For George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, 2008 is too soon to end a war that they intend to last forever. 2008 is too soon to stop constructing enormous military bases in Iraq and abandon them. 2008 is too soon to bring our men and women home to their families and the criminally inadequate health care and nonexistent job assistance that we travel around the world to murder whole nations in defense of.
If Bush vetoes or signing-statements the supplemental war bill, he is saying he wants the war to last much longer than the American people or the troops say they want it to last. And that is what Democrats would point out if they had the nerve.
I'm afraid that instead some of them will claim that Bush is defunding the troops. But how can he be? The Pentagon is rolling around in hundreds of billions of dollars, huge chunks of which it has a disturbingly frequent habit of wasting or misplacing. And Congress, meanwhile, while this big loud debate is going on over the "emergency" supplemental, is busy providing standard budget funding for the war, not just for 2008, but even for 2009 – that is beyond the date by which it is requiring Bush to end the war.
The extent to which the rhetorical contest centers around who is funding and who is defunding "the troops" (meaning the profits of the oil and weapons companies that grow fat on the blood of young Americans and the Iraqis they kill) is exactly the extent to which we'll see Congress continue to fund more war and more war and more war.
Any Democrat who accuses Bush of defunding the troops is advocating for more war, which is exactly what the public does not want. Bush should be accused of ignoring the will of the public and its elected representatives. Bush should be accused of wanting eternal war and making plans to add a war on Iran into the mix.
Many Congress Members say they oppose an illegal and aggressive attack on Iran. But from the moment the attack begins, will they bend over backwards to make sure they are ahead of Bush in funding "the troops" to continue it, even while making noises of opposition? Or will they drop the whole pretense that wars are fought on behalf of soldiers and assert the Constitutional power to hold accountable an outlaw president through the process of impeachment?
This few-months' cakewalk in Iraq has become a permanent illegal occupation and oil theft. Congress never authorized this and wouldn't authorize it if it were put to a vote. But Congress funds it year after year and off into the future. If Congress will not put its money where its mouth is, we will have more wars, and those wars will never end, because they are not wars but occupations.
When Bush accuses Congress of defunding the troops, the correct response is not to point out that Congress is dumping trillions of dollars into Bush's wars. The correct response is not to claim that Bush is the one defunding the troops. The correct response is to change the debate by accusing Bush of wanting to continue the war forever. When do Bush and Cheney want to end the war? That should be the question on the lips of reporters at every press conference. When will you end the war? In 2007? In 2008? In 2009? If Congress required that the war end by 2025 and barred the use of funds for it beyond that point, would that be too soon for you, Mr. Unitary Executive?
The Democrats have the upper hand. The media is pretending that Congress has really insisted on ending the war in 2008. The public passionately wants Congress to do just that. Now is the time to make clear that a veto is a vote against that, a vote to continue the war into 2009. Let Bush advocate in public for an Iraq war that extends into 2009, and he'll leave Nixon and Truman's unpopularity records in the dust.