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Bush Enamored with the Sound of His Own Voice on Iraq

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Message Ron Fullwood
"And still we wear our uniforms, follow
The cracked cry of the bugles, comb and rush
Our pride and prejudice, doctor the sallow
Initial ardor, which keeps it fresh.

Still we applaud the President's voice and face.
Still we remark on patriotism, sing,
Salute the flag, thrill heavily, rejoice
For death of men who too saluted, sang.

But inward grows a soberness, an awe.
A fear, a deepening hollow through the cold.
For even if we come out standing up
How shall we smile, congratulate; and how
Settle in chairs? Listen, listen. The step
Of iron feet again. And again - wild."
--Gwendolyn Brooks (1971)

Bush wants Democrats to come to the White House so he can bare his ass to them in person. In a weak attempt to give the appearance he's ready to listen to Congress, Bush has signaled his willingness to meet with Democrats at the White House about his insistence they fund his occupation; not for negotiations, but to further dictate to them his reasons for escalating his Iraq folly far beyond the will of Congress and the American people.

Having spurned the results of the last congressional election which replaced his legislative majority in both houses with Democrats pledged to end his occupation, Bush is trying to shrug off the will of Congress, expressed in their withdrawal legislation, that he bring our soldiers home from Iraq. Promising to veto legislation which hasn't even been reconciled in conference over provisions mandating a gradual withdrawal, Bush is stamping his foot like a spoiled child who wants to keep playing instead of cleaning up like he's been told.

In a joint statement, Democratic leaders Pelosi and Reid complained that Bush is demanding they "renew his blank check for a war without end."

"Congressional Democrats are willing to meet with the President at any time," the leaders' statement read, "but we believe that any discussion of an issue as critical as Iraq must be accomplished by conducting serious negotiations without any preconditions," they said.

Senate Majority Leader Reid went further; describing Bush's continuation of his occupation as a continuation of a slaughter:

The president is inviting us down to the White House with preconditions," Reid said. "Things are not OK in Iraq. As the Pope said on Easter Sunday, a slaughter is taking place in Iraq. The Pope further said nothing good is coming from Iraq. The president must realize that. He has to deal with Congress. We are an independent branch of this government, and by our Constitution we have equal say that he has. And he's got to listen to us. Because we are speaking for the American people; he isn't."

There isn't a more direct way for Bush, outside of our elections, to measure the will of the American people than though listening to the representatives and senators they just sent to Congress. Polling has demonstrated a consistent rejection of Bush's strategy and course in Iraq by Americans. All throughout the congressional campaigns last year, and as recently as this week, polls have shown a plurality of Americans who don't believe in Bush's escalation and who want our troops out of Iraq by 2008 or earlier.

Yet, Bush and his generals have decided that they know better than the majority of us, and are intent on moving forward with their escalated occupation, with or without money appropriated from Congress. Yesterday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the Pentagon will send Congress a notice of their intention to transfer $1.6 billion from other parts of the defense budget to cover whatever funding for troops they want to continue to limp our soldiers along. Together with the 1.7 billion dollars already transferred in March, Bush hopes to string out the debate over funding as far as he can while he packs even more of our troops into the middle of the chaos and killing in Iraq.

Whatever Bush intended for the money transferred in March, it certainly isn't reaching the soldiers in Iraq that he claims to be so concerned about. The majority of those called up for repeated deployments from the Reserves and National Guard have run into severe shortages of equipment, and are preparing to ship many of their recruits to Iraq without proper training.

One of our nation's governors provided Bush with yet another measure of the will and support in the country the 'decider' presumes he represents. Ohio's Gov. Ted Strickland told Bush in a letter Tuesday that the repeated, stepped-up deployments meant the government was "not keeping faith with the men and women who had volunteered to serve." He called the moved-up timeframe for deployments a "breach of faith" by the president.

"The brave men and women who serve in the Ohio National Guard are putting their lives on the line," the governor's letter read. "I am asking for your assurance that prior to deployment, every Ohio soldier has the most up-to-date equipment, including individual body armor systems, M-4 rifles and other weapons systems, night vision devices, and up-armored type wheeled vehicles. I am also asking for your assurance that every Ohio soldier has appropriate training," he wrote.

There is, perhaps, no more important representation of the will of our citizens, outside of our elections and the actions of our national legislature, than the concerns expressed through our nation's governors. Outside of their increasing concern that their states are one disaster away from suffering from the loss of so many of their Reserve and National Guard troops to Iraq, the nation's governors are now forced to question the strategy of sending so many of their state's soldiers into a battlezone unprepared, along with their continuing concern about leaving their states vulnerable to the after-effects of a natural disaster.

The question these governors and others who express concern about our troops' readiness should be asking is why Bush is insisting on escalating deployments for his Iraq occupation beyond the will of Congress to fund them? It's one thing for Bush to ignore the colloquial expressions of the will of Americans in the last election; it's another to swagger beyond the legislative will of the representatives and senators they sent to Washington to hold him accountable.

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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