We have previously explained that the Democrats have no excuse for not bring the Iraq War to an end, as they were elected to do. Their complaint about not having enough votes to override a Bush veto, or end a Senate filibuster, is not persuasive because they could have told Bush that they would not bring up a supplemental spending bill at all. By taking that alternative off-the-table, they handed Bush a victory before the battle began, as Bush knew he could veto anything he did not like until they gave him what he wanted. The petulant whiny twerp got to play with other peoples' lives.
While Dick Durbin glibly remarked about the funding, "he's home free" (referring to Bush's presidency), thanks to Bush and the Democratic Congress, many American men and many American women never made it home at all, free or otherwise.
Indeed, since February 1, 2007, a time when the Democrats have controlled of Congress, more than 1,000 American servicemen and women have died in Iraq -- all during a time when our party has had the ability to say no more. During the same time frame, the spending in Iraq has topped $400 billion, on our watch, with our blessing.
To paraphrase an old-saying, with end-the-war mandates like these, who needs the radical righties?
The Democrats could have said to Bush that he either accepts a funding bill with a withdrawal timetable, or he gets no bill at all, in which case he would be forced to start withdrawing troops immediately. But, they did not. They gave a president who has the lowest approval rating in history, one that rivals O.J. Simpson's a freepass, and the money he needed to continue his march to disaster.
Apparently, backbone transplant surgeons were unavailable.
There is now a second best strategy to end the war. Fortunately, it does not require a backbone transplant. The UN Mandate for the US troops to remain in Iraq expires at the end of the year. To establish the legal basis for continuing the troops' presence, the US and Iraq are negotiating a status-of-forces agreement. Iraqis have taken to the streets demanding that agreement be subject to a referendum.
If the Democrats insist on passing a funding bill, they should include two additional provisions. The first is that no status-of-forces agreement with Iraq is valid unless it is submitted within two weeks of signing, and it must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate, within another 4 weeks. Many would argue that since the status-of-forces agreement represents a treaty, it would have to have Congressional approval as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Time and space considerations prevent us from detailing all of the times that this administration has ignored the Constitution so we full expect, they will ignore it again in this case.
Because of Bush's penchant for seizing power by ignoring elements of bills that he signs that he does not like, the second provision the Democrats need to add is an automatic trigger to nullify the entire bill if the Bush administration issues any signing statement or official oral statement that the status-of-forces approval provision, or this provision, will not be followed, or is actually not followed. [Adding such an automatic death provision, by the way, is the strategy to handle the signing statement power grab so long as Bush remains president -- perhaps, it should be called the "Kevorkian clause"].
Bush will then have to submit the status-of-forces agreement to the Senate, or he will have no money appropriated to continue the loss of life and limb for his vanity.
At that point if the Democratic Congress really wants to end the war, it will have it in its power to do so by withholding approval of that treaty, in which case the legal basis for the US presence expires in January.
The objections to this strategy are, first, that it still provides some funding and, second, that Bush does not care about international law anyhow, and so will invent another premise for continued occupation. To the first objection we plead 'guilty', and that is why we call this alternative the second-best, recognizing that politics is the art of the possible.
The second objection is more problematic. Despite Bush's disregard of international and US law and tradition, the Administration appears to have admitted the premise that they need a legal basis to continue operations in Iraq. That is, however, because they have been successful in getting the UN to give them one. It is not clear what they would have done if there had been no such UN resolution.
Nonetheless, there is a certain political momentum created by their acknowledgment that a legal basis is required; and their tenuous position will become even less legitimate should they suddenly deny that they need a legal basis.
The violations of international law perpetrated by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld have mostly been out of plain sight. Maintaining the US presence in Iraq absent any legal sanction would be in broad daylight.
Whether this crowd cares about leaving office with the bright light of international outlaws shining upon them we cannot predict.
But, we did say this was a "second-best" strategy.