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Republicans: "We Abandon the Troops"

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No one ever went broke betting on the hypocrisy of congressional Republicans.

For seven years, they blustered about how Democrats had failed to "support the troops in the field" by voting against appropriations to fund the war in Iraq. Now, almost all House Republicans have themselves voted against funding the war in Afghanistan. To be fair, they've come up with an iron-clad reason for their own decision to abandon the troops: the IMF.

That's right, Republicans voted no on a $106 billion war funding bill because it also includes $5 billion assigned for the International Monetary Fund.

Why, you ask? How could a group of yellow-ribbon displaying, troop-backing Republicans possibly vote against funding for things like body armor, ammunition, and jet fuel over an international aid organization. Well, it's simple really - according to convoluted GOP logic, voting against the troops was really a vote for the troops. As House Minority Whip Eric Cantor helpfully explained, funding the IMF would put the United States in the position of supporting state sponsors of terrorism. Got that?

This logic-defying proposition is obviously wrong on the merits, and it adds yet another level of hypocrisy to the Republican position.

First, as National Security Advisor James L. Jones and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, recently wrote to congressional leaders, "[f]inancial hardship and poverty breed desperation, which helps terrorist networks to attract new recruits with messages of hate, violence and intolerance. IMF funding reduces this threat...". Jones and Gates concluded their letter saying that "the IMF will strengthen our national security by mitigating the economic crisis and inhibiting the growth of terrorist networks."

Second, Mr. Cantor's position would appear to put him at odds with his boss, House Minority Leader John Boehner, since Mr. Boehner has stated: "Given the crisis we have around the world, the U.S. needs to provide leadership. The only real avenue is the IMF." But no, Reps. Cantor and Boehner are on the same page - apparently Mr. Boehner was for the IMF before he was against it. Yesterday, in the interest of political expediency, he voted against the supplemental bill based on the support for the IMF.

But of course, the transparently political flip-flop on the IMF is just a side-show; the real debate is the flip-flop over whether we fund our troops. In 2005, Rep. Tom Cole, currently the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, declared that "sending troops into battle and not paying for it would be an 'immoral thing to do'." Just last year, after Democrats wanted to require the defense appropriations supplemental bill to state that the US would begin to draw down our forces in Iraq, Mr. Boehner himself savaged Democrats with claims of holding "our troops hostage for political leverage".

Clearly the Republicans' attack--that voting against a funding bill is the equivalent of hating America--was always ridiculous. But they now should have to live by their own standards. The rank hypocrisy of Republicans is nothing new, but it remains a reason the American public rejects their party and their ideas.

So, in their own self-declared world: Boehner, Cantor, Cole and their team have turned around and voted against funding the troops, in an effort to rally the base around the traditional Republican bogeyman of international aid. But this is not a political game. If their effort to execute the agenda of the Limbaugh Wing of their Party had succeeded, our troops in the field would have been the ones to pay the price.

Scott Payne is a National Security Policy Advisor at Third Way