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GOP: Bush Stiffing Troops

Whenever George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld have been asked about the need for more troops, they answer almost identically. If the generals ask for them, they explain, we’ll give them what they want. For months they explained that the military didn’t want more troops. Suddenly this changed last week.

Hiding behind the military is disingenuous. The generals know full well that they are not supposed to ask for more troops. For months, lower-level military officers openly admitted that they needed more troops, but their generals were too worried about crossing Rumsfeld and Bush. (General Abizaid tried squaring this circle six months ago when he explained to The New York Times that of course he needed more troops but only foreign troops not U.S. ones.)

The previous passage from a Fareed Zakaria article struck me as odd: Why would generals in Iraq be worried about asking Rumsfeld and Bush for more troops? Then I recalled reading that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, said he'd need another 4 billion dollars for Iraq operations before the end of the year. I just assumed that, since President Bush had everything riding on a successful outcome in Iraq, they'd get it.

However, when I started looking into it, I found that the administration is reluctant to ask Congress for the additional funding, and is being accused of playing politics with the lives of our troops. Even more interesting, the criticism isn't coming from Democrats; it's coming from Republicans in both the House and the Senate!

According to Defense officials, the war is costing 4.7 billion dollars per month, and by late summer will be 4 billion dollars over budget. Myers told the House Armed Services Committee that he was looking into deferring maintenance in other areas and shifting money from non-deployed troops to deployed troops to cover the shortfall. The Army has also identified 6 billion dollars in unmet funding needs that were not addressed in the administration's 2005 defense budget including,

  • $21.5 million for M-249 squad automatic weapons
  • $879 million for combat helmets, boots, underwear and other clothing
  • $956 million for repairing worn equipment
  • $101 million for replacing equipment lost in combat
  • $132 million for adding heavy armor to vehicles.

"I think the budget request that is provided to us is short-sighted and, in the case of the Army, I think it is outrageous," said Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), "How can we justify that?"

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said he sensed election-year politics was a factor in the administration's delay. "The administration would be well served here to come forward now, be honest about this, because the continuity and the confidence in this policy is going to be required to sustain it," Hagel said. "And that means be honest with the Congress, be honest with the American people."

Republicans in Congress say they'd be unlikely to provide additional money unless the administration requests it. "I'd be surprised" if the leadership would push for a vote on more money before the election, said Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the GOP leadership.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that the administration was keeping the door open to the possibility of a supplemental request before the election. "The decisions should be based on what the commanders in the field feel is necessary," he said. "It really depends on circumstances on the ground."

This goes back to Zakaria's statement that the commanders on the ground have been asking for more money and troops for months, but their bosses at the Pentagon are afraid they'll go the way of General Shinseki if they pass the request along to Bush and Rumsfeld. Bush knows this full well, and is using their reluctance to push off a new funding bill until after the election. Fortunately, some Democrats and Republicans in Congress are looking for a way to provide the Pentagon with "emergency" funding without having to wait for President Bush to request the money.

But, Mother of Christ in a birch-bark canoe! Isn't the administration accusing John Kerry of playing politics with military funding? It's one thing to vote your principles on a military funding bill that you know is going to pass anyhow, but here's President Bush actually stiffing our troops just avoid debate over how the Iraq occupation is being run. If President Bush had any honor at all, he'd support our troops no matter how potentially embarrassing the circumstances are.

Posted by American Pundit at April 29, 2004 2:04 AM