cause a man with a briefcase
Can steal more money
Than any man with a gun
-- Don Henley; "Gimme What You Got"
From the Wall Street Journal this past weekend (emphasis added):
(Everybody's a General in the Army called Congress)
The Wall Street Journal
March 17, 2007; Page A8
To understand why the Founders put Presidents in charge of war fighting, look no further than the supplemental war spending bill now moving through the House. Everybody's a four-star in Congress's Army, and every general wants his own command, especially if it includes cash for the troops, er, campaign contributors. Too bad none of this bears any relation to what real General David Petraeus is trying to accomplish in Iraq.
Not that we don't sympathize with Defense Secretary Nancy Pelosi. She won the majority in part by riding antiwar sentiment, and now her antiwar ranks are demanding satisfaction. So she's moved beyond the political evasion of "non-binding" resolutions and is trying to attach binding legal restrictions in spending bills on President Bush's ability to conduct the war. This is the strategy she and General Jack Murtha have worked out.
* * *
So what's a leader of Congress to do to get a majority? You know the answer: Let the vote-buying begin!
Thus has Mr. Bush's request for $100 billion to fund the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus $3 billion to replenish the disaster-relief fund, devolved into a $124.6 billion logrolling extravaganza. You can get the flavor from the bill's very first words on page two: "Title I -- Supplemental Appropriations for the Global War on Terror Chapter 1 Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service." Forget the Marines; send in the meat inspectors.
This bill has everything the modern military doesn't need. There's $25 million for spinach, designed to attract the vote of Sam Farr, a California farm-region liberal. Perhaps spinach growers who lost business due to last year's E. coli scare need this taxpayer bailout, but it won't intimidate the Taliban unless Mr. Farr plans to draft Popeye.
Other lowlights include $20 million to restore farmland damaged by freezing temperatures, and $1.48 billion for livestock farmers. And don't forget the $74 million "to ensure proper storage for peanuts," an urgent national-security need. This happens to be about the same amount that House Democrats propose to increase spending for operations of the Army Reserve, so it's good to see Congress has its priorities in order.
Then there are the provisions to raise the minimum wage, at one pace for the continental U.S. but at a separate, slower pace for the Northern Mariana Islands. And $500 million for "urgent wildland fire suppression" -- that's forest fires, not weapons fire. There's so much more, if only the press corps would take the time to look.
This pork-barrel blowout is grounds enough for a Presidential veto. But the vote-buying is more important for what it says about Congress and the way it wants to micromanage the war. Any legislature is essentially a committee of special interests, each of which wants to be massaged. This is true of war strategy as much as farm policy. The goal isn't victory in Iraq, but "victory" on Capitol Hill, which means cobbling together a majority of 218 in the House and 51 in the Senate. Logrolling and micromanagement are two sides of the same coin of the legislative Pentagon.
* * *
In any case, Democrats still aren't taking any real war responsibility. Instead of cutting off funds right now, which would at least be a policy, they kick the issue down the road by imposing "benchmarks." So unless the Iraqis meet certain conditions set by Congress by July 1 and October 1 of this year, U.S. troops will have to redeploy at once and finish within 180 days. And even if these earmarks -- sorry, benchmarks -- are met, all U.S. troops must begin to retreat by March 2008.
All of this is flatly unconstitutional, but far worse it is an insult to the troops in the field. If Iraq's parliament somehow gets bogged down -- like Congress? -- on de-Baathification or dividing up oil revenues, American troops have to end their mission. So General Petraeus's war strategy is made hostage to two legislatures, in Baghdad and the Beltway.
Once the U.S. retreats, American forces would then be permitted only to fight al Qaeda and "other terrorist organizations with global reach." So the Army Colonel leading a strike brigade would have to think twice, or consult his lawyers, about just what constitutes "global reach." Did Abu Musab al-Zarqawi qualify since he merely called his outfit "al Qaeda in Iraq"? Democrats are trying to appease their antiwar left by attaching a thousand bureaucratic and legal strings, rather than being accountable with an up-or-down funding vote. As Mr. Obey told those "idiot liberals" in a moment of candor caught on camera, he believes this "bill ends the war." Just not honestly.
Meanwhile, on the Baghdad battlefield, General Petraeus is moving ahead and signs of tentative progress are visible. Shiite death squads are laying low or leaving town, so casualties are down. The new oil law looks like a political breakthrough that would share revenues with all parts of Iraq based on population. Success isn't certain, but the Democratic Congress's only contribution is to make victory more difficult.
* * *
With all the news stories about the "scandal" at Walter Reed, here's what I find in the appropriations for Health Programs (speak up if I missed anything):
Defense Health Programs: $2.79 billion of which $2.29 billion shall be for operation and maintenance [only available until 9/30/2008 so spend it while ya got it!] and of which $500 million shall be for research, development, test and evaluation [available until 9/30/2009]. [note that the $2.79 billion for military health isn't even 2x the Democrats' $1.48 Billion for livestock farmers!]
And for VETERANS AFFAIRS:
Compensation & Pensions: $20 million for a pilot program for disability examinations [OK, remember, the Dems have included $25 million for spinach...]
Medical Services: $414.982 million, which includes $30 million for a new Level I comprehensive Polytrauma Center (doesn't say where this will be); $56 million for prosthetics; $100 million for contract mental health care when appointment waiting times exceed 30 days [whiskey tango foxtrot??? there should be NO STRINGS for mental health care... it should be left to the VA how to spend this -- like using some of this $100 million to HIRE AND TRAIN TEAMS IN THE TREATMENT OF COMBAT-RELATED PTSD NOW 'CAUSE THE FLOOD GATES ARE ABOUT TO OPEN ON THE VA!!!!]; and $228.982 million shall be for the treatment of veterans of the global war on terror.
Medical Administration: $256.3 million, including $6.3 million for polytrauma support clinic teams for case management
Medical Facilities: $595.0 million, including $45 million for upgrades to polytrauma centers and $550 million for non-recurring maintenance as identified in the VA Facility Condition Assessment
Medical & Prosthetic Research: $35 million
Administrative Expenses: $62 million, including $1.25 million for digitization of records [yeah, that should digitize about 100 pages of records] and $60.75 million "for expenses related to hiring and training new claims processing personnel" [YES!!! wonderful! but not nearly enough!] [again... compare to the $74 million "to ensure proper storage for peanuts"]
OK, that makes the VA total $1.38 billion -- and the Dems have included $1.48 BILLION just for livestock farmers. More money for cows & horses than Veterans??? Yeah... you have not only shown us your priorities, you have shown us your stripes.
So much for "change", eh?? Still pigs at the public trough! If the Democrats or Republicans want these pork bills to proceed, then they should be proposed on their own and not attached to the funding needed by soldiers and veterans. If these are noteworthy and defensible fundings, then they should be trotted out in the light of day and made to be examined and supported -- separate from the funds for the War on Terror. And since when did the Federal government's responsibility to "save" BUSINESSES for every single setback? They're BUSINESSES. There are risks in every business -- no guarantee that weather or world prices won't cause a setback -- why are the Feds pumping up these BUSINESSES? (oh yeah, right. Campaign contributions... votes.) SHAME (again!) on the Congress for these evil and underhanded ploys at vote-buying! FOR SHAME!!
Copyright Some Soldier's Mom 2007 (except WSJ content). All rights reserved.