President Bush today repeated his pledge that he'll veto any congressional war-funding bills that stipulate a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq.
Earlier this week, the U.S. House, followed by the Senate, passed war-funding bills that call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to begin later this year.
"I haven't vetoed the first (House) bill yet, but I'm going to," Bush said to reporters with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his side during a news conference at the presidential compound at Camp David, Md. "And, the reason why I'm going to is because the members of Congress have made military decisions on behalf of the military."
Bush steadfastly maintains that military decisions fall under his purview as commander in chief of the armed forces, while also emphasizing that any withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq before the new Iraqi government can firmly establish itself would hurt military morale and put America in jeopardy.
"And, if the Congress wants to test my will as to whether or not I'll accept a timetable for withdrawal, I won't accept one," Bush said. "I just don't think it's in the interest of our troops."
In mid-February, additional American and Iraqi security forces began to deploy into Baghdad and western Iraq to tamp down insurgent-staged violence enough to provide a window of opportunity for the Iraqi government to get onto its feet. The deployment of U.S. forces into Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq as part of the surge is expected to be completed by June, according to U.S. military officials.
The recent congressional legislation calls for "withdrawing (U.S. forces) before we've even finished reinforcing our troops in Baghdad," Bush said. "They're sending, in my judgment, a bad message to the Iraqis and to our enemy, and, most importantly, to our military folks."
Bush said it was unfortunate that the Iraq issue "has evolved the way it has" on Capitol Hill. Nonetheless, the president emphasized that he's sticking to his guns, and will veto any war-funding legislation calling for an early withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
"And, my veto will be sustained," the president told reporters.