Bush: Democrats Jeopardizing Service Members' Safety

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 7, 2007; 6:34 PM

President Bush used his Easter weekend radio address to suggest that while Americans are "blessed" to have so many brave, volunteer military service members, congressional Democrats are jeopardizing their safety by delaying passage of a $100 billion war funding bill.

"I recognize that Democrats are trying to show their current opposition to the war in Iraq," Bush said this morning. "They see the emergency war spending bill as a chance to make that statement. Yet for our men and women in uniform, this emergency war spending bill is not a political statement, it is a source of critical funding that has a direct impact on their daily lives."

The House and Senate have approved the $100 billion Bush wants for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, today, Bush restated his vow to veto Senate and House versions of a spending bill that would set a deadline for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq, where more 3,200 Americans--and tens of thousands of Iraqis--have been killed over the past four years. Bush wants a bill that does not have a deadline for troop withdrawals.

In response, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called on Bush and congressional Republicans to "stop trying to bully their way through this and work with Democrats to end the war."

"It's time for the president to show respect to the American people, who voted overwhelmingly to leave Iraq," Dean said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

A clear majority of Americans oppose the war, which has cost more than $300 billion so far. But Bush said the Democrats' delay in passing a bill with no troop pullout deadline will soon deprive U.S. military personnel of the equipment and training they need to do their jobs.

"When Congress does not fund our troops on the front lines, our military is forced to make cuts in other areas to cover the shortfall," he said. " . . . By mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on training, equipment repair, and quality of life initiatives for our Guard and Reserve forces . . .By mid-May, the problems grow even more acute."

If funding for the war is delayed much longer, Bush said, "some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. And others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than they need to."

Dean said it is the Republicans who sent troops to Iraq without proper body armor, equipment or training.

"Our military is now stretched to a breaking point," he said. "Just this week, the Army announced that they'll send large division units back to Iraq without giving them at least a year's rest at home, as the Pentagon standards require. Because our forces have been so badly depleted, the Pentagon just yesterday announced that they're deploying an additional 12,000 National Guard Reserves to Iraq."

Early this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid endorsed the Senate's toughest antiwar bill yet--one that would set a March 31, 2008 deadline for completing the withdrawal of combat forces and ending most military spending in Iraq.

Bush has repeatedly warned that Iraq will descend deeper into chaos if U.S. forces leave the country.

"For our troops, the clock is ticking," he said today. " . . . We have our differences in Washington D.C., but our troops should not be caught in the middle. All who serve in elected office have a solemn responsibility to provide for our men and women in uniform. We need to put partisan politics aside, and do our duty to those who defend us."

Dean, a former Vermont governor, said the Democrats' plan includes a phased redeployment of troops to bring most of them home, with some remaining in Iraq for counterterrorism operations and training Iraqi security forces.

"We believe that we ought to refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan and on fighting terrorism," Dean said. "We've presented this plan to President Bush, but he stubbornly refuses even to discuss it. We intend to see that the troops get what they deserve and we will not give President Bush a blank check for a war without end."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company