat…but it needs to be dealt with strategically and diplomatically,” said Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE). Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) called the amendment’s language “dangerous” and called it an “effort to put us on the record for the use of military force in Iran.”
THE PARTITION AMENDMENT: The Senate will also consider an amendment proposed by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) calling for the partitioning of Iraq into at least three sectarian enclaves. “You make federalism work for the Iraqis,” Biden claimed. But 98 percent of Iraqis oppose the partitioning of their country on sectarian lines. The plan “would alienate huge sections of the Iraqi population. It would be a gross provocation to most of Iraq’s neighbors,” who view a divided Iraq as a “brittle state structure,” notes Iraq expert Reidar Visser. Biden’s proposal echoes Brookings analyst Michael O’Hanlon’s “soft-partition” plan, which envisions a long-term occupation of Iraq. Analyst Anthony Cordesman said of the partition plan, “[It is] brutal. It is repressive. It kills people. It injures them. It drives them out of their homes, and it drives them out of their country. To talk about this as if it was something that is gentle or nonviolent is simply dishonest.”
MEDIA — O’REILLY SURPRISED RESTAURANT WAS NICE, ‘EVEN THOUGH IT’S RUN BY BLACKS’: Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly recently dined with the Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia’s, a famous African-American-owned restaurant in Harlem. Afterwards, on his radio show, O’Reilly reported that he “had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful,” adding, “I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.” O’Reilly added, “there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all,” and noted that “there wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea!'” The remarks have stirred controversy, with some television anchors leaping to defend O’Reilly’s comments. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez downplayed the severity of O’Reilly’s remarks: “But just how big a deal is this? … What’s wrong with a white guy making social commentary about other people’s race, which is what he seems to be doing here?” Station WABC interviewed Sylvia’s patrons about O’Reilly’s remarks. Said one customer: “I’m concerned that people are still in that type of mindset.” Last night, O’Reilly attacked CNN for even discussing his remarks.
CIVIL RIGHTS — SENATE RULES COMMITTEE TO VOTE ON BUSH’S CONTROVERSIAL FEC NOMINEE TODAY: Today, the Senate Rules Committee will “consider the nomination” of four nominees to the Federal Election Commission, including former Bush Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky, “who former employees say was key to the politicization of voting rights section” of the Department. President Bush first placed Von Spakovsky on the Commission in January 2006 with a recess appointment, but his confirmation was derailed in June after civil rights groups and former career attorneys at the Department vocally opposed his nomination due to his record in the voting rights division. Earlier this year, Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, sent a letter to senators accusing “von Spakovsky of working systematically to block poor and minority voters from the polls under policies such as a Georgia identification law ‘akin to a Jim Crow-era poll tax.'” Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is said to “have serious concerns about Von Spakovsky” and “wants a vote on each nominee separately” instead of “considering all four nominees, Democratic and Republican, in one vote.” For more on Spakovsky, click HERE.
CONGRESS — WAXMAN URGES STATE DEPT. TO COOPERATE WITH INVESTIGATION INTO CORRUPTION IN IRAQ: Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of “interfering” with the committee’s investigation into corruption in Iraq. State Department officials refused to allow any potentially negative comments about the Maliki government in Iraq to be made public. “The scope of the prohibition is breathtaking,” Waxman wrote, alleging that State seems to view criticism of the government as “a national security secret.” “[I]t means that unless the Committee agrees to keep the information secret from the public, the Committee cannot obtain information from officials…about whether there is corruption within the Iraqi ministries.” Waxman also pressed Rice about his committee’s investigation into Blackwater USA, a private security firm that was allegedly involved in a shooting incident that left 11 Iraqis dead. The State Department has instructed Blackwater not to provide the Committee with necessary information, and Rice has refused to testify about the incident. Congress has a “constitutional prerogative” to look into the issues, Waxman wrote, and Rice is “wrong to interfere with the Committee’s inquiry.”
U.S. military officials are pressing the State Department to “assert more control over” Blackwater USA, “which operates under the department’s authority.” “This is a nightmare,” said a senior military official of the recent incident involving Blackwater. “This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib.”
While expressing his support for international human rights yesterday at the U.N., “Bush didn’t mention the U.S. prisons in Afghanistan or at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. practice of holding detainees for years without legal charges or access to lawyers, or the CIA’s ‘rendition’ kidnappings of suspects abroad, all issues of concern to human rights activists around the world.”
Negotiators from the United Auto Workers union and General Motors reached a tentative agreement on a groundbreaking deal early Wednesday to end a two-day old strike by 73,000 workers. The agreement “includes a historic restructuring of GM’s obligations for UAW retiree health care.”
“Sunni Arab extremists have begun a systematic campaign to assassinate police chiefs, police officers, other Interior Ministry officials and tribal leaders throughout Iraq, staging at least 10 attacks in 48 hours.” Iraqi officials said that the attacks might well have been intended to blunt the administration’s message that “surge” has succeeded in establishing security.
More than 2,000 people in Iraq are suffering from cholera, which is spreading across the country, the World Health Organization said. The spread of the disease has been accelerated by chlorine restrictions imposed on Iraq due to security concerns.
“Senate Democrats moved Tuesday to add an expanded hate-crimes ban to the defense authorization, giving them more time to court GOP votes for a new Iraq withdrawal plan but dimming the must-pass bill’s chances for passage this week.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) said he will “press the government for the release of a black teenager held in the ‘Jena 6’ case that spurred one of the biggest civil-rights demonstrations in years.” “Our first responsibility is to get young Mychal Bell out of prison,” he said.
And finally: The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has released an ad showcasing the “disturbing relationship between agribusiness contributions” and pork-barrel funding projects. In the ad, a suited man walks into a men’s room with a briefcase, begins tapping his foot, and is handed cash from underneath a neighboring stall. “The next stall occupant? A giant pig, squealing.” Watch it here.
Defying a veto threat, the House voted 265-159 last night to pass the popular and successful Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.
NEW YORK: Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) threatens to sue federal government for no longer covering the cost of chemotherapy for undocumented immigrants with cancer.
VIRGINIA: State says it may “build a 1,000-bed detention center where illegal immigrants arrested for certain crimes could be held until federal officials deport them.”
CIVIL RIGHTS: Supreme Court agrees “to decide whether states can require voters to show government-issued photo identification before they cast a ballot.”
THINK PROGRESS: Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA): the hawkish Kyl-Lieberman amendment on Iran is Vice President “Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream.”
FOREIGN POLICY PASSPORT: For his United Nations speech, the White House prepared a “phonetic guide” for President Bush.
DEMOCRACY ARSENAL: Questions raised by the contradiction between Gen. David Petraeus’ method of counting “ethno sectarian violence” and the Pentagon’s.
HORSE’S MOUTH: Pro-war senators are refusing to be interviewed about Iraq on MSNBC.
“Columbia and Lee Bollinger are hypocritical beyond belief.” Inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was “revolting.”
— Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly, 9/24/07
“We actually did invite him” to appear on The Factor.
— O’Reilly, 9/24/07