"Here in Washington, we have our differences on the way forward in Iraq, and we will debate them openly," Bush said in a televised address to the nation after vetoing the bill. "But whatever our differences, surely we can agree that our troops are worthy of this funding, and that we have a responsibility to give it to them without further delay."
The $124 billion bill, passed by Congress last week, funds the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also includes domestic spending measures and calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq beginning by October, with the goal of getting all combat forces out of Iraq by March 2008.
Bush called the bill unacceptable because it mandates artificial timelines for troop withdrawal, which he said would embolden the enemy and discourage the Iraqi people.
"I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East, and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments," he said. "Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible."
The bill would also put restrictions on commanders in the field, which would be "a prescription for chaos and confusion," Bush said. In addition, the bill is loaded with billions of dollars in non-emergency spending unrelated to the war on terror.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus just took command of U.S. forces in Iraq, and he is implementing a new strategy that will take time to produce results, Bush said. He asked members of Congress, who unanimously confirmed Petraeus' nomination as commander of Multinational Force Iraq, to give his strategy time to succeed.
Bush noted that the Baghdad security plan has already produced some important successes. Among other things, Iraqi and coalition forces have closed down an al Qaeda car-bomb network, captured a Shiia militia leader implicated in the kidnapping and killing of American soldiers, and broken up a death squad that had terrorized hundreds of residents in a Baghdad neighborhood.
There has also been a decrease in sectarian killing in Baghdad since January, Bush said. However, he said, this improvement has been overshadowed by a rise in spectacular car-bomb attacks, which are the work of al Qaeda. Bush echoed Petraeus' earlier comments that Iraq is the central front in al Qaeda's global campaign.
"Al Qaeda's role makes ... the conflict in Iraq far more complex than a simple fight between Iraqis," Bush said. "It's true that not everyone taking innocent life in Iraq wants to attack America here at home, but many do. Many also belong to the same terrorist network that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, and wants to attack us here at home again. We saw the death and destruction al Qaeda inflicted on our people when they were permitted a safe haven in Afghanistan. For the security of the American people, we must not allow al Qaeda to establish a new safe haven in Iraq."
Bush said that he has invited Congressional leaders from both parties to the White House tomorrow to discuss a new war-funding bill. The need to act is urgent, he said, as delayed war funding will force the military to shift money from training programs to the troops in combat and cut back on buying new equipment or repairing existing equipment.
"Without a war-funding bill, we add to the uncertainty felt by our military families," he said. "Our troops and their families deserve better, and their elected leaders can do better."
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Talk Show America 5/02/2007