Bush: Democrats Try to Micromanage Iraq War
Saturday, March 17, 2007; 8:31 PM
WASHINGTON -- Democrats who are moving ahead with anti-war legislation are using troops as leverage to win domestic political battles, President Bush said Saturday. Democrats pledged to keep pushing until there is a change of course in Iraq.
Bush said some lawmakers see a chance "to micromanage our military commanders, force a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq and spend billions on domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war on terror."
In his weekly radio address, the president said, "Many in Congress say they support the troops, and I believe them. Now they have a chance to show that support in deed, as well as in word."
Bush repeated his promise that his spending request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must be approved "without strings and without delay" or he will veto it.
His address, broadcast while he spent the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat, came hours before protesters marched to the Pentagon to denounce the Iraq war, which is entering its fifth year.
The rally was the main event in demonstrations around the country, stretching to the anniversary of the invasion Tuesday. Also in Washington, police arrested more than 200 anti-war activists who protested outside the White House late Friday.
Before the protests began, the White House issued a fact sheet outlining progress in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion. The White House said Iraqis are stepping up to take control of security and beginning to meet benchmarks to achieve political reconciliation among warring sects.
Two months ago, Bush ordered 21,500 more combat troops to Baghdad and Anbar province. He did not initially mention that support units would also be needed, but officials said later that the number of support troops could be around 7,000.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in her party's weekly radio address, promoted a Democratic plan to narrow the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq and begin redeployment of U.S. troops within four months.
"Regrettably, our effort was blocked by Senate Republicans and a president who stubbornly refused to listen," Murray said.
Democrats get another chance this week when the full House begins work on the war spending request, which covers costs for this year.
A House committee on Thursday approved the spending bill. It includes a troop withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008. It also requires that troops receive proper training, equipment and rest, although Bush is permitted to waive those provisions.
Bush said all of those "arbitrary and restrictive conditions" are unacceptable.
"These restrictions would handcuff our generals in the field by denying them the flexibility they need to adjust their operations to the changing situation on the ground," he said. "And these restrictions would substitute the mandates of Congress for the considered judgment of our military commanders."
The spending bill totals $124 billion, $95.5 billion of which is targeted for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The rest of the funds in the House bill would go to domestic programs unrelated to the wars.
Republicans said that was a thinly disguised attempt to win support from reluctant Democrats with pork-barrel spending. Democrats said the extra money was for legitimate needs.
"Congress must not allow debate on domestic spending to delay funds for our troops on the front lines," the president said. "And members should not use funding our troops as leverage to pass special interest spending for their districts."
Murray, the Senate's fourth-ranking Democrat, also criticized the Bush administration over its treatment of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.